What a bitter disappointment. Billed as the squad that would make up for 2014’s heartbreak in Seattle, the 2015 Packers have failed in every way. That is if, of course, they fail to make a deep playoff run. A run of this magnitude certainly doesn’t seem to be in the cards. The Packers have lost two straight, and are ultimately just 4-6 since the bye.
The aforementioned run, however, is the only way to save face for the season. It’s a season that is by no means without excuses. Injuries would be first and foremost. An ill-fated shuffle in the coaching staff could certainly be part of the lack of success as well. If the Packers don’t at least make a surprise run to the NFC Championship game, this will be the most disappointing season in recent memory.
Green Bay certainly has a decent enough draw. The Washington Professional Football Team (known as the WPFT from here on out due to their nickname being a racial slur) managed just a 9-7 record. They were winless against teams with a +.500 record. They have a young, hot quarterback that might not be quite ready for prime time.
I’m not really even worried about the fact that the game isn’t at Lambeau Field. After a 9-0 (including playoffs) home campaign in 2014, the Packers were just “passable” at Lambeau Field in 2015. Green Bay went just 5-3, losing all three home games to their division opponents for the first time since 1968. That, like much of this season has been borderline embarassing.
So is this it? Does the 2015 season die in DC? Does it even matter? I think that second question is more poignant. Whether or not it matters. Can the Packers win a second playoff game if they get past Washington? If they don’t how important would a theoretical victory be? These are all questions that are painful to ask. Painful is probably the best way to describe this entire season.
When the Packers have the ball: if Green bay is ever going to get the passing game going it will be in this game. Not only could the Packers get their top left tackle (an excellent pass blocker) back in David Bakhtiari back, but Washington offers the lowest ranked defense in the playoffs in terms of DVOA. They aren’t particularly good against the run or pass, but they’ve given up 30 touchdown passes over the course of the season. That ain’t great.
Packers offensive linemen have requested 30 runs for Lacy and Starks, though I’m not sure they’ll get their wish. The best offense against the Vikings was to spread Minnesota out and fling it around during the fourth quarter. The only other thing that worked was the heavy “22” personnel the Packers opened up the game with. The Packers were only able to move the ball spread way out, or bunched tightly together. None of their standard stuff seemed to work.
One of Washington’s biggest faults on defense is their lack of a star/leader. Bashaud Breeland rated as the defense’s best player per Pro Football Focus, but he is far from an all-league player or household name. The front seven is listless, and after dealing with Arizona and Minnesota’s front sevens with a beat up offensive line, the WPFT should be a relief to a Packers O-line that is getting healthier.
When the WPFT has the ball: they score quite a bit. Decidedly above average (12th) in offensive DVOA, Washington is flying high on offense after a big second half of the season from Kirk Cousins. Cousins is 6th in the NFL in QBR, and has rendered Robert Griffin III completely expendable.
Cousins isn’t short on passing targets, either. Tight end Jordan Reed is a revelation when healthy. He is flanked by speedy outside threats DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. It will be key for the Packers to hopefully get Sam Shields back from a concussion. Shields has been a prime time performer during his playoff career. He also matches up well with DeSean Jackson as a guy who can miss and still be able to recover.
The Packers defense is bar-none the reason that the team is in the playoffs. With the offense completely falling apart, the only reason that the Packers were able to get to 10-6 this season has been this defense. Clay Matthews was dominant against Minnesota, answering for his disappearing act against Oakland and Arizona. Cousins is a much better player against a standard four man rush than he is against pressure defense, which is something that DC Dom Capers specializes in.
Bottom line: this is a heart pick. I refuse to believe that it ends here. There more than likely isn’t going to be a Super Bowl championship this season. I came to grips with that after the loss to Detroit at home.
I’m just asking for a chance. If the Packers win this game and have a 30% chance of winning in Carolina, at least that’s a chance. If they have a 30% chance against Seattle (at home) in the NFC Championship. It’s a chance. That’s all I’m looking for.
Besides, I’m not sure the WPFT is read. Packers 23 WPFT 17