No more regular season, but all the problems remain for the Packers as they head to the nation’s capital to face the Redskins in the Wild Card round Sunday afternoon. Losers of 2 in a row and 6 of 10, the Packers need to step it up in a big way to have any chance of advancing to the Divisional Round.
Who would have thought in August that we would be talking about the Packers being carried by the defense while the offense falls on their face week in and week out? But that is the reality of the 2015-16 season in Green Bay. The defense has been the best part of the team, ranked 12th in scoring and 15 in yards, both of which were skewed by a few rough games against the Top seeds in both conferences and the Cardinals.
But the fact remains that the Packers will probably only go as far as the defense can take them, but don’t discount the offense. They still have a bevy of talent, led by that Aaron Rodgers guy. And just listening to him this week, this could be a good week for them to break out of their funk. They are playing a subpar Redskin defense that hasn’t been very impressive, which we will get to later. But now it is time for the 18th and possibly final edition of 3…2…1…
For those of you who are new, please feel free to go into my archives to read past countdowns, and keep up with reading this series as the season goes on. For those who are consistent readers, feel free to skip down to the next subheading. But 3…2…1… is a series in which I will countdown ways for the Packers to win their game each week. I will highlight 3 key matchups, make 2 bold predictions, and then focus on 1 key stat. So let’s dive in.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Terrance Knighton vs Corey Linsley
- For the Packers to be able to get their offense going again, it will be up to the offensive line to get it started. So much has been written about the struggles of the receiving core but the fact remains that the injuries along the line have been a major factor in the struggles. A lack of continuity and the fact that each starter has been on the injury report for over a month has really hamstrung the team. But this week, to get back on track, it starts in the middle with Linsley. The second year center has had a good but not great year after a great rookie season. He will match up with a great run stuffing nose tackle in Pot Roast. Corey will need to use his immense strength to hold the line and make sure that Knighton cannot get into the backfield.
- Jamison Crowder vs Micah Hyde
- It is easy to single out Desean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, but they are well known enough that the fans know how to gameplan them to an extent. But they probably don’t know Crowder. The rookie from Duke has really come along in recent weeks, especially in week 17 where he caught 5 passes for over 100 yards. His 59 catches on the season have been huge for Kirk Cousins as he has been an exceptional slot guy, capable of catching that quick out of the bubble screen and breaking tackles, very reminiscent of Randall Cobb. To slow him down and slow down this offense they need to be sound tacklers and Hyde is one of the best at that. He can line up in the slot, jam a receiver like Crowder and hopefully hold him to short gains of 1 or 2 consistently.
- Trent Williams vs Mike Daniels
- This matchup will be fun. Trent Williams is one of the best left tackles in the NFL and he is a mammoth human being. Listed at 6’5” and 337 pounds, you won’t find anyone bigger on the left side in the NFL and is shows in the run game. This is a matchup of strength on strength as Mike Daniels is the strongest guy on that defense and has been exceptional during the season. Throw in the passion both guys bring to the gridiron and this should be a knockdown, drag it out battle for 4 quarters.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Jeff Janis scores his first NFL touchdown
- This is more of a hope than anything else at this point, but I was reading some other publications this week and a lot of them have been focusing on him for his special teams play. And he has been lights out on that side of the ball, a “dynamo” as nfl.com has labeled him. But his speed could be invaluable in this game. Washington has a porous defense, especially in the secondary, and if he can get one or two plays deep, even if they’re not necessarily catches, he can open this offense up. I expect him to get one deep ball and score from 40+ yards out. It will happen in the 2nd quarter to give the Packers the lead.
- Aaron Rodgers throws for over 350 yards
- This one ties in to the potential that Janis has to open up the field, because if he does that, Rodgers has a field day. As I wrote above, Washington’s defense is abysmal, especially by playoff standards. Ranked 28th in total yards and 25th in passing yards allowed, they really struggle in coverage. And that could be all Aaron needs to get back on track. I expect him to have a huge day.
1 KEY STAT
- QB Hits
- A really fun stat to see during telecast of the games is the pass rush stats. And while I like the easy sack numbers, I look at the hits most intently. It is not just a stat that adds up numerically, but it gets in the head of the quarterback and the offensive line. Just look at the Arizona game. Washington ranks 14th in sacks compared to 7th for Green Bay, but the Packers have had their games where they get the quarterback consistently, putting a beating on their opponent. I haven’t seen too much of that for Washington. The Packers need to find that level again and put some hits on Cousins to slow down this offense. And the Packers offensive line needs to hold their ground and not let guys like Ryan Kerrigan get to Rodgers too much.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.