While earning the bye week has not always worked out, this seasons feels different for the Green Bay Packers, amidst everything going on. Led by head coach Matt LaFleur and an MVP-caliber season from QB Aaron Rodgers, GB has positioned themselves in the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs.
Being the number one seed means that the Packers cannot face the #2 (New Orleans Saints) and #3 (Seattle Seahawks) seeds in the Divisional round of the postseason, meaning that their next opponents will come out of the pool of seeds 4-7. With the playoffs being expanded to include one additional team this year, seven teams from both the NFC and AFC are included in the playoff pool, giving teams like the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts a chance to make some noise.
But for Green Bay, their focus lies in the outcomes of Wild Card weekend, with three games being played each on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, the Packers will not officially know who will be their next opponent until the Saints and Bears play as the second game of the day on Sunday, as the Bears are the lowest seed that they could possibly face.
Chicago Bears – Pass Rush
With the season-ending injury that David Bakhtiari suffered last week during practice, the offensive line (which has been one of the strongest units on the team) has needed to work through patching their starting unit back together. Going up against the Bears front certainly was a great first test for the maligned line, which produced another stand-out performance.
Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, and others offer up a stout test for any OL unit, but GB was up to the test, as Rodgers was only sacked once in the game.
But, DC Chuck Pagano would have had time after their first two games of the year to gameplan for how to attack this line, whether if through using DL stunts or by utilizing slot pressure to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands early, which would make this Bears defense as tough as it used to be.
Los Angeles Rams – Secondary
With their QB situation up in the air due to Jared Goff’s injury, their defense will need to step up if they want to beat the Seahawks this weekend. Their secondary, led by stud corner Jalen Ramsey, certainly would pose fits for the GB receiving core, especially if they would be able to lock Davante Adams down.
Having to feature Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Robert Tonyan, or another weapon more than the offense would like certainly would throw this offense off course, but would then put a bigger importance on the run game.
The Rams would have a good chance to slow down the GB offense if they could take Adams out of the game, and Ramsey certainly is capable of doing that, so utilizing 17 in motion or jet sweeps to get him moving away from Ramsey would do a ton to take the pressure off a potentially-lower production day from Adams.
Tampa Bay – Offensive Line
Tampa’s defense gave Rodgers and company fits the last time they played, forcing AR into bad decisions and keeping them uneasy all game. But its a fair bet that LaFleur and OC Nathaniel Hackett would have worked throuigh those issues for this matchup.
So, the biggest element of TB that would concern the Packers would actually be their offensive line, as the combination of Ali Marpet and rookie Tristan Wirfs would do wonders for keeping the GB pass rush at bay, helping keep Tom Brady upright and giving him all day to dissect the secondary.
Tampa Bay goes as far as Brady takes them, and by keeping him on his feet, he is able to sit in the pocket and his receivers downfield – plus, keeping Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski covered is a hard thing to do, especially if Brady gets 3+ seconds in the pocket.
If Green Bay can efficiently scheme up ways to get to Brady or to at least force him to look uneasy in the pocket, then they can help control the pass catchers, forcing Tampa Bay to figure out which element of their offense they’d prefer to focus on.
Washington – Pass Rush
This Washington team, even though they won the woeful NFC East division with a losing record, will not be as easy of an out as they may seem, based solely on their defensive talent. Led by rookie Chase Young, their pass rush is by far the strongest element of their defensive attack, something that would most certainly give GB fits.
Young would certainly get his key matchups with either Billy Turner or Rick Wagner out at tackle, with the potential to switch stud Elgton Jenkins out wide. Just Young’s presence on the field forces teams to prep for him impact, something that can make Rodgers wary of standing too long in the pocket and not letting him see things fully develop down field.
Green Bay can certainly handle this team if they still to their plan, but the pass rush would be the biggest factor in how well they would do.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23