The Green Bay Packers again have the #1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This comes with the coveted first round bye from Super Wildcard Weekend. While the Packers, rest, scout opponents, and game plan; the rest of the conference will do battle for the right to advance. This week is a fantastic opportunity to look at some unlikely players who are undoubtedly X factors for the Packers during their playoff run.
Could a player not on the roster until two weeks ago be a major X factor? If David Moore can provide stability and confidence on special teams, absolutely! After being on the roster for only two days, the Packers called on him to field kicks against the Vikings and he responded with the longest return of the season at the time. He easily looked more comfortable and confident with the ball in his hands and his decision making was perfect. The Packers will need special teams to be mistake free and at least a net neutral if they intend to make a deep playoff run, and it starts with taking the experienced hand in Moore on all return duties.
Monday came with thrilling news for Packers fans everywhere. Za’darius Smith, who has missed every game since week 1 with a herniated disk in his back has been cleared to return for the playoffs. This is massive news and if he can come back in a regular capacity, this could be what takes the Packers defense from good to great in the coming weeks.
This season Preston Smith had a bounce back year and Rashan Gary has quickly become unblockable. They combined for 18.5 sacks and over 140 total pressures this season. Adding Za’darius to them however, could blow the lid off the metaphorical pot of the defense. He adds to the defense a player who has shown that he can completely take over a game (see Vikings game in 2019). Smith’s high energy play and juice is exactly what will keep a roaring 80,000 fans, as well as his teammates, going deep into the 4th quarter of the coming playoff games.
Talk about heating up at the right time. After what looked to be a down season, Lazard came storming back onto the scene in December, scoring 5 times in the Packers last 5 games. He has begun looking more and more like one of Rodgers go-to targets in crunch time and a trusted receiving option. Beyond that, Lazard is also arguably the best blocking wide receiver in the NFL. This combination gives the Packers the ability to deploy him in a variety of ways and get creative with formations to put him in advantageous matchups. His development coupled with the pending return of Randall Cobb, give the Packers and Rodgers an excellent trio of weapons to deploy in creative ways. Lazard could be the straw that stirs the drink in this postseason.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.