This week I am mixing it up, as a Packers fan married to a Redskins fan I have the perfect opportunity to utilise my husband and his love of his team to create a blog that looks at both sides of the ball, and be biased to each team at the same time.
This weekend the first round playoff wildcard game between the Redskins and the Packers provides both an upside and a downside to our UK household. On the positive side it means we only have one game to watch and don’t have to fight each other for control of the TV remote. On the downside we will be, for one night only, a household that will be divided for one night as husband and wife root for different teams in the same game. We will start by looking at our teams in general, then Offense, Defense and maybe even Special Teams if we are feeling fancy!
Green Bay Packers Overview:
This almost says everything I need to:
— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) January 6, 2016
Part of me hopes that they are merely resting some of those players and they will be in the game come Sunday, but the other part of me believes we really are just beaten up and hurt right now.
This game needs to be a brand new start for the Packers, they need to head into the Playoffs as a Playoff team and forget what happened in the regular season, look forward and not behind. Learn from their mistakes and make new decisions for the better. The Redskins may not be the scariest team in the league right now (I’m looking at you Cardinals/Panthers) but they are scary in their own right, not something I thought I would be saying at the end of this year as a Packers fan back when we were 6-0. Don’t under estimate them, they are looking quite scrappy in recent games, as the Packers went downhill, they went uphill, personally I believe witchcraft may have been involved but the husband denies this…
Washington Redskins Overview:
So this is awkward! Obviously my wife will write her thoughts and feelings on the game from the Cheese-head point of view. It is a Green Bay Packers orientated blog after all, but what is going on in the minds of your enemy? How do we as Redskins fans feel about this coming weekend? I can’t speak for the majority of Redskins fans, but I can speak for me. How do I feel? Excited and very, VERY nervous.
A little background before we get into the specifics of the game. You need to know this to understand the mindset of the Redskins fan right now: As Packers fans you’ve all been used to a nice long period of sustained excellence. From the Favre years to the current Rodgers regime it’s been a nice run of success for the Green and Gold. Every year you are there or there-abouts. For the supporters of the Burgundy and Gold things have been different; in the 80’s and 90’s we were a powerhouse, but then the whole NFC East was a powerhouse division. From 1983 – 2001 the NFC East represented the NFC 10 times, winning 9 Superbowls, the Redskins went to 4 Superbowls and won 3 of them, but then the NFC East fell off a cliff. Apart from the odd Giants win it’s been a tough time in the whole division. For the Redskins the downward spiral started earlier, in 1991 we won the Superbowl and in the 25 years since we’ve managed just 6 winning seasons and 8 playoff games.
We’ve not looked like consistent contenders since and as a result the fandom now expects the worst. Hence we’re excited to be in the playoffs… but really nervous too. Whereas Packers fans are at a confidence level where they expect the team to succeed (even after the poor play we’ve seen lately from the Pack) a Redskins fan expects the worst. We’re all waiting for that other shoe to drop, so despite the fact we’re feeling confident with a 4 game winning streak and the Packers are not looking great with a two game losing streak… your typical Redskins fan isn’t going to be predicting a runaway surprise victory in this one.
Green Bay Packers Offense:
The Offense, where do I begin, it has been having more and more issues as the season has gone on. The same old problems have been plaguing us; inconsistency with receivers being able to get free, no run game and injuries to the O Line, causing Rodgers to get hit more times than a Piñata.
The Packers will have to get past another strong Defensive Line in order to make plays, something that they have struggled with in recent games against any Defense worth its salt. Kerrigan and Baker are arguably some of the best in the league and I know that I will be keeping an eye on Kerrigan each snap around Rodgers. As my husband is a Redskins fan I watch all of the games, I see what this team can do against the odds and with the odds. I watch as they run through and around other O-Lines in the league that do not have the Packers issues, and this worries me. Although the rest of their Defense is a bit of a patchwork, with numerous players moving to different positions to fill injury holes, they have been pretty consistent with the odd exception of a big play that they let through, about one a game. It is this that Rodgers will need to exploit, to get past the D-Line and make the plays they aren’t expecting.
Our Run game has been virtually non-existent except for a couple of plays early on in games, I have spoken numerous times about where this is going wrong and the issues that Lacy’s faces each time he gets the ball.
So, what will we need to do going forward? As always, the O-Line needs to be less of a turnstile and protect Rodgers, the Receiver’s need to get free enough that Rodger’s can make the passes to them, and I think Mike McCarthy needs to use the run game threat going again so that we are not as predictable.
Washington Redskins Offense:
The driving force behind the Redskins surge to the playoffs has been the play of QB Kirk Cousins. After being given the starting job in the Pre-Season he spent a few games settling in and realizing that Griffin wasn’t looking over his shoulder any more, since then our offense has taken flight.
Early in the season we were breaking in two new Offensive Linemen. Rookie 1st Rounder Brandon Scherff who was drafted to play RT was moved to the RG spot where the team thought he would be more effective which meant that left Morgan Moses to play RT. Moses was a rookie last year but didn’t play due to injury. Under the tuition of O Line guru Callahan and with Pro Bowler Trent Williams manning LG, the O Line took a while to bed in, being up and down from game to game, but is now starting to look like a real strength of this team. There was a weakness at Centre with Josh LeRibeus being somewhat less-than-stellar filling in at the spot but for the playoffs there is potential good news for us with the expected return of Kory Lichtensteiger.
Why is he so key? Because when he went down injured our running game fell off a cliff. The Skins O-line is great as Pass Blocking (Only allowing 27 sacks all season, 4th lowest in the League), but not so good at Run Blocking.
The Running Game continues to be an issue for the Redskins. The struggles of both Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones have resulted in us being a Pass first offense. Which was a problem for a while as we were missing our primary passing threats in DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed due to injury. Since their return, Cousins has found his groove and the team has been great at passing the ball, achieving the following stats since the Tampa Bay game:
They are good numbers by anybodies reckoning, plus DJax is routinely using his blistering speed to expose opposing secondaries with long TDs. Jordan Reed has established himself as one of the best TE’s in the League, he’s uncoverable practically; too fast for linebackers and too big for corners. We could finally use the pass game to set up our run game.
If the passing game performs as it has the past six or seven games then we can score points in a hurry, no matter the Defense we face and the Packers defence is middle of the pack so we fancy our chances. We struggled with inconsistency for a while, but now seem to have licked that issue.
Green Bay Packers Defense:
The Packers Defense has been pretty good recently, even with all the issues Offense has been having, putting more pressure on them. They are not without their own issues, of course, but they are not as glaring as the Offense’s right now. If the Packers are playing any team with an above average running game they struggle to contain it. When we played the Vikings last week they were able to stop Peterson in general but unable to make the complete stop when it came to important plays; like the touchdown…
The Matthews/Peppers combo has been good in general but recently their numbers are not what they were at the beginning of the season, whether or not Peppers contract will be extended for another year may well depend on his performance in the playoffs.
We are still without Sam Shields as far as the IR report says, which is worrying in itself as this is longer than normal concussion protocol which shows him as it participating in practice on Wednesday.
Should we be worried about the Redskins Offensive Line? I think so. It has looked pretty strong this year with only 23 sacks on Cousins in the regular season (5th in the league). The mountain for the Packers Defense is only made higher to climb by the fact that Cousins is able to very quickly release the ball, whereas Rodgers normally holds the ball to try and extend plays, with varying results.
Washington Redskins Defense:
Now on the other side of the ball is where the biggest questions are. Especially as we’re facing Rodgers this week, our Defence is OK. We allowed an average of 23.7 pts per game this season, but we’ve struggled mightily with injuries, a trend that hasn’t improved.
Our secondary was devastated with injuries so badly we had to convert DeAngelo Hall to a Safety from CB and then grab our rookie WR Kyshoen Jarrett and press him into service as a CB. It worked really well all things considered and we’ve been solid if not spectacular in that area, however this week we lost Jarrett to a horrific looking hit that resulted in a nerve injury. So once again we’ll be depleted at secondary… not the thing you want when you’re facing Rodgers and he’s looking for a bounce back game. On the plus side the Packers pass attack looks pretty weak at the moment without Jordy Nelson. I’d expect to see us cover Cobb predominantly with Breeland, who in his second year is looking like one of the league’s best corners (the fact he was snubbed for the Pro-Bowl hurts!). Still the secondary is not a strength and could be a chance for Rodgers to make some plays.
Talking about Rodgers we’ll be looking to sack him. A lot!
Much like the Secondary, our LB corps was devastated by injury early in the season, however this worked out really well for us. Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley went out with injury and we had to bring in Mason Foster and Will Compton off the practice squad. Both were so good that even though Robinson and Riley are back, Foster and Compton have kept their starting jobs. Meritocracy in action!
The Packers O-Line is a disaster. I’m hoping that Kerrigan, Foster and Compton and our D-Line have a field day.
Our biggest flaw… we have a tendency to give up long plays sporadically, and those can really hurt us. And who is the best QB to potentially exploit that? Aaron Rodgers. Yipes!
Green Bay Packers – anything else:
Our Special Teams has been pretty non-special this year, I would not add it as a strength to our team, other than Crosby’s kicking skills (although even that has had some WTF?!? moments) and last week’s awesome tackle, there is not an immense amount of confidence there.
Washington Redskins – anything else:
Couple of other things worthy of mention.
Our Special Teams has been really good this year. This season I don’t worry about it anymore and the Kicker Dustin Hopkins was arguably our best Free Agent acquisition. This is a HUGE game for the Redskins. The team feels super confident it can make noise in the offseason, the fans are less confident but are optimistic.
With Scot McCloughan this year came a change in mindset and direction for the club. Griffin was swiftly benched in favour of Cousins and the team went to great effort to squash any potential drama and QB controversy. They also established a meritocracy where the best players played and not simply those paid the most or with were drafted highest. He also went to work in the off season bringing in tough nosed Veterans who knew what it took to win. This is something that has been in the Packers ethos for a while now, but for a team like the Redskins changing a culture that is used to losing takes time. The Redskins were at least competing and looked good from time to time, but we were neither consistent or consistently winning.
This all came together in week 7 when we found ourselves 24-0 down at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what Gruden proclaimed as a ‘Code Red’ game. We came back to win that game (biggest comeback in our history!) and have looked like a different team ever since. Other than a couple of unsurprising (and surprising) losses we’ve been winning, including the last 4 games of the season where we started crossing off the list things that they didn’t say we could do. Winning on the Road, winning back to back games, winning in Prime Time – Check check check!
Next thing on the list… Win against a team with a Winning Record. Bring on the Packers.
The Packers need to break the current mindset of a losing team they have a winning record, against the recent odds, they need to start anew. Stranger things have happened than inconsistent teams winning the Superbowl.
This could be the Packers year, but I certainly will be watching this game and biting my fingernails. I am in no way convinced that we will win hands down, I think that if we do it will be a struggle and the Redskins won’t let it go without a fight. But I also know my Packers, and if there is one thing they love it’s a surprise ending! They aren’t being nicknamed the ‘Heart Attack Pack’ this season for nothing.
I have to hope that we will win this game but it is not a pre-ordained win in any sense of the word.
Packers win 24 – 21
Based on the play of the two teams lately and their relative strengths we look evenly matched, both teams are struggling to run, both have middling defences. The Redskins passing game has been on fire lately, and the Packers has not. But it is Aaron Rodgers and our pass defense is vulnerable. Our D-Line and Linebackers are good and the Packs O-Line sucks. Rodgers is a sack waiting to happen lately. Green Bay have Clay Matthews, but our O-Line is pretty good and should be bolstered by a returning Lichtensteiger. It’s this last thing that I believe makes the difference, I see a return to scoring by Green Bay, but it’s gonna be a shoot out.
Washington Redskins win 34-28