Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins
I have to rub my eyes hard when I see this. Kirk Cousins with more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers over the course of the regular season. And only two less touchdowns. Wow!
It’s certainly not something that seemed likely after the opening five games of the season. Back then, in what now seems like an alternate reality, Green Bay were 5-0 and cantering towards home field advantage in the play-offs. By contrast, Washington were looking decidedly iffy at 2-3, and seemed on course for another Washington-type season of disappointment. But how things have changed since.
Green Bay then went to Denver, lost 29-10, and have never looked right since. It’s as if the defensive mauling they received at the hands of the Broncos shattered their normally sizable self-belief. Offensively, it’s been like ‘Where’s Wally’ in terms of trying to find a reliable wide receiver. James Jones burned brightly before burning out. Top-dog Randall Cobb was reported to missing persons. And young buck Davante Adams had become the invisible man.
For some reason, the receivers weren’t catching the ball, shattering the principle upon which the Packers had built their game for the last two decades. Was Rodgers no longer superhuman? Had the injured Jordy Nelson been carrying the offense previously? Nobody knew. And Green Bay weren’t helped by their running back Eddie Lacy starting to resemble Mr Stay Puft, or so his critics would have us believe. The fat man in tight pants jibes came thick and fast though.
Big boy Eddie Lacy has been on the end of some mean comments from fans
Fast forward to now and the Packers have limped into the postseason with a 10-6 record and off the back of some dubious displays, of which a 38-8 defeat loss to Arizona was perhaps the most concerning. On the up-side, Eddie Lacy’s pants were looking better, as was his running. One touchdown in his last seven games though will hardly frighten Washington.
All that said though, I think Green Bay still pack enough punch to beat the Redskins. It’s this simple. The Packers rank better than Washington across the board, both on offense and defense. And especially on defense, where the Redskins’ stats look absolutely dire. In fact, it amazes me how Washington managed to muster a 9-7 record.
But the devil is in the detail. And a look at who the Redskins have played perhaps explains all. Their list of opponents reads like a rogue’s gallery of losers. Indeed, only three of their opponents this season had winning records, the Jets, Patriots and Panthers. And that is how the Redskins got to the play-offs. Green Bay by contrast faced teams with ultimately winning records on no less than seven occasions.
So maybe the Packers aren’t as bad as they seem. And much more likely, the Redskins are nowhere near as good as they appear to be. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was much maligned early season. But nothing wins over the critics like success, no matter how cheaply earned. Cousins has been aided by return of DeSean Jackson, a genuinely talented receiver, and the player that Green Bay’s defense needs to be most concerned about. Jackson is a deep ball threat. And if, as I suspect, the Redskins fall behind here, he should see plenty of deep targets. So back him to put up some good numbers.
Both teams are fairly weak on defense and that should see plenty of points being shared around. Jackson is a strong shout for a Washington score. Perhaps a better bet though is tight end Jordan Reed. He’s injury prone, but when fit makes a big red zone target, as his 11 scores this season testify. While with just one touchdown to his name, running back Alfred Morris makes opposite number Lacy look positively prolific. I suggest keeping your hard earned away from him.
It’s Washington’s defense though that’s the major player in this game. It looks so poor, that even a one-armed Rodgers could take it apart. Rodgers has been only slightly sub-par this year and is still playing better than most QBs in the league. He’s faced some tough defenses and hasn’t had much protection form his offensive line. But he should face very little pressure from a Washington D that ranks 25th against the pass. And while the Green Bay receivers have been inconsistent as a whole, another Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, has emerged as an unlikely hero. The tight end’s eight touchdowns make him the man to back for the opening score. He’s a big target in the end zone and, most importantly, his namesake Aaron considers him a safe pair of hands.
Nether defense impresses and both teams could put up plenty of points here. The Packers should be able to muster some important stops though at key times. Or Cousins might just toss them some possession, as he is prone to do. Either way, it’s the Packers who have the better quarterback, better offense, and better chances here. So back them to win what should an action-packed game.