It’s gut check time.
Not in the usual sense. I’ll need to check what I eat throughout the day Sunday, to lessen the likelihood that I regurgitate it while watching the Pack play on Sunday night. OK, that’s a bit harsh, but after what we’ve witnessed the past two weeks, it’s hard to believe this team is going to do a 180 and look more like the team we saw the first six weeks.
Let’s start with the negatives:
The defense appears to be lost. The ease with which Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray have glided through the Pack’s D has Kirk Cousins carrying around a drool bucket. The Pack will get Clay Matthews back this week–but the Pack will be hard-pressed to put Cousins on the ground. He’s been sacked just 12 times this season.
With Jake Ryan sidelined, the inside linebacker position is weakened dramatically. Here’s hoping Joe Thomas improves 7865% from last week, otherwise the middle of the field will be there for Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis to feast in all evening.
The Packers admitted they were as devoid at running back as vegetarians in DePere when they claimed Christine Michael off waivers this week. James Starks has no burst anymore and Ty Montgomery is not the long-term answer. It’s unclear how ready Michael will be to contribute this week, but he had regressed over the past few weeks in Seattle and is unlikely to provide the shot in the arm we all hope for. He does have a much stronger offensive line in front of him. But with TJ Lang out and David Bakhtiari questionable, the line is starting to take on a makeshift quality.
A couple of positives:
After two dismal weeks, the passing offense is likely to perform better on Sunday night. The Skins can be thrown on, as long as you steer clear of Josh Norman, who will likely lock down on Jordy Nelson Sunday night. Look for Davante Adams to continue posting his fat box score. Randall Cobb appears to be less than 100%, the same with Montgomery, so we’ll see what lift they can provide an offense that desperately needs to find its footing much earlier in the game than we’ve seen the past two weeks.
The Packers have won six of their last seven against Washington. That’s literally the only other positive I could find leading into this game.
These are strange times for the Packers. The leaders are definitely feeling the heat. As I tweeted, when Mike McCarthy feels he needs to remind everyone that he’s a “highly successful football coach,” it means either he knows the team may be looking for a scapegoat after the season, or he’s telling his QB, between the lines, that this is still ultimately his team.
Washington is not a great team. They’ll likely be without deep threat DeSean Jackson, which is a break for the cornerback-starved Packers, but Cousins is feasting in the middle of the field with his tight ends and slot receiver Jamison Crowder and wily vet Pierre Garcon. Their running game appears to be revived a bit with rookie Robert Kelley stepping in for Matt Jones. He doesn’t appear to be a breakaway threat, but runs hard and moves the chains. He’ll likely get most of the snaps, since third down back Chris Thompson lost a fumble last week.
For the Packers to have a chance, they’re going to need to get off to a much faster start than recent weeks. They certainly can’t fall into first quarter holes like they did against the Colts and Titans. Some special teams success and a couple of turnovers wouldn’t hurt either. Washington is in the mix in the much improved NFC East and knows they can’t afford a home loss. Following Sunday night’s game, they head on a brutal three game road trip: Thanksgiving day at Dallas, then at Arizona and Philadelphia.
Washington is looking for a measure of revenge for last year’s home playoff loss to the Pack. From what I’ve seen from our team the last two weeks, I’d be surprised if they don’t get it.
Washington 27 Packers 23