Let’s just get this one out of the way, shall we? Beginning on Monday, we’ll be thinking about the final three games of the season, all division games, knowing that if they beat the Bears and Lions, they’ll be no worse than a three seed in the NFC playoffs.
But of course the Pack first must dispatch the Redskins, a team with a historically inept offense, but one that has inexplicably won its last two games, to drop to third in next spring’s draft order. OK, their two wins aren’t that inexplicable. They’ve beaten the Jeff Driskal-led Lions and Kyle Allen-led Panthers, compiling 13 sacks and six takeaways in the process. And last week, their two-headed rushing attack of Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice shredded Carolina.
Now they come to Lambeau, for the Pack’s first home game since November 10th, as nearly two touchdown underdogs. After firing head coach Jay Gruden earlier in the season, Washington has tried to embody the personality of interim coach Bill Callahan, with a ground and pound approach and relying as little as possible on rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who in a perfect world, would have used 2019 as a redshirt season.
Haskins has the tools to be a good quarterback, but he has a lot to learn and improve on. He’s completing just 54% of his passes, with two touchdowns and six interceptions. He also takes sacks at an incredible rate–on 14% of his pass plays. He does have one legit weapon in the passing game, former Buckeye teammate Terry McLaurin, who’s scored five times and averages 15 yards per reception on 46 catches. Expect him to draw Jaire Alexander’s constant attention on Sunday.
Washington will undoubtedly attack the Pack’s offense the same way the Giants did. It’s an altered universe now, as teams look to stop Aaron Jones and the Packers’ running game and make Aaron Rodgers beat them. #12 was up to the challenge against the Giants in a snowstorm and the same will be the case on Sunday. With Allen Lazard stepping comfortably into the #2 receiving role, Rodgers is feeling more comfortable in this offense and will continue to feed him and Adams, while using Jones and Jamaal Williams in the receiving game as well.
Green Bay needs to get back to running the football, because that will be the recipe to win the North and make some noise in January. In the Pack’s three losses Jones has not reached 40 yards rushing, and he didn’t get there last week either. Jones and Williams should both get 20 touches in a game the Pack figures to be playing with the lead.
Aaron Rodgers understands how important it is for the Pack to jump out early and make Washington play from behind, where they need to rely on Haskins’ arm. He implored the fans to be loud and crazy early–maybe he figures they’ve forgotten how to cheer since it’s been so long since they’ve been to a game. He should have probably saved the pleas for next week when the suddenly competent Bears come to town.
The most interesting new dynamic in this game is watching the new returner make his debut. With the Pack jettisoning Tramon Smith and replacing him with Tyler Ervin, they hope they solved their historically dismal return game. Ervin has experience, two years with the Texans and another with the Jags, with nearly 100 punt and kick returns in his resume. He’ll try to reverse the Packers’ abysmal punt return production, where they have a grand total of -8 yards on nine returns this season. No, that’s not a typo. At this point, just hanging on to the ball and not going backwards is all we should ask for.
This two week diversion through the bunny patch can’t end soon enough. The Giants and Redskins will tell us nothing about this team. They’ve been extremely fortunate in the injury department this season, so let’s just hope that trend continues and they get set for the final three games with a healthy roster.
Packers 24 Washington 10