Only Up From Here – Week 2 Preview

The last time the Packers and Redskins played, Donald Lee was still a thing. Feel old, America.

The last time the Packers and Redskins played, Donald Lee was still a thing. Feel old, America.

The Packers and Redskins have traveled very similar paths dating back to the playoffs last year.

Both teams ended their 2012 campaigns with frustrating playoff defeats: Green Bay got run over by Colin Kaepernick and Washington was bounced by the Seahawks after Robert Griffin III hurt his knee (or re-injured his knee, as the case may have been).

Since then, both teams have worked to recover from what ended their seasons last year. While the RGIII and the Redskins had to endure an actual physical recovery, the Packers repairs were more philosophical. They bulked up on defense and explored options for defending the 49ers’ deadly read-option attack.

But after a long offseason of work, both the Packers and Redskins came away disappointed in Week 1. The Packers slowed down the 49ers on the ground, but Kaepernick tore them to pieces through the air. For Washington, Griffin made his triumphant return, only to throw two interceptions and make a bad mistake in the end zone as his Redskins fell to the Eagles.

Now, both teams look to rebound from this inauspicious beginnings. Whichever team bounces back best may be the one that comes away victorious this week.

The Countdown

5 – Washington players with four or more catches in Week 1: Pierre Garcon (7), Leonard Hankerson (5), Santana Moss (5), Jordan Reed (5), and Josh Morgan (4). Yes, the Redskins were more or less forced to pass since they fell behind so early, but seeing such a widely successful receiving corps coming into Lambeau a week after the Packers gave up more than 400 yards passing should give us pause. If the Packers truly have addressed their issues defending the run, that’s great, but it’s not going to mean a darn thing if they can’t slow teams down through the air. The Redskins will test them there again this week.

4 – Third down conversions in ten tries by the Packers last week. 40% is an unacceptably low number, and with the Packers frequently facing poor field position to start drives, quick three and outs blessed the 49ers with short fields for most of the game. Lengthening their drives with a few third down conversions could go a long way toward helping the Packers bring home a “W” this week.

3 – Sacks by the Washington defense in Week 1. The Packers protected Aaron Rodgers pretty well, by and large, considering their inexperience up front. They’ll get tested again this week by a pretty solid front seven and blitzing safety Bacarri Rambo. I defy you to come up with a cooler sounding name than Bacarri Rambo.

2 – Turnovers by the Green Bay offense last week. Head Coach Mike McCarthy is death on turnovers, and rightly so. An average NFL team will possess the ball about twelve times in a given week, and turning the ball over voids one of those rare possessions. You could easily make the case that the Packers lost last week thanks only in part to their turnovers, specifically Eddie Lacy‘s fumble (the interception from Jermichael Finley‘s drop didn’t result in any points), and if they rack up another pair of turnovers, they may find themselves on the wrong end of a pair of early season losses.

1 – Losses by the Packers in Week 1. This is a cheesy (perhaps a cop-out) way to fill this slot, but allow me to make my point: The Packers did not lose their season at Candlestick Park last Sunday. They didn’t lose a playoff game. They didn’t lose the Super Bow. They lost one game. A game, mind you, that they were by and large expected to lose. Was it a setback? Absolutely. Was it discouraging? Without a doubt. But it was still only one game, and there’s a long way to go.

If they’d lose this week though…

Last Time – Redskins: 16 Packers:13 (OT) – October 10, 2010

It was only three years ago, but it football years that’s nearly an eternity. To wit: Donovan McNabb started at quarterback for Washington the last time the Packers and Redskins met, while Donald Lee caught a touchdown pass for the Packers. Moving on.

The Packers traveled to FedEx Field on 10/10/10 as three point favorites, but injuries to Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews put a damper on their hopes. Aaron Rodgers completed just 27 passes on 46 attempts, and despite a 110 yard rushing day by Brandon Jackson (aided in a big way by a 71 yard run), the Packers came up short against the Redskins.

Meet a Redskin – Alfred Morris – 5’10”, 219 lbs – RB – 2nd NFL Season

It was once said that Emmitt Smith didn’t have the speed to run eighty yards once, but he had the tenacity to go forty yards twice. The same may be true of Alfred Morris, although to compare him to Emmitt Smith is an incredibly high bar for just a second year player.

Still, Morris was a machine as a rookie. Despite underwhelming speed, Morris carried the ball a whopping 335 times last year for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sure, he probably benefits from playing with RGIII, but he’s a very good player in his own right and will run wild on the Packers if they let him.

The Redskins will win if…

…RGIII & Co. are able to regain any of their offensive form from last year. They were a sputtering mess in the first half of their game with the Eagles on Monday, but they posted 20 points in the second half and were competitive down the stretch. Washington’s read-option looks might just have needed a while to warm up after playing without their quarterback all preseason.

The Packers will win if…

…they can build on the things they did well in Week 1, namely, stopping the run and putting up pretty solid offensive numbers. If Morgan Burnett plays (and as of this writing that’s most definitely still an “if”), he should bring some stability to an oft-victimized secondary. Should that happen, the Packers defense is suddenly a lot more well-rounded and should present a bigger challenge to Washington than they did to San Francisco last week.

The Pick – Packers: 28 Redskins: 20

The Packers come away with a win as both teams look to bounce back. I think the Packers are just a little bit deeper on offense and more sturdy on defense, and RGIII could be a week away from being back to full power. Taht, and unveiling the newly expanded south end zone stands at Lambeau Field might give the Packers just the boost they need to win.

The Rest (home team in ALL CAPS)

PATRIOTS over Jets
FALCONS over Rams
EAGLES over Chargers
Cowboys over CHIEFS
COLTS over Dolphins
TEXANS over Titans
RAVENS over Browns
Panthers over BILLS
BEARS over Vikings
Saints over Buccaneers
Lions over Cardinals
RAIDERS over Jaguars
Broncos over GIANTS
SEAHAWKS over 49ers
BENGALS over Steelers

Last week: (10-6)

Tweet of the Week

An “awww shucks” moment between David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy. They’re so cute when they’re that age.

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