The final game of wild card weekend pits the Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins. During the off season Green Bay was expected to be a Super Bowl contender, and the Pack is in the post-season for the seventh consecutive season. Washington on the other hand was viewed as being one of worst teams in the league before the season began; this is just their second winning season in eight years, and their last playoff victory came ten years ago when Joe Gibbs was still the head coach for Washington.
Who: #5 Green Bay Packers (10-6) at #4 Washington Redskins (9-7).
What: NFC Wild Card Game.
When: Sunday, January 10 at 4:40 pm ET on FOX.
Where: FedEx Field, Landover MD; surface is natural grass.
Weather: mid-50s, partly cloudy.
Coaches: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (104-55-1, .653 in regular season; 7-6, .538 in playoffs; 8 winning seasons in 10 years).
Washington’s Jay Gruden (13-19, .406 in two seasons; zero playoff experience; one winning season in two years).
Odds: Washington opened as a 1-point favorite, but the line swung to a pick’em and then Green Bay minus one. As of Saturday night the betting line had swung back once again to Washington being favored by one in most venues, with many listing this as a pick’em. I found only one site (5Dimes) that was on the other side of the ledger, with Green Bay minus one point.
The over/under is 45½ and a typical Money Line has Washington -115 and Green Bay -105. The spread dollars are fairly evenly split (53% on Green Bay, 47% on Washington), but the ML dollars lean more heavily on the Pack (69%-31%). 83% of the betting public thinks this will be a high scoring game, taking the over.
Green Bay would have been a prohibitive favorite against whatever team came out of the NFC East, but after looking dismal in a 38-8 loss to Arizona and then laying an egg in last week’s loss to Minnesota, it is difficult to have any confidence in the Packers. Green Bay went 4-6 over their last ten games, and that would have been 3-7 if not for a Hail Mary against a poor Detroit defense after a questionable penalty. The Packers are beat up, with about one-third of their roster – 17 players – on the injury report. Two starters in particular stand out: CB Sam Shields (doubtful, concussion) and LT David Bakhtiari (questionable, ankle).
At first glance the absence of Shields is minimal, since he has not played in four weeks. However, Kirk Cousins has passed for 300 yards in three of Washington’s four straight wins. In the one other game Cousins completed 80% of his 15 passes, including three touchdowns. LG Josh Sitton (#71) has filled in for Bakhtiari (#69) the last two weeks, but HC Mike McCarthy has stated that will not be the case Sunday. Washington’s pass rush improved over the last month (20 sacks in the last four games), and Aaron Rodgers has been under duress of late, sacked an unacceptable 14 times for a loss of 95 yards over just the last two games. The Skins like to bring an extra pass rusher rather as often as any team in the league; the results of that feast or famine approach will likely determine the outcome of this game. That philosophy leaves their secondary in one-on-one coverage; with three of their six top defensive backs on injured reserve, Washington is vulnerable in the secondary. If Green Bay can be creative with their pass protection and give Aaron Rodgers time, then the Packers can exploit the Washington defense.
Washington scored an average of 33 points during a four-game win streak to finish the season, but the fact remains that the Skins were 0-3 against teams that finished with winning records. WR DeSean Jackson (#11) can beat defenses deep with his speed, WR Pierre Garcon (#88) has scored in three straight games, and now that he is healthy Jordan Reed (#86; 29 receptions for 378 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games) has emerged as one of the best tight ends in the league. However, the Washington defense is average overall. NT Pot Roast Knighton (#98) is a force up front, and WLB Ryan Kerrigan (#91) has become a force. The 2011 first round pick recorded 9½ sacks this season along with three hits and 46 hurries. The matchup between Kerrigan and Green Bay RT Bryan Bulaga (#75) could be pivotal to the outcome of this game.
Since Week 7 Kirk Cousins leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.4) and passer rating (119.1), and has a jaw dropping TD:INT ratio: 23 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. Cousins has thrown for 11 scores without a pick over his last three games, with Washington’s offense averaging 35.7 points and 429 yards in that span. His fifth-ranked passer rating of 101.6 included performances of 100-plus in each of the last six games. Looking at how the two clubs have played down the stretch, you would have to pick Washington at home. Add in the way that the Green Bay offense has underwhelmed over most of the last ten weeks, and there is plenty of logic to believe that the Cheese Heads’ season comes to a shocking end Sunday. However, Washington’s weak defense – specifically their secondary – could be exactly the cure for the Pack’s late season malaise.
Prediction: Redskins 31, Packers 27
A slight lean to Washington in this game.
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Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Playoffs Aaron Rodgers against the spread betting line FOX Green Bay Packers Kirk Cousins NFC odds television tv Washington Redskins