Green Bay Packers: Why to still hope for better on Sunday
By Kenn Korb
Well for one thing, this Green Bay Packers team is still playing; there are 20 teams that cannot say the same this weekend.
While the “any given Sunday” narrative is little more than an overused cliche, there is a small bit of truth in there somewhere. Despite all their issues, they still managed to win 10 games — and make no mistake, many of the glaring problems with this team were still there while they managed to get out to that 6-0 start.
They’ve managed to win an amalgamation of ugly games — games they maybe shouldn’t have won in many cases — on the strength of other areas of the team while adding juuuuuuust enough from the offense to bring in victories.
Even in their losses, only two of them were out of reach (at Denver and at Arizona, respectively); the other four were within one score and could’ve easily turned their way if even one play toward the end instead went in their favor.
A little more positive luck at a key moment or two, and this doesn’t feel anywhere near as bad as it has looked, even if the inherent issues with the team were still there.
It isn’t as if Green Bay is facing a juggernaut here either; while Washington has been plenty impressive in their own right at times, they did only win 9 games in a division that just got rid of arguably its top two coaches in the past couple weeks.
Kirk Cousins may have some impressive stats, but his cadre of weapons is undoubtedly more formidable (or at least more reliable and explosive) than what Rodgers has had to work with in 2015.
The biggest difference this year for him is that he’s managed to cut down on turnovers, but this could still be more of a blip than a concrete trend based on his overall career; though he has more long-term proof of the player he is due to a longer career so far, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets had a similar trend going that abruptly fell apart majorly last week to cost his team a playoff spot (3 INTs in the fourth quarter against Buffalo).
The Washington defense has been pretty strong, but they mostly play defense based in zone coverage.
Though they could adjust to play man coverage more often — something multiple teams have done mostly successfully against Green Bay this year — that wouldn’t exactly play to their strengths.
We will either see them go against their stylistic defensive strength (which opens the door for Green Bay to have a more even playing field for a weakness) or not play the style that Green Bay apparently is weak against (meaning the Packers could find themselves working to exploit spaces built into the coverage instead of relying on players to make their own separation); either way, Green Bay at least appears like it will be given the chance to make something happen.
The Packers defense has been the best group on the team, and their secondary has been surprisingly strong despite having rookies playing in major roles. Morgan Burnett is quietly one of the better safeties in the league (89.0 rating by Pro Football Focus, third-best among safeties), Sam Shields is a solid #1 cornerback, Damarious Randall has been one of the better defensive rookies league-wide, and guys like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Casey Hayward, and Micah Hyde all provide respectable production around them.
More from Lombardi Ave
- Packers: Picks in NFL.com mock draft would be a home run
- Packers salary cap update following second week of free agency
- Packers’ cornerback depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ edge rusher depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ tackle depth chart after second week of free agency
This strength aligns with Washington’s offensive strengths (their wideouts); it’ll be interesting how this particular area ends up, but it could go either way at this point.
Along with the coverage, they have one of the best D-linemen in the league in Mike Daniels (90.7 overall grade; top-10 rating against the run and pass, by PFF ratings) and an assortment of pass-rush options led by Clay Matthews and a still-spry Julius Peppers.
Oh and while he hasn’t exactly looked like his usual self most of the season, these guys still have Aaron Rodgers behind center.
This man has been a Super Bowl MVP and is the reigning league MVP, his second time being considered as such.
The vast majority of deficiencies have been in the offense around him — due to injuries and inefficiency — but I’m not willing to write him off.
You shouldn’t be either.
I’m not exactly expecting a win here at this point — only a fool would blindly believe that by now, and I am not overlooking a somewhat-underrated Washington team — but it isn’t as far out of the realm of possibility as it may seem.
If this team shows up, has some breaks go their way offensively, and leans on the actual strength of the team (the defense), they can pull out a victory.
All we can do now is wait and see.