Washington & Green Bay capable of scary good (or bad) offense; aim for consistency
The Packers and Redskins have had a turbulent season, which is not uncommon for teams competing in the wild-card round.
While they’re excited to be in the tournament, their journey here has been inconsistent.
The focus of Sunday’s NFC wild-card game between Green Bay and Washington will be offensive stability.
The team that can maintain its best at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., is likely to be the one that emerges victorious.
At present, there is much concern in Packer Nation about the state of their offense.
They’ve had two lackluster performances in a row, totaling only 21 points in the two losses.
On the other hand, in Washington, there is a sense of optimism as they’ve surged into the playoffs with a highly productive final four games, averaging 33 points per game over that stretch and surpassing the 30-point mark in three out of four.
This is the current scenario, but both teams have experienced significant fluctuations in their offensive performance throughout the year.
In Week 11, facing one of the NFC’s toughest defenses in the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay managed to put up 30 points on the road, securing a crucial divisional victory.
However, their performance since then has been inconsistent, with some positive showings but falling short of being explosive.
The Redskins had a notable peak when they amassed over 500 yards and scored 47 points in a Week 10 victory over New Orleans.
This was followed by a three-game period where they averaged only 17 points per game before embarking on their impressive run in December.
It’s evident that both of these teams have the potential to showcase either excellent or subpar offensive displays.
The sources of inconsistency differ for both teams. In Green Bay, it stems from challenges with the receivers and offensive line, while in Washington, it revolves around the young and developing quarterback, Kirk Cousins.
The Packers have found success when their wide receivers have been able to make plays against press-man coverage.
Unfortunately, these instances have been rare, making it particularly challenging for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receiving group to establish a consistent rhythm.
In a recent pregame production meeting, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, the strategic mind behind the Vikings’ defense, mentioned to television analyst Cris Collinsworth that they planned to employ aggressive press-man coverage, meaning the receivers would face tight range from the start to finish of each play.
They would only deviate from this approach if Packer receivers were consistently gaining an advantage.
Even though Rodgers threw for over 290 yards, Green Bay struggled to convert drives into touchdowns, settling for field goals and ending up with just 13 points.
Zimmer identified a vulnerability in the Packer receiving corps and capitalized on it.
Injuries have plagued the offensive line, causing significant disruptions. Against Detroit, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga, who anchor the right side, were sidelined.
Additionally, left tackle David Bakhtiari, responsible for protecting Rodgers’ blind side, has been absent for the past two weeks.
This forced Josh Sitton, a Pro Bowl left guard known for his proficiency in close-quarters play, to step into the left tackle position, which requires operating in more open space.
While Sitton possesses the athleticism needed for the left tackle role, he appeared uncomfortable facing off against Minnesota pass-rusher Everson Griffen.
This discomfort led to a sack and fumble, ultimately resulting in a touchdown that proved pivotal in the game.
After the game, Sitton expressed, “I believe I’m best suited as a guard.”
The availability of Bakhtiari for this week’s game remains uncertain.
To improve their offensive performance, the Packers must devise a strategy to shield Rodgers from disruptions.
A closer look at the Vikings game reveals instances of commendable line play, but these moments of effectiveness were frequently marred by breakdowns that impeded progress.
Consistency throughout the entire game is crucial. The Packers must string together complete drives before doing so once more.
Their playoff aspirations hinge on this ability to execute.
The main factor contributing to the Redskins’ past inconsistencies was Kurt Cousins, primarily because he was still in the process of learning the position both physically and mentally.
However, he has made remarkable progress. Considering where he began with this organization, it’s clear why this year has been such a breakthrough for him.
Last year, when Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated ankle, and Cousins stepped in as QB, he made a statement that provided insight into how he viewed himself: “(Robert Griffin) has had success here, he had done a lot of good things, and he has done nothing to have that be any different.
So this is his team, and it’s my job as a backup to hopefully, when he comes back, give him a team with a good record…” Cousins didn’t see himself as “the guy.”
This internal struggle with identity was the primary hurdle in his journey to becoming the definitive leader at quarterback, someone who would eventually guide his team to a division championship and the playoffs.
For any player, particularly the quarterback, it’s crucial to have the self-assurance that when you take charge, you’re in command. You don’t play second fiddle to anyone.
The Redskins made a significant move to support Cousins by essentially ruling out the possibility of RGIII playing this year.
This season has not only been pivotal for Cousins on the field, but also mentally.
A sense of ownership over the offense significantly contributes to delivering consistent performances week after week.
Cousins experienced four games with multiple interceptions earlier in the season, but they all occurred before November.
Since that last multi-interception game, he has thrown 23 touchdowns with just three interceptions, boasting one of the best ratios in the NFL during that period.
The outcome of this game boils down to a straightforward equation: the offense that displays greater consistency will emerge victorious.
Both teams have shown a mix of strengths and weaknesses, with the determining factor being which version shows up on Sunday.
The Packers have faced more recent struggles with maintaining consistency, while the Redskins have overcome a mid-season challenge that they will aim to avoid resurfacing.
The first defense to make a game-changing play will gain the upper hand.
In the playoffs, dealing with adversity is paramount. The offense that exhibits consistency in the face of this challenge on Sunday will be well on its way to advancing to the next round.