Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins (+1, 45.5 o/u)
The Washington Redskins (9-7, 6-2 home), who totaled just seven wins in 2013 and 2014, have started to reverse the franchise’s fortunes. The team surges into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and with an NFC East title in hand; now they’ll look for their first playoff victory since 2005, but will have to get by the Green Bay Packers (10-6, 5-3 road), who are making a seventh straight trip to the postseason. Sunday’s tussle (4:40 p.m. Eastern at FedEx Field) is the first matchup between the teams in DC since Washington won in overtime in 2010.
The Packers have won a post-season game in two of the last four seasons and were Super Bowl champs not so long ago (2010). But Green Bay has just one win in Washington since 1968, and is faltering at the wrong time, losing six of ten to close the year.
The Redskins, on the other hand, survived the start of the year minus star receiver DeSean Jackson, going 2-4 through the first six weeks. They played .500 ball until the late going when consecutive wins over Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Dallas gave them the division crown. The win streak has a lot of pundits liking the ‘Skins heading into the postseason, but keep in mind that they haven’t beaten a playoff team all season, losing badly to both New England (27-10) and Carolina (44-16).
A big reason for Washington’s playoff push was the improved play of quarterback Kirk Cousins. The four wins to end the season coincided with four of Cousins’ five best games (based on passer rating, anyway). The Michigan State product threw for 12 touchdowns and one interception during the final four weeks and averaged nearly 300 yards per game in the air while completing over 74-percent of his passes.
For the season, Cousins led the tenth-ranked scoring offense (24.3 PPG) and the 11th-best passing attack (255.9 yards per game).
The defense was spotty most of the year, finishing fourth-last in total yards; but thanks to 26 takeaways (ninth in the league), they were middle of the pack in scoring (23.7 points against per game).
Green Bay lost top receiver Jordy Nelson before the year began and figured to see a downturn on offense. However, the Packers won six straight to begin the campaign, including two against playoff teams (Seattle and Kansas City) and all appeared to be well in Cheesetown.
Then reality set in. Green Bay proceeded to drop three straight and four out of five with their lone win at Minnesota. They finished the year going 3-2, but the wins came on a Hail Mary against Detroit, and versus the out-of-contention Cowboys and Raiders. They got drubbed by the Cardinals (38-8) in Week 16, and with the NFC North division title on the line, lost at home to Minnesota (20-13) last week.
Despite starting the season on a tear, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of his worst years to date. His 61-percent completion rate was a personal low, and his 6.68 yards per attempt was down almost two full yards from the last couple of seasons. Rodgers’ down year put Green Bay 23rd in the NFL in total offense and 15th in scoring (23 points a game).
When the Packer offense was at its best this year, it was spearheaded by Eddie Lacy and the run game. But the overweight back has been inconsistent, at best; he had 85-plus yards in five games, yet averaged just over 50 YPG on the year.
On defense, Green Bay was in the middle of the pack, with better luck stopping the pass than the run. Opponents managed 20.2 points a contest against the cheese heads.
In summary, the Redskins haven’t beaten anybody, and the Packers are having a down year particularly in the second half of the season. That makes it very hard to trust either team. But one thing is for sure, neither defense is very good.
Pick: Over 45.5.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)