Thursday, January 07, 2016

Why The Packers Will Defeat The Redskins; Because of Their Offense

I'll have to admit, I'm having trouble writing about how the Green Bay Packers' offense is going to beat the Redskins. The easy answer is that the Redskins have a mediocre defense (ranked No. 21 overall according to Football Outsiders (19st against the pass, 22nd against the run) and the Packers have the defending MVP at quarterback. The offense will look much better if the starting offensive line (especially LT David Bakhtiari) can play and RB Eddie Lacy can have one of his good games.

However, that's not the reality of this season. Bakhtiari is still struggling with his ankle injury and Lacy has had many more bad games than good. RB James Starks isn't the answer either; the Packers can't run behind their beat up offensive line. The passing game has covered up for the lack of a running game in past seasons by killing defenses with their deep passing game, but that element has vanished this season without WR Jordy Nelson.
Even that 8.19 YPA is low for Rodgers. He was at 8.43 YPA in 2014, and 8.75 in 2013. The big change since those first six games is that WR James Jones isn't fooling as many defenses as he was at the start of the season. He still has his moments but they're not as frequent. Cobb's never been much of a deep threat but according to Pro Football Focus, Cobb caught 3 TDs in 2014 on targets of 20 yards or more, and he's caught zero in 2015. I won't even get into how much of a disappointment WR Davante Adams has been in this regard. The low YPA isn't a sign that Rodgers has turned into a dink-and-dunk passer but that the deep passing game has had such a low percentage of success in 2015.

It would seem like the Packers need to focus on a short passing-high completion percentage game plan. It's not Mike McCarthy's style but they got to get out of 3rd and long situations and win the hidden elements of the game, like field position, and let their very good defense create some short fields after defensive stops and/or turnovers.

But stopping the short passing game is probably the strength of the Redskins' defense. According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins are terrible against No.1 and No. 2 wide receivers but slightly above average against other wide receivers. They're also the 5th best defense against running backs in coverage, so those running back screens don't look like something to use against them. They're not great at covering tight ends but TE Richard Rodgers isn't someone who can really challenge them.

While they will run the ball on occasion, RB Eddie Lacy has only been good in recent games against the Cowboys (who have a terrible run defense) and the Vikings, and Lacy just seems to have the Vikings number. RB James Starks has been even worse lately (4 fumbles over his last 5 games) and his only big game in recent weeks came against the terrible Cowboys, but he seems more likely to have a breakout game than Lacy. Either way, it seems very unlikely that the running game will provide a spark.

My opinion is subject to change depending on the Packers' next opponent, but it looks like the best thing the Packers' offense can do is to keep leaning heavily on Jones and Cobb, as they've been trying to do all season long. The Redskins defense is similar to the Lions, and the passing game (Hail Mary aside) did pretty well against them in two games (as long as they don't try to force feed the ball to Davante Adams). The big difference between those two teams is the Lions can't cover tight ends and Richard Rodgers killed the Lions in both games against them. Despite what I wrote earlier, maybe getting him involved more is the way to go against the Redskins, in addition to leaning heavily on Jones and Cobb.

Sticking to the same offensive schemes that haven't been working all season isn't an inspired game plan, however, that is probably the best way for the Packers' offense to defeat the Redskins on Sunday.

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