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Thursday, October 28, 2004
Game Preview: Packers @ Redskins
by Thomas Pyc
As the middle of the professional football season approaches, so does the presidential election. And if you have not already heard the statistic, I will regurgitate it one more time: During election years, when the Washington Redskins win the game played the Sunday before the election the incumbent (the current president) also wins. If Brett Favre did not have enough to worry about with the recent development between his wife and breast cancer now he also has the fate of the free world to consider.
Enough with the political talk, onto some football. The Packers enter Sunday’s game with the 2nd ranked offense in the league. The Redskins own the top ranked defense in the league after playing Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay. The Redskins are also achieving this feat without their Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington and will most likely play without him again on Sunday. Gregg Williams (former Buffalo Bills coach) is the Redskins sixth different defensive coordinator in as many years. The last time the Packers faced a Gregg Williams’ defense it was December 22nd, 2002 and the Packers defeated the Buffalo Bills, 10-0 in a game dominated by defense. That was also the only game over the past 35 meetings in which emerging Packer wide receiver, Javon Walker, has not caught a pass.
The Redskins Offense vs. the Packers Defense
Despite the stellar performance of the Redskins’ defense they enter Sunday’s contest with a 2-4 record. The Skins are well stocked at wide receiver and have an all-world running back in Clinton Portis. But the line in front of Portis is mediocre at best after losing their starting right tackle earlier this year. Joe Gibbs is running the same offense he did during his previous coaching stint but is having account for his offensive line’s inefficiencies by using extra tight ends and blocking H-backs. Former Brett Favre backup and Pro Bowler, Mark Brunell is still at the helm of offense but his diminishing skills have been noticed over the first six games. His current passer rating is only 69.8 (24th in the league) and his completion percentage is a pathetic 51.2%.
The Packers defense (21st in the NFL) received some much-needed help at the center of their defense with the return of nose tackles Grady Jackson and James Lee. Unfortunately, the shape of the Packer secondary remains in question as both safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Al Harris are banged up, have not practiced and are listed as questionable as of Thursday. Over the past two games the Packers’ defense has looked better than their 21st ranking but considering how they appeared over the team’s four game losing streak that is not a grand achievement. It is possible that this defense is coming into its own, becoming more cohesive as the season progresses but a lot of its recent success could be credited to the Packers’ offense.
The Packers Offense vs. the Redskins Defense
The best defense is a good offense. Over the past two games the Packers’ offense has racked up 79 points and appears to be clicking on all cylinders. Javon Walker leads the league in receiving and between him and Donald Driver they are the top-receiving duo in terms of catches and yards. Brett Favre has not been practicing with the sprain in his throwing hand but it does not take a Packer fan to know how well he deals with injury. Mike Sherman has called the plays over the past two games and appears to be taking advantage of the versatility of the Packers’ offense. Having a constant threat to score in the backfield with Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport running strong and the aforementioned receiving corps coming of age its tough for opposing defenses to completely shutdown this offense.
The amount of personnel changes that the Redskins seem to make during the past few offseasons is always something to watch. But this year, unlike the previous, the results of these changes have made a difference. Up front, Conelius Griffin (former Giant) and Renaldo Wynn (former Jaguar) are contributing consistently. The linebackers are not the same without Arrington but the addition Marcus Washington (former Colt) has helped along with the middle linebacker Anthony Pierce who has been a real surprise. Shawn Springs (former Seahawk) has disproved all the naysayers and is making the loss of Champ Bailey a little easier for Skins’ fans to deal with in the secondary.
Keys to the Game
The Redskins receivers vs. the Packers secondary – The skins have a formidable receiving core and if their defense does not hold up well against a potent Packer offense then it will fall upon Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner to exploit a banged up Packer secondary.
The Packers Offensive Line vs. the Redskins DLine – Packer Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera left last week’s game with an ankle injury. Rivera is a warrior and it will take a pretty serious injury to keep him off the field. The Packers OLine must win upfront against this defense in order for things to click. Too many breakdowns in protection and run blocking assignments will allow the Redskins to control the line of scrimmage and the game.
Brett Favre vs. his latest adverse situation – If anyone knows how to deal with adversity within a football game its Brett Favre, but even he is not perfect. With his recently sprained throwing hand and discovering his wife, Deanna, has breast cancer it is understandable if he is not in prime form on Sunday. But Packer fans have seen the results of Brett against the odds in the past and they will be hoping for similar results this week.
The Bottom Line
The Redskins have had two weeks to regroup and analyze the Packers. That’s more than enough time for Gregg Williams to come up with a formidable scheme that should keep the game close. Turnovers should always be considered but this game should come down to which Packer team shows up, the one that was blown out by the Titans (48-27) three weeks ago or the one that has tilted the lopsided scores in their favor over the past two weeks. If the Packers come out and score on the first drive, the White House might need to prepare for a change.