It's been one of those long weeks: from the non-Marshawn Lynch trade, to the serious injuries to Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Mark Tauscher, to the tearful reunion of Moss and the Purple.
I'm very anxious to see what the Packers have learned from its last two second half performances. After a virtuoso effort in Week 2 against the Bills, the Pack's last two second halfs have left much to be desired: particularly defensively where the pass rush has disappeared and marginal offenses have moved way too easily down the field.
So the Pack will meet Donovan McNabb and the Redskins at noon on Sunday. The Packers' road record against McNabb has been abysmal. They've never seemed able to beat the Eagles on the road. Obviously, this Redskins team is nowhere near where Philly has been in the last decade, but they are improved under Mike Shanahan and moving in the right direction. The Pack gets a break meeting them one week after the game they had circled on their schedule: the return to Philadelphia. After a stirring victory, there may be a natural letdown in their performance on Sunday.
Tragedy has also reared its ugly head leading into this game. The stepbrother of Redskins mercurial DT Albert Haynesworth died Thursday night in a motorcycle accident. At the time of this posting, it's too soon to know whether he will play--but I don't expect him to. How could anyone play within 72 hours of such devastating news.
The Redskins defense has been lousy so far. They're ranked 31st in yards allowed and 31st in pass defense. With no Haynesworth, the defense is easier to scheme against: without the big guy disrupting things in the middle, Rodgers and McCarthy just need to account for speedy pass rusher Bryan Orapko. The rest of the front seven is mediocre.
The Redskins are also without RB Clinton Portis and will turn to something called Ryan Torain as the featured back. Offensively, the Redskins have looked very pedestrian, but their top target could give the Pack's defense fits. TE Chris Cooley is McNabb's most frequent target and after seeing what the Lions were able to do with Brandon Pettigrew, you have to believe Shanahan will look to Cooley early and often--especially with LB Brandon Chillar sidelined.
The Redskins' WRs are led by the aging Santana Moss and the aged Joey Galloway. Not a lot to worry about there. After Cooley, the biggest weapon is McNabb's feet. He's done it for years against the Pack, and though he's getting up there a bit and though he's been injured a bit, he's still a big time threat running the ball. Shaun Hill ran for 53 yards. Think McNabb can beat that?
With Barnett out, Desmond Bishop gets his long awaited chance to shine in this scheme. We've heard great things about his development. Let's hope he starts showing them Sunday, because it looks like he'll be out there next to A.J. Hawk the rest of the way. At safety, Nick Collins is listed as probable, so he'll start. It appears Charlie Peprah, fresh off his own injury, will get the start replacing Morgan Burnett.
Offensively, the Pack should move the ball through the air with relative ease. After Rodgers' post-game comments, you get the feeling the Pack will attack the Redskins and their 3-4 defense by spreading them out and looking for mismatches. Looks like Bryan Bulaga will make his first start, replacing the injured Tauscher at right tackle. If Clinton can't hold up physically, Bulaga will have to swing over to the left side and T.J. Lang would need to step in on the right side.
Despite the injuries defensively and the uncertainty on offense, I get the feeling we get the Packers' best effort this week. This has been a good road team under McCarthy and they're anxious to atone for their most recent road performance. The timing also favors Green Bay: For the Skins it's sandwiched between the game in Philly and a home game next Sunday night against Peyton and the Colts. Rodgers does just enough to give the Pack the win, 27-24.
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