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Wild Card Preview: Packers look to turn things around in Washington

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Despite finishing the regular season with two straight losses, Green Bay has made the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Awaiting them is one of the hottest teams in the league.

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Talk about two teams trending in opposite directions. The Packers stumbled to the finish line in the regular season and lost their throne atop the NFC North by losing their final two games after having control of the division, finishing with a 10-6 record. Washington emerged from the lackluster NFC East at 9-7, but is one of the hotter teams in the postseason following four straight wins to close out the season.

For Green Bay, a case can be made that this is the most favorable Wild Card matchup they could have asked for. While their offense has been uncharacteristically sluggish for the better part of ten weeks, Washington ranks just 28th in total defense. If Rodgers and company are going to break out of their slump, this defense gives them the best chance.

On the other side of the ball, the Washington passing attack, led by breakout quarterback Kirk Cousins, is the biggest reason this team sits in the position they are in. Similarly, the Packers pass defense has been the team's biggest strength all year, finishing sixth in yards allowed through the air. Where Washington excels, Green Bay has a strong counter. Where Washington struggles, Green Bay has the players capable of capitalizing.

The game will not be that simple, obviously. A big thing to keep an eye on, and something the Packers have struggled mightily with in the last few weeks, is the pass rush. Ryan Kerrigan is a borderline elite pass rusher for Washington coming off the offense's right side, while the uncertainty at left tackle for Green Bay poses a big problem. Regular starter David Bakhtiari is a game-time decision, and there is no real backup plan should he not be able to go. Reserve tackle Don Barclay has shown time and time again that he is not a capable replacement. Head coach Mike McCarthy even slid Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton out to tackle last week for his first career start in that position, which was also a disappointment. The only other realistic option is to switch right tackle Bryan Bulaga over to left, a position he played in college. That then would leave a hole on the right side, where Kerrigan awaits.

If the line can give Rodgers time in the pocket, this offense has a real chance of finding success. There could not be a more favorable matchup in the playoffs than the one the Washington secondary gives Rodgers and his receivers. Overall, this game is a toss-up. If Rodgers is allowed time to make plays, we could just see the Green Bay offense of old.