If you told the majority of NFL fans at the start of the season that the Washington Redskins would be hosting a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, you’d be looked at like you had three heads. But thanks to the emergence of Kirk Cousins combined with a total midseason implosion by the Packers, that’s exactly where we’re at as we enter Wild Card Weekend.
Make no mistake about it—these are not the same old Packers. Green Bay (10-6 SU) failed to win the NFC North for the first time since 2010 thanks to a 20-13 home loss to hated division rival Minnesota in Week 17, and as a result are forced to hit the road in the opening round, which is a rare occurrence for a team who’s gotten used to first-round byes in recent years. The green and gold looked like they were on cruise control to start the season by garnering victories in each of their first six games before falling off a cliff after the bye in Week 7.
In the wake of last year’s epic collapse to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, head coach Mike McCarthy decided to give up play-calling duties for the first time since he took over the position in 2006. The Packers’ offense hit a wall as the calendar turned to November, and McCarthy once again became the team’s play-caller. Can Aaron Rodgers and company once again recapture their high-flying offense? With so much on the line this late in the year, it’s asking an awful lot for a team that’s hardly resembled its former perennially dominant selves.
Maybe it has to do with the weak division they play in, but there aren’t many people giving the NFC East champion Redskins (9-7 SU) their deserved credit with the playoffs on the horizon. Washington collected victories over division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas to close out the season and clinched home-field advantage in the first round. The ‘Skins were a scary team at FedExField in 2015, going 6-2 in front of their hometown fans.
Cousins appeared unphased by the seemingly endless drama surrounding embattled quarterback Robert Griffin III and parlayed his newfound starting opportunity into a 29 touchdown, 4,166 passing yards season. Cousins also did a good job of protecting the ball, tossing just 11 picks in his 16 appearances. The 27-year-old threw 16 touchdowns for 2,170 yards with just two interceptions at home in the campaign, which could make for a long day for the Packers’ defense.
Most sportsbooks opened the line for this game as a pick’em, but that line immediately moved to Redskins -1 shortly after. If Jay Gruden and company remain as the favorites, it could continue a very interesting trend if they’re successful this weekend. The Redskins have not lost as a playoff favorite since December 30th, 1984 against the Bears, going a sizzling 6-0 SU and ATS in that span. Another interesting tidbit—Green Bay has not been an underdog to the Redskins since 1988.
In what’s likely a direct correlation to their bumbling offense, the Packers were a boon for bettors banking on low-scoring affairs in 2015. Green Bay ended the season with an OVER/UNDER record of 5-11. Meanwhile, the Redskins ended the season on an OVER tear, evidenced by the OVER going a perfect 4-0 in their last four games. Considering the majority of shops opened the matchup with a total of 46.5, if the Packers can jump start their offense and Cousins’ ‘Skins can keep up their high-scoring ways, the OVER will likely generate significant interest in this one.