Here’s a preview of what to watch for when the Green Bay Packers visit Washington for a 7:25 p.m. kickoff Sunday night.
1. Can the Packers win a game?
Sure, it sounds rudimentary. You’d be forgiven for scoffing and clicking away or scrolling past this, but the fact remains the Packers have looked lost and uninspired the last two weeks and they’ve lost four of their last five games, with their only victory coming against a pathetic Chicago Bears team that was forced to play its third-string quarterback for much of the contest.
This team desperately needs a win.
The question remains, can coach Mike McCarthy figure out a way to get his team to play four quarters of football, rather than the sporadic, uninspired mess he has rolled out the last two weeks?
McGINN: Rating the Packers vs. Titans
The Packers head to Washington on Sunday night, the site of their most recent postseason success. But Jay Gruden’s team has looked markedly improved so far this season, while McCarthy’s team looks to have slipped badly since then.
A lot has been made of the fact the Packers are “only a game out of first place” this week. Forget all that. The Packers need to win a game. Period.
2. The Packers' offense needs to find it’s rhythm earlier.
You can quibble with the game plan, about how often McCarthy uses his tight ends or tries to run the ball in favor of spreading things out and letting Aaron Rodgers go to work. You can pick pretty much anything apart on the offensive side of the ball, but the one constant you always will come back to is the need for Rodgers and company to stop looking so sloppy and unproductive early in games.
Whatever the game plan is, the Packers need to execute long before things get out of hand. That’s been the case the last two weeks and several other times this season. With the defense unable to stop anyone, this team simply can’t afford to start games by stubbing its toe repeatedly on offense.
McCarthy undoubtedly will look to get Rodgers in rhythm early Sunday night. What kind of game plan he installs isn’t nearly as important as the offense executing from the first drive on.
3. Dom Capers may need to simplify things for a secondary that looks lost.
If there’s one constant image that might link together each of the last three losses, it would be opponents running wide open in the Packers' secondary after yet another breakdown in coverage.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers seemed to be able to patch the holes in the second half against the Titans, only for the ship to spring big leaks again as the game went on. Capers has been dealt a tough hand with all the injuries, but it’s his job to get his guys on the same page. They’ve looked anything but lately.
Much like the offense, the defense simply can not sleepwalk through the beginning of Sunday night’s game against a Washington offense featuring quarterback Kirk Cousins and tight end Jordan Reed. One way to ensure that happens would be to simplify the game plan and to let his guys do more read and reacting, rather than thinking too much about where they’re supposed to be.