Each Tuesday, Press-Gazette Media will turn to the week ahead with three storylines for the Green Bay Packers’ next game. This weekend, the opponent is the Washington Redskins. Here’s a glimpse of what to watch for when the Packers travel to Washington for a 3:40 p.m. kickoff Sunday in the NFC wild-card round.
1. Peppers' pursuit: There were plenty of people who wondered whether Julius Peppers would be impactful in his first season with the Packers, as a 34-year-old outside linebacker. Even fewer expected him to pile up the sacks in his second season. But that’s what Peppers has done, becoming the rare edge rusher to net double-digit sacks after turning 35.
Peppers finished with 10 1/2 sacks. Now, he has to be a difference-maker in the playoffs. He was last year, forcing two fumbles with 2 1/2 sacks in two games. Another dynamic postseason would help with his pursuit of finally winning a Super Bowl ring.
2. Bulaga’s blocking: David Bakhtiari’s injured ankle is a prominent storyline, because the Packers have struggled mightily protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blindside without their starting left tackle. Bryan Bulaga may be the most important offensive lineman this week. If tendencies hold, the Packers right tackle will be tasked with blocking Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
He is the Redskins’ best edge rusher, finishing with 9 1/2 sacks this season. He also rushes 83.4 percent of his attempts from the left, according to Pro Football Focus, the highest rate among the NFL’s quality edge rushers. He has 52 total pressures rushing from the left, just seven from the right.
That puts a strain on the right side of an offensive line, which is where Bulaga holds down the fort at right tackle. Bulaga has been playing through his own bumps and bruises, including an ankle injury.
The Packers will need their talented right tackle to play well this week.
3. Lacy’s enigma: In 2013, Eddie Lacy was a revelation as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl running back. In 2015, he was a disappointment. In both seasons, he had an identical yards-per-carry average. It’s true. Right next to his name, you’ll see a 4.1-yard average.
Same as two years ago. He had 1,178 yards in 2013, 758 this season. What’s the difference? Lacy had 284 carries in 2013, 187 this season. The big tailback still represents the Packers’ best chance for advancing far in the playoffs.
More and more teammates inside the locker room are starting to picket for Lacy to get more carries, something he never has done himself. Maybe this will be the week.