Sunday’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will ultimately declare the NFC North division champion, while also helping to determine who the Redskins host in the first round of the playoffs.
The Seattle Seahawks can also play into the equation depending on the outcome of their road game in Arizona against the Cardinals this weekend.
The scenario looks something like this:
If GB wins and SEA wins:
• GB No. 3, WAS No. 4, SEA No. 5, MIN No. 6
If GB wins and SEA loss/tie:
• GB No. 3, WAS No. 4, MIN No. 5, SEA No. 6
If GB ties:
• GB No. 3, WAS No. 4, MIN No. 5, SEA No. 6
If MIN wins:
• MIN No. 3, WAS No. 4, GB No. 5, SEA No. 6
The question then becomes: who are the Redskins rooting for?
Also, before anyone blasts me for thinking too highly of a team that won a bad division and for getting my hopes up for a possible trip to the second round, please shut up. As they say, any given Sunday, my friend. And if you haven’t noticed, the Redskins are kind of on a heater, which also recalls a common theme come playoff time (in nearly every sport): this team is hitting their stride at just the right time.
On with it!
The Case for Why We Want Seattle
It’s safe to assume there’s no such thing as actually wanting to play Seattle, but more on that later.
Sure the Seahawks just lost to Case Keenum and the Rams in front of their storied 12th Man crowd, but it’s hard to argue they’re not the most talented and threatening squad of the three-team bunch. Russell Wilson has grown as a pocket passer, dishing out 21 touchdown passes to just one interception over his last six games, yet he still continues to gash opposing defenses with his legs. Meanwhile, Doug Baldwin is arguably the hottest receiver in the league at the moment, hauling in 29 catches for nearly 500 yards and ELEVEN MOTHER FREAKIN’ TOUCHDOWNS in his last five games.
On the other side of the ball, that Seattle defense remains a massive bump in the road for opposing offenses, as they rank third in rushing yards allowed, second in passing yards allowed, and third in points allowed.
Is Kirk Cousins’ recent roll enough to match the heater that Seattle seems to be on?
The Case for Green Bay
For obvious reasons, no one really wants to face Aaron Rodgers. That said, the Packers aren’t exactly oozing with receiving talent. Is Randall Cobb good? Absolutely. Can others like Richard Rodgers and James Jones turn in good games? Yes. But it’s a receiving corps that at least appears manageable.
On defense, the Packers have been quite hawkish, allowing just 20 passing touchdowns and picking off 15 balls this season through 15 games. They’re not nearly as strong against the run, having given up the seventh-most rushing touchdowns and allowing 4.5 yards per carry, but that sort of thing shouldn’t necessarily excite a Redskins rushing attack with the dependency of a three-legged chair.
The Case for Minnesota
Although Teddy Bridgewater seems to be heating up as of late (six touchdowns and no picks over his last three games), the Vikings have gotten here by way of head coach Mike Zimmer (luv u, bruh) and their defense. Minnesota ranks sixth in points allowed this season, as well as sixth in sack percentage.
However, outside of those numbers, Minny’s defense doesn’t appear juggernautish. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64 percent of their passes and the Vikings have allowed 23 passing touchdowns through 15 games. While they do get after the quarterback, their 20 takeaways are below average (21.5) for the league, and they’re allowing better than 110 yards per game on the ground at an average clip of 4.3 yards. Clearly the Vikings defense is doing things right — their record tells us as much — but how scary are they?
On offense, Adrian Peterson remains a beast, averaging 94.5 yards per game (good for fourth-best of his career) and having already found paydirt ten times. It’s obvious the Redskins would have their hands full with Peterson, but the Vikings passing attack isn’t exactly threatening. They’re third-worst behind only the carousels of St. Louis and Dallas in terms of passing touchdowns, they’re second to last in passing yards, and they’ve allowed the eighth-most sacks on the season.
Listed and Preferred
If we’re talking about who I’d like to play in order of preference, here’t goes:
Minnesota feels like the least threatening. Teddy B is smooth as eggs, but he’s still young and his numbers aren’t nearly threatening enough to put him into the stratosphere of, say, Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. Likewise, Bridgewater’s pass-catching targets are nothing to fear. While rookie Stefon Diggs will always have a special place in my heart, he’s the team’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 712 yards and four scores in just 12 games. Are the likes of Mike Wallace, Jarius Wright, and Kyle Rudolph containable? Um, yes.
Gimme Kirk Cousins’ and a white-hot shot at overcoming a disciplined and well-coached Minnesota defense. Work to keep Adrian Peterson right around the 100-yard mark to avoid any melee, and don’t make any bonehead plays in the back end of the defense to give the Vikings quick scores via the sure-to-one-day-be-feared Bridgewater-to-Diggs connection.
2. Green Bay
Nobody wants to play Aaron Rodgers, but if you have to, it might as well be at home and when he’s without Jordy Nelson, right?
No one’s here to argue that Green Bay isn’t good, but how special are they? Are they in the conversation for best team in the NFC? They split with the Bears and Lions and barely got past the Raiders.
Since starting the season 6-0, the Pack haven’t looked the same after dropping five of nine following their bye week. Rodgers is scary, but Green Bay is beatable.
The Seahawks are so close to being atop this list for the simple reasons of 1) revenge and 2) the possibility of Trent Williams laying his five fingers to the cold cheek of one Richard Sherman just one more time1. Outside of that, however, Seattle seems to provide the Redskins with the steepest uphill climb.
THAT SAID (and here’s where you blast the horns, yell “homer”, and advise me to slow down with my excitement before crushing myself with disappointment), the Seahawks’ latest 5-2 run following their bye week perhaps isn’t as crazy/sexy/cool2 as you may think.
A blowout win over Minnesota on the road? Word. Losing to Arizona by a touchdown in front of your home crowd? Mmk. Blowout wins over Baltimore and Cleveland? What about last week’s loss to the Rams?
Again, I hate to sound like the guy who shrugs and looks forward to the next game because his favorite team somehow finished .500 and made its way into the playoffs — and I acknowledge that Seattle is likely the best of the bunch — but to say I’d dread having another shot at the Seahawks at home in the first round of the playoffs would be a lie.