Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Wild Card Weekend

This six pack looks a little different this week because the Packers are enjoying a first round playoff bye! Instead, we’re going to look at one key factor for each of the six NFC teams playing on Wild Card Weekend. 

1. Saints March Into Playoffs with Balanced Offense & Defense

The New Orleans Saints might be the most balanced team left in the NFC playoff picture, and that’s no disrespect to Green Bay’s number one ranked offense. It’s just that the Saints are fifth overall in both points for and points against. Balance. 

In the first matchup between the Saints and the Chicago Bears, this game came down to overtime with New Orleans barely escaping with a 26-23 victory. But things looked different, of course, with the game being played in the Superdome instead of Soldier Field, and with Mitchell Trubisky back at the helm instead of Nick Foles. 

In 2020, the Saints are ranked eighth in the league on third down offense and ninth in the NFL in third down defense. They’re also fifth in the red zone scoring a touchdown on 72.1% of attempts. Quarterback Drew Brees doesn’t have any insane statlines this season, but he’s got a supporting cast that’s more than capable of carrying the load (like Alvin Kamara who has 21 total touchdowns on the season). 

While the Packers couldn’t play the Saints until the NFC Championship Game, they’re a team to keep an eye on that could have the tools to go all the way. 

2. Seahawks Legion of Whom

The Seahawks and Rams split their series this year, with the Rams winning in Week 10 23-16 and Seattle winning in Week 16 20-9. Led by quarterback Russell Wilson who’s thrown 40 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, the Seahawks have weapons on offense. The defense, though, gives cause for concern entering the postseason. 

Receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf have combined for 20 touchdowns and over 2,300 yards this season. Running back Chris Carson has nine all-purpose touchdowns and almost 1,000 yards, too, despite missing four games. 

The question mark for this team is the defense. In the first eight games of the season, Seattle gave up an average of 30.4 points per game. In the final eight games, Seattle’s only given up an average of 16 points per game. That’s an impressive turnaround, but can it be trusted? To close out the season, the Seahawks played four division games and the Eagles, Giants, Jets, and Washington Football Team. They added Carlos Dunlap down the stretch and have gotten more production from their defensive line as a whole, so maybe the defense finally is for real. The Rams have the 22nd ranked offense in points for with 23.3 points per game (and may be without Jared Goff Saturday), so we might not get a real answer to this question until the Divisional Round. 

3. Washington Football Team Young and Capable

The Washington Football Team is 5-1 when Alex Smith is under center, but his numbers don’t exactly leap off the page as anything special. In eight games (six starts), Smith threw for 1,582 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. If Washington wins this game on Saturday, it likely won’t be because of the offense…

So let’s talk about the defense. Rookie Chase Young is already a team captain and his numbers are impressive. He had 7.5 sacks, four passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries with one touchdown in the regular season. The key to this game for Washington is going to be getting pressure on Tom Brady, which is tricky since he gets the ball out so quickly. 

If the 7-9 Washington Football Team somehow pulls off the upset against an 11-5 Bucs team led by a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, we could get to see the battle of the 2005 Draft at quarterback, and who doesn’t want to listen to the Alex Smith vs Aaron Rodgers storyline all week?

4. Buccaneers Looking for Gold

Tom Brady is 43 years old, if you didn’t know that. I’m not sure how you would know that since it’s never talked about, but now you do. Jokes aside, he put together a nice season in Tampa, throwing for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 102.2. He’s also only been sacked 21 times all season, which is a testament both to his solid offensive line and his ability to get rid of the ball quickly (which we talked about in No. 4). 

The Bucs had a field day against the Packers the first time these two teams played, and they’ve only gotten better offensively. Rob Gronkowski finished the year with seven touchdowns and over 600 yards after a slow start to the season, and Tampa even added Antonio Brown to the roster midseason (he had four touchdowns and 483 yards). 

What stops this roster might be injuries (or the Packers in the Divisional Round guys I’m not being dramatic saying they’re unstoppable or anything). The Buccaneers will already be without Devin White on Saturday, and receiver Mike Evans has yet to practice this week with a knee injury. Jason Pierre-Paul is also not practicing. 

We’ve talked all season about how COVID-19 has the ability to significantly alter the playoffs, and Devin White being on the reserve list is one small example of that. He’s one of the best players on a loaded defense. If Washington is going to capitalize on offense, attacking the middle of the field might be the way to do it. 

5. Rams Defense Leads Charge

Russell Wilson has been sacked 47 times this season. In his two games against the Rams, Wilson took 11 sacks and was hit 20 times. If the Rams want to advance in the playoffs, regardless of who’s in at quarterback, getting after Wilson is key. 

Los Angeles boasts the league’s first overall defense in points against, allowing an average of only 18.5 points per game. The unit is third in the league on third downs and fifth in the league on fourth downs. Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd are an explosive tandem who have combined for 24 sacks this season. Donald also leads the team with 27 quarterback hits.

It could be a long day for Wilson if he’s never able to get comfortable in the pocket and find his weapons. This feels like a low scoring affair with a lot of standout performances from the NFL’s best defense. 

6. Bear Down and Out

Really. Even on my week off I have to talk about the Chicago Bears and how they stumbled face first into the playoffs? Let’s see. Well. That game will be broadcasted on both CBS and Nickelodeon, so the Bears have that going for them, which is nice. 

I mean, this might be Green Bay’s preferred opponent for the Divisional Round at Lambeau Field, so why not root for Chicago to take down the Saints on Sunday? The Bears gave us the beautiful memory of seeing B.J. Raji snag a pick-six in the 2010 NFC Championship Game and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful. 

I guess, if I have to talk about one key factor going into Sunday, it’s looking at how Mitchell Trubisky does in a playoff game. His one and only appearance came in 2018 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. In that game, he completed 60.5% of passes for 303 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He took two sacks and ended the game with a quarterback rating of 89.6. If the infamous “double doink” doesn’t happen, the Bears win that game. If Chicago is still genuinely trying to figure out if Mitch is their guy, his performance Sunday in a hostile stadium against a great pass rush could answer some questions.

 

----------------------------

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

5 points

Comments (10)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
GregC's picture

January 08, 2021 at 06:19 am

Nice summary--better than what I read in the national media. Considering who the Seahawks played in the second half of the season, maybe the defense wasn't really tested, but then again, averaging only 16 points allowed over the course of eight games is still pretty impressive nowadays. The Saints are the team with no obvious weakness, except maybe Drew Brees' arm. Rodgers vs. Brees early in the season was like a high-powered rifle vs. a BB gun. But in other games, Brees has thrown the ball downfield effectively, even though the throws have a lot of arc on them.

Tampa Bay scares me for obvious reasons. I don't know how they lost five games.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 08, 2021 at 06:42 am

It's a better summary for a simple reason. Maggie is a better writer than the national media people. The same is true for the entire CHTV staff.

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
GregC's picture

January 08, 2021 at 07:14 am

Yeah, I just got into this site this year, and I've enjoyed it. I've been on several message boards over the years, but they tend to be dominated by crazy people, and I just get sick of it. This site offers good analysis and has a positive but realistic tone. When I get the itch to say something, I can comment on an article, but the comments are just extra content instead of the main thing, and I like that much better.

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
x24's picture

January 08, 2021 at 08:21 am

"That game will be broadcasted on both CBS and Nickelodeon, so the Bears have that going for them, which is nice." That right there is funny as hell- well written!

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Lphill's picture

January 08, 2021 at 08:37 am

Anything can happen in the playoffs, Brady on the road is not the same as playing at home , I personally want Tampa and a beat down in Lambeau, all of these NFC teams should be thinking no way I want to go to Green Bay .

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
Lphill's picture

January 08, 2021 at 08:42 am

I think snacks Harrison played his only playoff game at Lambeau with the Giants .

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
ricky's picture

January 08, 2021 at 08:58 am

Don't forget that in 2010, the Packers barely squeaked into the playoffs. And then barely beat the Bears (if Rodgers doesn't make a shoestring trip of Urlacher, the game could well have been won by the Bears). All it takes is for someone to get hot at the right time. Just ask Rodgers, or Eli Manning. Could Trubisky be the guy who suddenly takes off? It also happened to Joe Flacco, who was also in a contract year with the Ravens when they won their SB. All that written, if the Packers don't win the SB this year, it will be a bitterly disappointing season. No more excuses.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
GregC's picture

January 08, 2021 at 04:41 pm

That's true about QBs getting hot in the playoffs, but I just don't see it happening with Trubisky. He doesn't have the accuracy in throwing the ball downfield. His coach knows it, so they only attempted a few deep passes against the Packers. It's hard to win games that way.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
raedwallaceee's picture

January 08, 2021 at 09:23 pm

NFL Game 2021 Live Match

NFL Game 2021 Live Match

NFL Game 2021 Live Match

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
tonys247's picture

January 17, 2021 at 04:54 pm

Watch Saints vs. Buccaneers: TV channel live stream ,The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints will battle for a spot in the playoff semifinals at 6:40 p.m. ET Jan. 17

LIVE NOW:> https://tinyurl.com/y6zkqm8x

LIVE NOW:> https://tinyurl.com/y6zkqm8x

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints will battle for a spot in the playoff semifinals at 6:40 p.m. ET Jan. 17 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tampa Bay hasn't won a contest against New Orleans since Sept. 9 of 2018, but they'll be looking to end the drought on Sunday.

The Buccaneers earned some postseason bragging rights after a successful outing this past Saturday. They walked away with a 31-23 victory over the Washington Football Team. Tampa Bay relied on the efforts of RB Leonard Fournette, who punched in one rushing touchdown, and QB Tom Brady, who passed for two TDs and 381 yards on 40 attempts. Brady ended up with a passer rating of 151.50.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints will battle for a spot in the playoff semifinals at 6:40 p.m. ET Jan. 17 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tampa Bay hasn't won a contest against New Orleans since Sept. 9 of 2018, but they'll be looking to end the drought on Sunday.

The Buccaneers earned some postseason bragging rights after a successful outing this past Saturday. They walked away with a 31-23 victory over the Washington Football Team. Tampa Bay relied on the efforts of RB Leonard Fournette, who punched in one rushing touchdown, and QB Tom Brady, who passed for two TDs and 381 yards on 40 attempts. Brady ended up with a passer rating of 151.50.

Special teams collected 13 points for Tampa Bay. K Ryan Succop delivered a perfect 4-for-4 game.

Meanwhile, New Orleans beat the Chicago Bears 21-9 this past Sunday. RB Alvin Kamara and QB Drew Brees were among the main playmakers for the Saints as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter passed for two TDs and 265 yards on 39 attempts. Brees ended up with a passer rating of 145.80.

The Buccaneers are expected to lose this next one by 3. Those playing the odds have seen things go back and forth with Tampa Bay, who are 9-8 against the spread.

A pair of stats to keep an eye on: Tampa Bay enters the game with only ten rushing touchdowns allowed, which is the best in the NFL. But New Orleans ranks first in the league when it comes to rushing touchdowns, with 30 on the season. We'll see if the Buccaneers' defense can keep New Orleans' running backs out of the end zone.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.