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

With the Packers enjoying a first-round bye going into the playoffs, this week’s six pack will focus instead on the remaining NFC teams in playoff contention. Below is a brief glimpse at the strengths of each squad heading into the postseason. As a reminder, Green Bay will host the lowest seed remaining of the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.

No. 2 Seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The Buccaneers offense is on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the pass game and run game. Through the air, they lead the NFL in attempts, yards, and touchdowns, with 731 passes (492 completions) for 5,229 yards and 43 touchdowns. (Quarterback Tom Brady has accounted for all but 12 of those attempts and every touchdown.) The ground game, though, is another story. The Buccaneers have the 31st ranked offense in rushing attempts with 385, and the 26th ranked run game in yards with 1,672. However, the unit is ninth in the league in rushing touchdowns with 18. While Tampa Bay is a pass-first team, they’re still highly productive on the ground when it counts. 

The aerial attack has been limited these last few weeks, however, with the loss of Chris Godwin, who led the team with 98 receptions for 1,103 yards. The Buccaneers also released Antonio Brown who in his seven games with the team this year had 42 catches for 545 yards and four scores. The unit still has Mike Evans, however, who leads the offense with 14 touchdowns and 1,035 receiving yards.

Like the Packers, the Bucs are starting to get some key pieces back at the right time. While it’s unclear if either will play Wild Card Weekend, the team has designated running back Leonard Fournette and linebacker Lavonte David to return from injured reserve, a significant addition on both sides of the ball. 

No. 3 Seed Dallas Cowboys

The Mike McCarthy-led Cowboys boast the league’s No. 1 offense in points for, averaging a whopping 31.2 points per game. Quarterback Dak Prescott is having the best statistical season of his career after returning from an ankle fracture that ended his 2020 season. He’s thrown for 4,449 yards and a career-high 37 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. His 68.8% completion percentage is also the best of his career. 

Part of what makes the Cowboys offense so dangerous is the weapons that surround Prescott. Receiver CeeDee Lamb leads the team with 79 receptions for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns, while tight end Dalton Schultz and receiver Amari Cooper are tied for first on the team with eight scores. Running back Ezekiel Elliott eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season after failing to do so in 2020, but he’s averaging the lowest yards per game of his career with only 58.9. Part of that could be due to the nagging knee injury that’s caused him to wear a brace this season. 

Perhaps equally impressive is the Cowboys defense. The unit leads the NFL in interceptions with 26 on the season, thanks largely in part to Trevon Diggs who has 11 solo. Dallas also has five interceptions returned for touchdowns this season which also leads the league. Rookie Micah Parsons is making a name for himself across the NFL too with his team-leading 13 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. 

No 4. Seed Los Angeles Rams

New Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is 0-3 in his playoff career, though all three of those appearances came with the Detroit Lions. Needless to say, all eyes will be on Stafford Monday night to see if he can help a roster that’s gone all-in get over the hump and make a deep playoff push. Stafford has thrown for 4,886 yards this season with 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, including four pick sixes. (For what it’s worth, Jared Goff threw four in his five seasons with the Rams.)

His favorite target, and it isn’t close, has been likely Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp who came just shy of a 2,000-yard season. He had 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns in his 17 regular season games. 

The Rams added reinforcements mid-season, trading for Von Miller and signing Odell Beckham Jr. following his release from the Cleveland Browns. Both players have stepped into pretty large roles quickly, with Miller third on the team in sacks with five and Beckham hauling in five touchdowns, both through eight games with Los Angeles. 

No. 5 Seed Arizona Cardinals 

The Cardinals are spiraling, losing four of their last five games entering the playoffs after starting the season 7-0. Their lone win came against the Cowboys in Week 17, and only by a field goal. Had Arizona won in Week 18 against the Seahawks, they would have won the NFC West, and due to holding that tiebreaker against the Cowboys, they’d move all the way to the No. 3 seed, which means they would have been hosting a game this weekend. Instead, the Cardinals travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams for a third time, splitting the series 1-1 in the regular season.  

Arizona will be without star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this week , but should they advance to the Divisional Round, he may be able to return by then. In his absence, running back James Conner has emerged as the star of the offense with 1,127 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns. Christian Kirk leads all healthy receivers with 982 yards and five scores (Hopkins had 572 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games).  

Defensively, the Cardinals could get a boost with JJ Watt back at practice. His status for Monday night remains up in the air, but it’s possible he’ll play alongside Markus Golden and Chandler Jones who both have double digit sacks on the season. In the secondary, safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson are tied with three interceptions and seven passes defensed apiece while corner Byron Murphy leads the team with four picks (one returned for a touchdown) and 12 passes defensed.  

No. 6 Seed San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers boast the league’s best red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 66.7% of trips. A large portion of that success has come from gadget player Deebo Samuel who has 14 touchdowns and 1,770 yards from scrimmage this season. He leads the team both in rushing touchdowns (eight) and receiving scores (six). Despite the uncertainty at quarterback between Jimmy Garoppolo’s thumb injury and rookie Trey Lance’s inexperience in the NFL, Samuel has been an explosive playmaker, even throwing a touchdown of his own this past week against the Rams.

On defense, Nick Bosa is having his best season as a pro. He leads the charge with 15.5 sacks on the season and 32 quarterback hits. He’s also forced four fumbles on the year. With former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh now coaching the New York Jets, new DC DeMeco Ryans has helped the unit climb to third overall in total defense, allowing an average of only 310 yards per game. 

Still, this 49ers roster is almost a tale of two teams. When San Francisco protects the football, the team is 8-1 on the year. When they turn the ball over two or more times, they’re 2-6. Now, that may seem elementary, protect the football and win football games, but the offense has struggled to protect the football at times this season. The 49ers are minus-four in turnover differential this season throwing 14 interceptions and fumbling 10 times. 

No. 7 Seed Philadelphia Eagles  

The Eagles are a team without a real identity on either side of the ball. While winning four of their last five games was impressive, none of those wins came against playoff teams. In fact, Philadelphia’s only loss during that stretch came in the final game of the regular season, 51-26 against the No. 3 seeded Cowboys.

On offense, the Eagles don’t have a single player with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Receiver DeVonta Smith is the closest with 916 total yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts leads the team in touchdowns with 10 rushing scores this season. He’s also fumbled a team-high nine times. 

The standout of the team might be on defense in cornerback Darius Slay. He has a team-leading three interceptions on the season, returning one for a touchdown, and has recovered two fumbles, returning both for touchdowns, too. His nine passes defensed are tied with safety Avonte Maddox for most on the team. Philadelphia isn’t generating a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, either. Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat are tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks a piece, and the Eagles all together have only 29 sacks on the season. That ranks 31st in the NFL ahead of only the Atlanta Falcons with 18.  

The Packers went 3-0 against NFC playoff teams this season, and unless the Eagles beat the Buccaneers on Sunday, a familiar opponent will be coming to Lambeau Field for the Divisional Round.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (6)

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NickPerry's picture

January 14, 2022 at 06:53 am

I'm looking forward most to the 49er vs Cowboys myself. Many of the ESPN and NFL Network folks seem to think the 49ers will win, but many point to MM game management issues as the reason the Cowboys will lose.

I can see the 49ers beating the Cowboys and I'd imagine Packers fans will be flipping out if that happens. Personally I don't really care who we play in the Divisional round, though I must admit I would LOVE to see the Eagles run all over the Bucs thus keeping Brady off the field. It's also not the craziest idea since the Eagles have Slay to tame Mike Evans and since the Bucs don't have Godwin and Brown, that WR room doesn't seem so scary. I mean common man, they played the Panthers twice and the Jets their last 3 games to pad Brady's stats and make it appear those fill in guys are capable to carry Godwin and Browns jockstraps...IMO that will be HUGE in determining how far the Bucs can go because the Defense didn't go a run like last year, at least yet.

It seems every morning I wake up and eagerly go to all my favorite Packers sites, I find out yet ANOTHER Packers has been activated off IR with a chance to contribute in the Playoffs. This morning it was Whitney Mercilus. My brain immediately starts racing at the possibilities! I LOVE pass rushers and after being pass rusher STARVED for so many years of watching CMIII and ???, the Packers have a chance to have a rotation of pass rushers who can/will single handedly change games.

I'm signing off now and going to work. I won't be back surfing Packers sites until tomorrow again. Hmmm, I wonder who might be back tomorrow morning? I F'ing love this team!

#12 Quarters to go!!!

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Coldworld's picture

January 14, 2022 at 11:53 am

I’d love to see the Eagles beat the Bucs. There is no doubt that the Cowboys game looks like being the most illuminating.

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NickPerry's picture

January 14, 2022 at 01:55 pm

I just heard the weather might be bad, lots of rain and blustery winds... Might just be the Eagles day!

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Gee's picture

January 14, 2022 at 07:05 am

Is it just me, or does that photo look like Clark is catching Stafford. lol

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Johnblood27's picture

January 14, 2022 at 07:15 am

its just you...

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mbpacker's picture

January 14, 2022 at 04:09 pm

Looks like Clark is ready to lay the wood on him!

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