Green Bay Packers

Roll out the reaction 1/13 | Hello bye week my old friend

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Every Thursday, Patrick Kotnik provides two observations, one question and a prediction regarding the Green Bay Packers. 

2 Observations

Green Bay’s offensive line is BakSunday’s loss to the Lions had no playoff implications for the Green Bay Packers. The team did what it had to do — leave Detroit with no major injuries and get players valuable snaps.

Among those who were able to do just that were All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and rookie center Josh Myers, boosting Green Bay’s offensive line. Yes, the unit more than held its own throughout the regular season without Bakhtiari and Myers and even after the versatile Elgton Jenkins went down with a torn ACL in Week 11.

But anytime you can add an All-Pro back to the starting lineup as well as your original starting center, you’ve got to be feeling good. Games are won and lost in the trenches, so Green Bay’s offensive line getting stronger right before the playoffs is crucial in its quest for a fifth Lombardi Trophy.

You could see the difference Bakhtiari and Myers made even if they played a limited number of snaps. It’s also important to note that the Packers moved Lucas Patrick from center to right guard to replace the struggling rookie Royce Newman.

Oh, and that’s not all. Right tackle Billy Turner, who hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury in Week 14, is also expected to return

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers suffered a gut punch when Bakhtiari went down prior to the regular-season finale and played the postseason without him. The fact that this team is getting stronger on the offensive line with Bakhtiari, Turner and Myers returning as well as getting a couple of All-Pros back on defense is just something else. 

On that note… 

Za’Darius Smith AND Whitney Mercilus return to practice — For the first time in four months, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith took the practice field for the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday. 

Smith, the team’s sack leader in 2019 and 2020 (26 total), played in Green Bay’s lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 before having back surgery and missing the remainder of the regular season. 

In Smith’s absence, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith have thrived in Joe Barry’s defense, combining for 18.5 sacks this season. Za’Darius Smith’s return brings a lot of intrigue to Green Bay’s defense alongside Gary, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry, who’s playing his best season in Green Bay. Za’Darius Smith adds another element to the pass rush and can improve the team’s run defense. 

On top of that, in-season addition Whitney Mercilus was seen on the practice field Thursday. The former Houston Texan was signed by the Packers earlier this season but missed the rest of the regular season after suffering torn biceps against the Seahawks on Nov. 14.

You can reasonably argue that Za’Darius Smith’s future as a Packer rides on his play this postseason. He has a large cap hit for 2022 (his last year under contract) and unless he dominates in the playoffs, he could end up being a cap casualty. Cutting Smith would save the team $16 million, according to Matt Schneidman

1 Question: Which NFC wild card team is likely to face the Packers in the divisional round?

The Green Bay Packers will face the lowest seed coming out of wild card weekend.

They very well could be facing the winner of Monday night’s game between the Rams and Cardinals and that’s if the Buccaneers and Cowboys win their matchups against the Eagles and 49ers, respectively.

Luckily, Green Bay wouldn’t see Dallas or Tampa Bay until the NFC Championship if they advance, meaning the Eagles, 49ers, Rams and Cardinals are all potential divisional round opponents. Green Bay has beat three of those four teams this season with the Eagles being the lone exception — a team they haven’t played. 

The beauty of the postseason is you never know what can happen. The 49ers got hot at the right time and are capable of upsetting the Cowboys. The Rams and Cardinals (who’ve lost four of their last five) can go either way. And who knows, maybe the Eagles, whose defense has been dominated by tight ends all season, find a way to stop Rob Gronkowski and run the ball effectively against Tampa’s defense.

Anything can happen and the Packers certainly shouldn’t overlook whoever they end up playing in the divisional round. 

1 Prediction: At least one Packers assistant coach earns a head coaching gig this offseason

The Green Bay Packers have gone a combined 39-10 over the past three regular seasons combined under Matt LaFleur and company which includes back-to-back NFC title game appearances.

With that being said, Green Bay’s assistants getting head coaching interviews were bound to happen. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who has a big part in Green Bay’s offense being among the best in the league the past two seasons, is a busy man this week. Quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy will also get an interview. 

 

If I had to put money on it, I’d say Hackett lands one of these head coaching jobs. Getsy may be on the path Hackett is on. Hackett had an interview with the Falcons last year and is now a hot commodity. 

Whether the Packers lose one or both of these coaches, they will be sad to see them go, but it’s not the end of the world. Matt LaFleur had a good way summing up this situation during Wednesday’s press conference.

 

Plus, I think fans can trust LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst to find suitable replacements.

There’s no question, though — both Hackett and Getsy are more than deserving of these interviews and whichever head coaching gigs they eventually land. 

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