The Green Bay Packers will have their biggest test of the year later tonight in the Divisional Round against the San Francisco 49ers. The Packers have been eliminated from the playoffs by the 49ers in two of their previous three playoff appearances and are looking to finally get revenge against their biggest obstacle.
However, this 49ers team looks to be the best ever deployed by head coach Kyle Shanahan while the Packers continue to come to the table with house money.
The Packers started off the postseason with a shocking 48-32 win against the No. 2 seed Dallas Cowboys thanks to a monster day from running back Aaron Jones. If the Packers want to keep the underdog story alive against the NFC’s top seed, they’ll need another huge performance but it could come from another top weapon on offense.
Wide receiver Christian Watson returned for the Packers last week in the Wild Card win against the Cowboys after missing the final five games of the regular season with a hamstring injury. Watson played 41 percent of the offensive snaps but only recorded one reception for nine yards on his only target.
It seemed like Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur wanted to slowly weave Watson back into the fold which explains his low usage in the game plan. However, if you look beyond the stat sheet, Watson’s impact against the Cowboys is more notable than just the one reception.
The Cowboys understood more than anyone else the type of weapon Watson could be for the Packers’ offense. In his first game against the Cowboys in Week 10 of last season Watson had a career performance scoring three touchdowns on just four receptions.
The Cowboys didn’t want that outcome repeating itself and directed a lot of the defensive coverage his way as a result. This allowed other players in the Packers’ passing game such as wide receiver Romeo Doubs and tight end Luke Musgrave to take advantage of the lack of attention coming their way to create big plays.
On this play below, for example, Watson’s deep threat ability caused the Cowboys to have three different defenders on him deep down the field, thus opening up the middle of the field for quarterback Jordan Love to find Doubs to a huge gain.
Good to have Christian Watson back.
Draws both safeties and the Tampa linebacker on 2nd and long.
Even as Love is a window late to Doubs on Dagger, it simply does not matter. pic.twitter.com/TRHhoCYkAJ
— Ross Uglem (@RossUglem) January 15, 2024
Watson’s presence on the field in the Wild Card round was both utilized as a distraction piece for the defense and also an opportunity for Watson to test out his hamstring in live game action.
Watson was still listed as a limited participant throughout the entire week with the hamstring injury but was not given final injury designation. It seems he’s good to go and could be the Packers’ key on offense once again.
This will be Watson’s first career game against the 49ers, let’s see if LaFleur decides to use his dynamic wide receiver as a distraction piece once again or if he decides to actually draw up some shots his way and fully unleash him later tonight.
The team gave him a light load last week and a full week to continue progressing, but it’s now or never from here on out.