After being down 3-0 after the first drive, the Green Bay Packers knew they needed a response to the Miami Dolphins. Special teams is still this team’s Achilles’ heel, and it’s hard to expect much from them. But then Keisean Nixon returned the ball 93 yards, temporarily flip-flopping the momentum of the game they would go on to win. Now Nixon is in danger of missing Week 17, which means the team’s playoff hopes are also in danger.
Packers fans haven’t seen a return specialist like that for over a decade, and it was exactly what this team needed. Even though it only led to a field goal, Nixon’s giant return still tied the game up early and helped set them on a course for their 26-20 victory. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel smirking at Aaron Rodgers while up 10 points also helped, though. They never learn.
Nixon left the Dolphins game with a groin injury, and he didn’t practice on Wednesday. However, he is trending toward playing. But if he has a nagging groin injury, you just have to hope he doesn’t make it worse and can still return kicks for Green Bay because Nixon is the difference-maker the Packers need to beat the Vikings and inch closer to the playoffs.
He is their margin of error.
Keisean Nixon’s Impact
Nixon has completely saved Green Bay’s special teams problems and added an element this team desperately needed. They stubbornly clung to Amari Rodgers for far too long, then needed someone else when they finally released him. Thankfully, that person was Nixon. You will honestly not believe the tweet I am about to share.
It’s truly insane that he has basically no experience at this and is so good at it. It helped turn Green Bay’s season around, and now he might not play in maybe the biggest game of the year. Yes, the Packers must win both games to possibly get into the playoffs, but they must beat the NFC North champs first. Kirk Cousins is having a solid year. The Vikings defense has been mostly serviceable behind an explosive offense. It’s crazy what happens when a team hires a head coach who can utilize their players’ strengths. It also helps when you have Justin Jefferson.
Before his injury, Nixon led the NFL in return yardage with 825. He also had the highest yards per return average with 27.5 — and he did all that without being the original return man for the team. Nixon has six consecutive games with more than 90 yards for returns on five or fewer attempts. That is a big piece that could be missing during a critical game.
Nixon isn’t the only important Packer who could be out of commission against the Vikings. David Bakhtiari was limited in practice on Wednesday, still recovering from his appendix surgery and knee injuries. He should play but could be a late scratch.
Christian Watson didn’t practice either. His hip injury is not a great sign — you kind of need a good hip to run wide-receiver routes all over the field. It would be a shame to have his amazing rookie season overshadowed by talk that he can never stay healthy.
Yosh Nijman is playing through a shoulder injury. Aaron Rodgers revealed his knee is bothering him. Aaron Jones, Elgton Jenkins, and Rudy Ford are all playing through knee issues. This is a banged-up team. And if you take away your stud return man and your stud wide receiver, beating a 12-3 divisional opponent won’t be easy. Being at Lambeau Field will help, but you still need the players to make it happen.
Hopefully Nixon Can Go
You have to hope that some rest can lead to Nixon and the Packers showing up to a packed Lambeau Field healthy and ready to make a playoff run. They need their remaining impact players on the field to make everything happen. Nixon is priority No. 1 right now.
Both teams have a good offense loaded with weapons. The Vikings have a serviceable defense like the Packers. Some solid field position would help tremendously this Sunday, especially since the red-zone offense is still struggling. That’s a whole other issue that needs to be addressed.
If Nixon can’t go, there really isn’t anyone else on the roster who can even come close to his production. Doubs was not great when he filled in for him on Christmas. Right now, the only roadblock between the Green Bay Packers and playoff football will be Keisean Nixon’s groin. (Yes, that’s what I said.) Well, that and Carson Wentz magically becoming a better quarterback again.