OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers
RECORD: 4-5, 3rd place in the NFC North
LAST GAME: 47-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans
PREVIOUS RESULT: Packers defeated the Redskins in FedEx Field 35-18 in the wild card round of the 2015 playoffs.
PACKERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (15), RUSH (19), PASS (14)
PACKERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (10), RUSH (4), PASS (16)
REDSKINS OFFENSE: OVERALL (4), RUSH (12), PASS (3)
REDSKINS DEFENSE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (23), PASS (15)
INJURIES: The Redskins are mostly healthy, with only WR DeSean Jackson limited in practice. For the Packers, WR Ty Montgomery and CB Damarious Randall have not praticed, while LB Clay Matthews and and WR Randall Cobb are practicing on a limited basis. TE Jared Cook, who has not played since the first month of the season, should return on Sunday night. RB Eddy Lacy, the team’s leading rusher, is on injured reserve.
OVERVIEW: Like the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers come in to FedEx Field on a 3-game losing streak and, just like the Vikings, the Skins hope to send the Pack packing with a 4-game losing streak. The Packers have lost to the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans during their losing streak. Green Bay is 1-3 on the road this season, with their only win coming in week 1 against an awful Jacksonville Jaguars team. The Packers have given up 33, 31 and 47 points during their losing streak and the secondary is under fire for, well, being on fire after being burned so many times. The Packers do play the run well (3.6 ypc yielded), but that hasn’t helped them keep points off the scoreboard. QB Aaron Rodgers is still putting up elite stats, but the offense isn’t making enough plays downfield, as attested to be Rodgers’ anemic 6.5 yards per pass attempt. A decent running game would help Rodgers, but he doesn’t have one with Eddy Lacy on injured reserve. Right now, Rodgers is the leading runner on the active roster and has accounted for each of Green Bay’s three rushing touchdowns.
The Redskins are 5-1-1 since their disastrous 0-2 start to the season and QB Kirk Cousins enters this game on a hot streak. Washington’s offense is balanced and features multiple weapons and a strong offensive line, even without star LT Trent Williams. The Skins’ offense averages less than one 3-and-out series per game, which is not only tops in the NFL, it’s tops by a lot. If DeSean Jackson plays, the offense is dangerous. If he does not play, the offense is still dangerous, though it lacks a true elite deep threat. Defensively, the Skins can be gashed by the running game, but the Packers don’t seem to have one. However, the Redskins are very vulnerable over the middle of the field due to subpar inside linebackers and safeties and a rookie slot cornerback. Watch for Rodgers to attack the middle of the field early and often.
5 MATCHUPS TO WATCH
WR Jordy Nelson v. CB Kendall Fuller — Nelson is Green Bay’s leading receiver and while he may not be playing up to his pre-injury standards, he is still pretty good and Rodgers’ favorite target. The Packers move Nelson all over the place, but he’s often lined up in the slot. Considering how Stefon Diggs abused Fuller last Sunday, the Packers would be crazy not to put Nelson in the slot often and let him work against a rookie who is likely to be overmatched.
QB Kirk Cousins v. Green Bay Pass Defense — With CB Sam Shields on injured reserve, about the only playmaker the Packers have in the secondary is Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. Last week, Marcus Mariota had an almost perfect day against the Packers, throwing four touchdowns and no picks. Even RB DeMarco Murray got in on the act, throwing a TD on a halfback option play. (Murray also ran for 123 yards on 17 carries.) In his last three games, Cousins has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1021 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT and also run for a touchdown. TE Delanie Walker of the Titans lit up the Packers defense last week and the Skins should see similar success with TEs Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, both of whom are superior to anyone the Packers will use to cover them. Meanwhile, WRs Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and, perhaps, DeSean Jackson, should have plenty of opportunities to make plays downfield against the leaky Packers secondary.
QB Aaron Rodgers v. Redskins Pass Defense — The Skins are not very good at defending the pass either. At times they made Stefon Diggs and Sam Bradford look like all stars last week. Washington needs to get pressure on Rodgers and keep Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb in front of them. Adams, in particular, has been on fire, catching 35 passes for 403 yards in just the last four games. Blanketing him with CB Josh Norman would probably be a good idea. Rodgers is so good the Packers are going to make plays and score points no matter what, but Washington must not allow them to score easily on five straight possessions, as they did in the playoff game.
RT Morgan Moses v. LB Clay Matthews — Both players have been injured, with Moses managing to keep going despite a badly sprained ankle. Matthews has missed the last three games and four overall this season, but if he’s healthy enough to play he should be matched up against Moses much of the night. Kirk Cousins is a very efficient quarterback, but like most passers, when he’s rushed, he’s erratic. The Packers sacked him 6 times and caused multiple fumbles during the playoff game and Washington must not allow that to happen again. If Cousins has time to throw, he will almost certainly exploit a bad Green Bay pass defense.
Redskins v. Prime Time — Let’s not pretend this isn’t a real thing. The Skins are a horrendous football team at night. The last two night games the team has played resulted in a 35-18 beatdown by the Packers in the 2015 playoffs and a 38-16 beatdown by the Steelers on Monday Night Football in week one of this season. Washington is 5-20 in prime time games since 2008 and has been outscored by an average of 10 points in those games. That includes some real embarrassments, like 45-12 and 45-14 at the hands of the NY Giants, a 59-28 humiliation by the Eagles and a 27-6 butt-whipping from the 49ers. On Sunday night, when the Skins and Packers will face off, Washington is 2-6 since 2008. Washington has lost an incredible seven straight prime time games at home. Washington usually falls apart in prime time games. Will they do so again?
PREDICTION: Almost everything I look at tells me the Skins should win this game, but I cannot predict that. I vowed I would never predict the Skins win a prime time game again until they actually do it again. Therefore, I’m going with the Packers 38 Redskins 30.