Packers get rematch with Washington
Tenth in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
Almost 11 months after the Green Bay Packers traveled to FedEx Field and won an NFC wild-card playoff game, Washington will get a chance for revenge.
The Packers will return to the nation’s capital for a Sunday night kickoff Nov. 20. It will be part of a grueling stretch for the Packers, who have three straight road games in November. For Washington, it’s a chance to measure itself against the team that knocked it out of last season’s playoffs.
The game could come with significant late-season implications. Washington is hoping to repeat as division champions in a wide-open NFC East. The Packers will be embarking on a last leg that features five playoff or divisional opponents in the final six games.
Here are three things to know about Washington:
» An unexpected franchise quarterback: With the second overall pick, Washington fully expected to find its franchise quarterback in the 2012 draft. It never anticipated that franchise quarterback would come in the fourth round instead. Although Robert Griffin III was the NFL offensive rookie of the year, injuries quickly derailed his career. Griffin III will be fighting for a second chance in Cleveland this season while Kirk Cousins, drafted to be a backup, assumes the mantle of franchise quarterback. Washington applied the franchise tag to Cousins this spring, signing him to a one-year, $19.95 million contract that’s fully guaranteed, and giving him a chance to prove last season’s success wasn’t a fluke. If Cousins backs up what he did last fall, leading Washington to an unexpected NFC East title, his franchise tag will lead to a long-term job.
» What have you done for me lately? It’s remarkable that the 2012 draft produced not one, but two quarterbacks who led Washington to division titles. Before 2012, the franchise hadn’t won the NFC East since 1999. Washington had been to the playoff only twice since, in 2005 and 2007. Now, Washington has a chance to win its third division title in five seasons, something it hasn’t done since the 1980s. Back then, the Hogs were led by running back John Riggins, quarterback Joe Theismann and coach Joe Gibbs.
» Keeping the family business going: With his older, more famous brother in the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth, coach Jay Gruden had a potentially career-defining year in 2015. With Gruden at the helm, Washington improved from 4-12 in his first season to 9-7 last fall. Gruden, a former offensive coordinator with a history of playing quarterback, appears to have done wonders with Cousins’ development. And he guided Washington through a tumultuous fallout with Griffin. Gruden took the long route to a head-coaching job in the NFL. His résumé is speckled with teams named the Nashville Kats, Orlando Predators and Florida Tuskers. Now, Gruden has a chance to give Washington what it hasn’t had since Gibbs’ heyday in the 1980s. Since then, no other coach has been with the franchise more than four seasons. Gruden has more to prove entering his third year in the nation’s capital, but last season was a good start.
Packers schedule glimpse
Nov. 20 at Washington, 7:30 p.m., NBC
Week before: at Titans, Nov. 13
Week after: at Eagles, Nov. 28
On the horizon: vs. Texans, Dec. 4
Coach: Jay Gruden (13-19, third season)
2015 record: 9-7, first in NFC East
Scoring offense: 24.3 points per game (10th in NFL)
Total offense: 353.8 yards per game (17th)
Scoring defense: 23.7 points allowed per game (17th)
Total defense: 380.6 yards allowed per game (28th)
Series: Packers lead 18-13 (2-1 postseason)
Last meeting: Things sure looked bleak for the Packers in the first quarter of that NFC wild-card game. The Packers faced an 11-point deficit before they could even score a point. For anyone who had followed the team closely last season, the odds of a comeback seemed very low. Then something strange happened. The Packers' offense, maligned through the regular season’s final three months, started to wake up behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers trailed only 11-10 at halftime, then exploded in the second half, pulling away for a 35-18 victory Jan. 11. In all, the Packers scored 35 of the game’s final 42 points, a flurry no one saw coming. It gave the Packers their second postseason win in as many years, a streak they will try to extend this season.
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