Packers vs. Washington preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (1-0-1) vs. Washington Redskins (1-1).
WHEN: Noon Sunday.
WHERE: FedEx Field
TV: Fox, with Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analysis), Pam Oliver (sideline).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 20-15-1.
LINE: Packers by 3.
WEATHER: Rain, high of 64 degrees.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (132-78-2) vs. Washington's Jay Gruden (29-37-1)
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively discussion
5 THINGS TO WATCH
RUNNING COLD: The disparity between run and pass for the Packers' offense is startling: 38 running back carries and 87 pass plays. Granted, the Packers were in catch-up mode in the second half of the Chicago game, but that doesn’t excuse 21 running back attempts and 46 passing plays against Minnesota. The return of Aaron Jones from a two-game suspension should give coach Mike McCarthy motivation to call more runs. But he said during the week he was going to bring Jones back slowly. If Jones is breaking off explosive gains, it might be hard to take him out. “I think we only had one explosive run, we had that one 16-yard run maybe the other day which was a really well-blocked play,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “Obviously, we'd like to get that up. Some of that is a function of having more of them.”
NOT SO MARKED MEN: The only team to shadow wide receiver Davante Adams with its best corner is the Minnesota Vikings, who put Xavier Rhodes on him anytime he lined up outside. Washington has a shutdown corner in Josh Norman, but Adams doesn’t see the veteran corner following him wherever he goes. “Sometimes he wants to go inside, sometimes he doesn’t,” Adams said of Norman. “I think it’s more (staying on) one side. But we’ll see what he wants to do. I don’t expect him to follow me, but we’ll see.” As far as drawing the other team’s best corner, Adams doesn’t seem to care who is covering him. In two games, he has 13 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. ”I’ve got to go to my side and run my routes, so it doesn’t really matter who’s out there,” Adams said. “I feel like whoever it is I’ll be able to have a favorable match-up.”
PRIME-TEAM PLAYER: With Kevin King (groin) declared out, it seems likely rookie Jaire Alexander will start on the outside along with Tramon Williams. The coaches will have the option of moving Alexander inside and putting either Josh Jackson or Davon House outside when they go to nickel or dime coverage. The way defensive coordinator Mike Pettine sees it, he’s not losing much by starting a rookie in place of King. He was effusive in his praise of Alexander. “You’d be hard pressed to say that Jaire’s not potentially our top defensive player, if not one or two,” Pettine said. “Just his effort, his energy, playmaking ability, he’s been outstanding, and Josh isn’t that far behind.” Alexander isn’t perfect. He has given up receptions of 33 and 20 yards and shared responsibility for the Adam Thielen touchdown last week.
NOT JOSHING: After both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice came up short on a couple of Vikings passing touchdowns, there’s a possibility that second-year safety Josh Jones will garner some snaps. Jones returned from an ankle injury this week, and while he’s listed as questionable, he seemed to think he would be playing. Passing game coordinator Joe Whitt said he was looking for some tough, mean guys and Jones plays that way. His problem has been assignment certainty. If he’s not in the right place at the right time, he can be as mean and tough as he wants and it won’t make a difference. Jones would be a better fit for the nickel package where Jermaine Whitehead plays near the line of scrimmage this week because of the size of running back Adrian Peterson. “We know that Josh Jones is a really talented player,” secondary coach Jason Simmons said. “What we have going on right now, everything we do is matchup-based. So, it's week to week. If he fits what we want to do to control another team's offense, I'm sure coach Pettine won't hesitate to put him in there.”
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: Last week, attendance at FedEx Field was announced at 57,013, an all-time low for the 82,000-seat stadium, but numerous reports stated it was much lower than that. Some thought it wasn’t even half full. Fans are making a statement to owner Daniel Snyder, according to numerous D.C. columnists, refusing to pay extremely high prices for a mediocre product. What it means for this game is an abundance of Packers fans in the stands. It’s hard to say how many East Coast Packers fans will make the trek, but given it might be their only chance to see their team in action, don’t be surprised if crowd noise is a factor for both teams.
Washington’s defense will put up a fight, but it is not the caliber of Chicago or Minnesota’s. The Packers put up a combined 46 offensive points against the two, which wasn’t bad given quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ injury situation. This should be a game where the offense wears down the defense and makes it a relatively easy victory for the Packers. Packers 37, Washington 24
Aaron Rodgers showed last week he can move well enough on his injured knee to stay alive in the pocket, and Aaron Jones’ return from suspension should add a little juice to the Packers’ run game. That should be enough to beat Alex Smith. Packers 28, Washington 20
Washington lost at home last week to an Indianapolis Colts team that has a good quarterback, but very little else. Each week is different in the NFL, but the difference between the Packers and Colts is too great to ignore. The Packers will win this one, and big. Packers 34, Washington 17
Green Bay matches up well here, as the offense should be able to move the ball more effectively with a greater idea of what Aaron Rodgers can and can’t do (and with Aaron Jones returning) and the defense will have ample opportunity to get after Alex Smith. Packers 28, Washington 14
It doesn't feel like the Packers (1-0-1) are unbeaten after their unseemly tie with the Vikings, but that's how they will remain after disposing of Washington and longtime nemesis Adrian Peterson. Packers 31, Washington 20