Packers vs. Washington preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (9-3) vs. Washington Redskins (3-9).
WHEN: Noon CST Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
TV: Fox with Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Ronde Barber (analyst).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 20-16-1.
LINE: Packers by 12½.
WEATHER: Overcast, high around 40.
SURFACE: SIS Grass.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur (9-3) vs. Washington's Bill Callahan (3-4 with Redskins; 20-22 overall).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively conversation.
5 THINGS TO WATCH
1. NEW KICK-RETURN CANDIDATE: Newly acquired running back/returner Tyler Ervin is 5-10, 192 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the scouting combine. He also posted a 39-inch vertical leap, a 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump and 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He stands to be the Packers' fifth player used on returns this season after Trevor Davis, Darrius Shepherd, Chandon Sullivan and Tremon Smith. Of the bunch, only Smith has a faster 40 time than Ervin, who has career yardage averages of 21.1 on kickoffs and 8.3 on punts. His longest play was a 57-yard punt return as a Houston Texans rookie in 2016. “He’s got really good short-area quickness, good feet, can make guys miss,” special teams coach Shawn Mennenga said. “A veteran guy that’s been back there so he’s got some experience back there.”
2. CROSBY READY WHEN NEEDED: The Packers have not needed kicker Mason Crosby a whole lot this season. Of their last 22 scoring drives, 19 have ended in touchdowns. That dates to the Week 7 Oakland game. It’s not a bad thing to score touchdowns. The Packers rank No. 2 in the NFL in red-zone touchdown at 70%, and rank tied for 11th in goal-to-go touchdown percentage at 75%. Still, Crosby is there waiting for his moment. He hit a 47-yarder in the snow last week and has been through lots of December/January games. “I have the utmost faith,” Mennenga said. “He’s been awesome for this organization, been great for me as a first-year coordinator.”
3. FIRST-DRIVE DROUGHT: The Packers scored on their opening possession in five of their first eight games and were 4-1 in those games. Against the Giants on Sunday, they broke a three-game stretch of not scoring on their opening drive, going 72 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. In their last four opening drives, they have a total of four first downs, three of them from the Giants game. Included in those four games are losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers. The defense has been good all year on opponent first drives. It has allowed just one touchdown and three field goals.
4. ADAMS IN THE END ZONE: It’s logical that receiver Davante Adams won’t top the 111 catches, 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns he compiled caught last season, given he missed four games with a turf-toe injury. He is averaging 6.5 receptions a game, which is almost the same rate as last year, and is on pace for 78 catches for 966 yards and five touchdowns. The number the Packers care about most is the touchdowns. "It's been good to find the end zone a couple of times these past few weeks,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I try to get into the end zone to help the team win. If I score one touchdown or two, I'm not really worried about it. Or zero. The ultimate team goal is to get the 'W.’”
5. NO WEATHER HELP: The Packers aren’t catching much of a home-field weather advantage for their last regular-season home game against an opponent from a milder climate. Temperatures are expected to be as high as 40 degrees Sunday and no snow is expected. The following week they play Chicago, so no home-field temperature advantage there. Then they play their final two games on the road in domes. So, unless they get a home playoff game, it looks like the weather won’t be a topic of conversation the rest of the season. For Washington, it should be business as usual and rookie quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, won’t face conditions any worse than he did at Ohio State.
The Packers are facing an opponent with a solid running game and nothing to lose, and that should worry coach Matt LaFleur. With Chicago surging, they can’t let this game slip from their grasp. They should win, but don’t be surprised if it’s closer than anticipated. Packers 31, Redskins 27
Washington is the lowest-scoring team in the NFL, and chances are rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is going to throw a big interception or two in his fifth start. Aaron Rodgers rarely turns it over, so the best guess is the Packers pull away in the fourth quarter. Packers 34, Redskins 17
Washington enters Lambeau Field on a two-game win streak. Before that, it lost 34-17 to the Jets. After a bye week. That defeat dropped its record to 1-9. Washington is a bad football team led by a rookie quarterback who has appeared overwhelmed. The Packers will not lose this game. Packers 35, Redskins 16
Green Bay should handle an inferior Washington squad, but the rushing emphasis behind Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson can keep the game close until the Packers turn over Dwayne Haskins and pull away late. Packers 34, Redskins 14
Even though Washington’s offense has been on an upswing with an increased emphasis on running the ball, their attack as a whole isn’t versatile and Dwayne Haskins is still in the early phase of his development. Washington’s defense won’t keep it n the game, either. Packers 37, Redskins 16
Washington is getting healthier on defense and is playing hard for interim coach Bill Callahan. The Redskins will try to shorten the game by controlling the clock with running backs Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice. The Packers need to scheme ways to get the ball to Aaron Jones. Packers 27, Redskins 18