SERIES HISTORY: 33rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 18-13-1. The teams are meeting again at Washington's FedEx Field after Green Bay rallied for a 35-18 win over the Redskins in the wild-card round of the playoffs Jan. 10. The Packers have won two straight and six of the last seven games against Washington, going back to 2001. The Redskins' only victory in that stretch came in 2010 -- a 16-13 overtime win at home. The Packers won two of the teams' three postseason matchups, highlighted by a 21-6 triumph in the 1936 NFL Championship at New York when the Redskins were in Boston.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Packers potentially could go into the Sunday night game at the Washington Redskins without two key starters on their offensive line: right guard T.J. Lang and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered foot and knee injuries in the last contest. And, there's no telling whether Green Bay will be able to mount any semblance of a ground game after doing little of it last time out as the Titans raced out to a 21-0 lead.
James Starks is considered healthy again and may get more touches than the seven carries he had against the Titans. Plus, Green Bay added some depth Wednesday by claiming fourth-year pro Christine Michael off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, the expectations are being tempered for what Michael might be able to offer Sunday on such a quick turnaround.
Those uncertainties in the backfield portend another busy night of throwing for Aaron Rodgers, who has passed the football 188 times in the last four games. If he can play keepaway from Josh Norman, the All-Pro cornerback formerly of the Carolina Panthers, a mostly suspect Redskins secondary should allow Rodgers to have success through the air.
Rodgers' counterpart, Kirk Cousins, has played well of late and could shred a struggling Packers defense with a potent group of pass catchers. Besides having to deal with productive tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the Packers may have to try to contain three big-play wide receivers in DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon. The speedy Jackson's status is up in the air because of a shoulder injury that kept him out of Washington's last game.
Green Bay also must pay close attention to versatile running back Chris Thompson. He had eight catches for 89 yards in eight targets out of the backfield in the Packers' win at Washington in the first round of the playoffs in January. Green Bay sacked Cousins six times in that game. However, its pass rush has been nonexistent in recent weeks, though the possible return of outside linebacker Clay Matthews after a three-game absence (hamstring) could provide a lift.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Packers ILB Blake Martinez. Someone has to try to take Reed out of his game. He had just two catches against Minnesota on four targets, but that's an anomaly. When healthy Reed is a matchup nightmare for any linebacker or safety. The key: Be physical with him before he gets into space. Maybe Martinez can give Reed problems there. But the Packers also remember Reed caught nine passes for 120 yards against them in last year's wild card game.
--Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman. Norman's physicality can give any receiver problems. But Nelson has a knack for finding space and Rodgers has a knack for finding him. Nelson has 50 catches this season. Expect Green Bay to move Nelson around to keep him from Norman all the time. Minnesota used that tactic last week with Stefon Diggs to great effect. But Nelson also is not fully recovered from his torn ACL last season.
RB James Starks. The return of the seventh-year pro to game action last Sunday after a four-game absence had mixed results. Coming off knee surgery, Starks reached the end zone on an impressive 13-yard catch-and-run play as the Packers tried to rally from a huge deficit before falling 47-25 at the Tennessee Titans. However, Starks carried the football only seven times and gained just 33 yards as the team's lead back. Even with the news late Wednesday that the Packers claimed fourth-year player Christine Michael off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, the expectation is Green Bay will need Starks to play a bigger role Sunday night at the Washington Redskins to give a lift to its beleaguered rushing attack.
Green Bay -- Out: G T.J. Lang (foot), CB Damarious Randall (groin), LB Jake Ryan (ankle), C J.C. Tretter (knee). Questionable: TE Jared Cook (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring).
Washington -- Questionable: WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), T Morgan Moses (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back).
The Packers have dropped three in a row and four of their last five to tumble to 4-5.
Green Bay's pass defense ranks 29th in opponent passer rating. Last week at Tennessee, the Titans threw five touchdown passes and only seven incompletions.
Redskins TE Vernon Davis has 382 receiving yards in nine games -- just 13 yards shy of his total for 15 games last season with the Broncos and 49ers.
Redskins K Dustin Hopkins became the 29th player in Redskins history to reach 200 points with his four field goals last Sunday vs. Minnesota. Hopkins ranks 10th in field goals made for Washington in just 24 games.
Redskins WR Pierre Garcon ranks 11th in franchise history in receiving yards (3,985) after his 81-yard performance Sunday vs. Minnesota.
After back-to-back home losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas to open the season, the Redskins have won five of seven. All but one of those games has been decided by a TD or less, and this one figures to follow that trend.
OUR PICK: Redskins, 31-27.