Washington Redskins (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Lambeau Field — 1:00 pm Eastern (FOX)
The Washington Redskins come to Green Bay this weekend for the Packers’ home opener at Lambeau Field
in a showdown between two teams still seeking their first wins of the season. The Packers are coming
off a tight battle at Candlestick Park against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, while
Washington fell to the new-look Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. Both teams will be looking for
a quick rebound; the loser will already have lost early ground in the NFC and division races.
Let’s take a look at the three most important on-field positional battles that will determine how
one of the biggest games on the Sunday slate plays out.
Green Bay Front Seven vs. Robert Griffin III
Last weekend, the Packers did a solid job containing the run against the 49ers. Last year Green Bay
allowed 4.5 yards per carry during the regular season; against San Francisco in the playoffs they
were even worse, allowing 7.5 yards per carry as the Niners gashed the Packers defense for 323
rushing yards. But on their return to Candlestick Park, Green Bay contained Colin Kaepernick and San
Francisco’s stable of backs, holding the home team to just 90 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per carry.
Much maligned the last few seasons, the Green Bay defense has shown signs of shoring up its
deficiencies. But while the Pack has done it once, they face a second straight dual-threat dynamo
this weekend. Will Dom Capers’ front seven manage to contain Robert Griffin III as they were able to
do against Kaepernick? And, if they do, will Griffin be able to respond with his arm?
Washington Receivers vs. Green Bay Secondary
For Griffin to beat the Packers with his arm, he will need his receivers to expose what looked in
the San Francisco loss to be Green Bay’s greatest deficiency on defense. The Packers’ defensive
backfield allowed Kaepernick to throw for more than 10 yards an attempt, leaving the 49ers receivers
wide open with large pockets of space to operate.
Griffin was solid though unspectacular against the Eagles defense on Monday night, throwing for 323
yards and two touchdowns but also tossing two picks and averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt. Green
Bay’s secondary is opportunistic, having nabbed 18 interceptions in 2012 to finish tied for eighth
in the league, and so Griffin will have to be both conservative and yet opportunistic if he is going
to win the game in the air.
Green Bay Running Backs vs. Washington Front Seven
The Packers’ inept ground game is no secret. Green Bay hasn’t finished in the top half of the league
in rushing since they finished 14th in 2009, and against San Francisco last weekend the Packers
managed to gain just 63 yards on 19 carries. They spent two high draft picks on Eddie Lacy and
Jonathan Franklin this spring, but Franklin hasn’t touched the ball yet this season and Lacy had
just 41 yards on 14 touches (though he did have a 31-yard reception).
The Redskins allowed 263 yards to the Eagles, though, so the opportunity is there for Green Bay’s
ground attack to finally get a spark. For Aaron Rodgers to be as successful as possible, the Packers
must find at least some semblance of a ground game to keep Washington’s defense honest. If they fail
to reach 100 yards against the Redskins, the odds become much longer for Green Bay’s offense.
Unless we see the first tie of 2013, one of these two teams is bound to fall to 0-2 in the NFC race.
The Packers need to shore up their pass defense; Washington have a prime opportunity to tighten up
its run defense. Both offenses have the potential to light up the scoreboard, and this game could
quickly become a barn-burner.
With the home crowd on its side, though, the Packers should pull off their first victory of the
season to keep pace in the NFC North standings. With Griffin still looking somewhat apprehensive
after offseason knee surgery, the Redskins will remain winless midway through September.