The teams: The Green Bay Packers (0-1) vs. the Washington Redskins (0-1).
The time: Noon CDT Sunday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: FOX – WITI (Ch. 6 in Milwaukee), WMSN (Ch. 47in Madison) and WLUK (Ch. 11 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in booth and Pam Oliver on the sideline.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 80-43 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Redskins’ Mike Shanahan is 175-132 (including 8-6 in the postseason) as an NFL head coach. He is 21-28 in his fourth year as the Redskins coach after going 146-91 as head coach of the Denver Broncos and 8-12 as head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 17-13-1, while the teams have split two postseason matchups. The Redskins won the last meeting, on Oct. 10, 2010 at Washington.
The rankings: The Packers’ 11th-ranked offense is tied for No. 26 in rushing and No. 8 in passing. Their 31st-ranked defense is tied for No. 20 against the run and No. 30 against the pass. The Redskins’ 12th-ranked offense is No. 20 in rushing and No. 9 in passing. Their 27th-ranked defense is No. 32 against the run and No. 8 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 7 points.
The injury report:
Packers – Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring). Questionable: S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), LG Josh Sitton (back), CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring). Probable: TE Jermichael Finley (toe), OLB Nick Perry (neck).
Redskins – Questionable: K Kai Forbath (right groin). Probable: CB David Amerson (back), DL Chris Baker (illness), NT Barry Cofield (hand), S Brandon Meriweather (groin), RB Chris Thompson (ankle).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Jet fuel: If it didn’t seem like the Packers generated much pressure in the season opener against San Francisco, it was because they didn’t. Clay Matthews had the team’s lone sack, and according to Pro Football Focus, the Packers had one sack, one quarterback hit and 11 hurries against Colin Kaepernick. So why would a team with 47 sacks a year ago (fourth in the NFL) struggle? At least part of the reason was the Packers’ respect for Kaepernick’s ability to run. Not only did the Packers use Matthews as a spy frequently, but their down linemen were seldom given what the coaches call “Jet” calls, where they’re cleared for takeoff upfield. Instead, rookie first-round pick Datone Jones, who played 18 snaps in the dime defense, and the linemen spent more time dancing with their blocker to be sure they had their rush lanes covered in case Kaepernick took off. It worked, as Kaepernick finished with 22 rushing yards on seven attempts, but it slowed the rush.
While Robert Griffin III may not be back to his pre-knee injury form, and thus may not run as much as he might have if healthy, the Packers will likely take a somewhat similar pass-rushing approach against him.
“I think anytime you’re playing a mobile quarterback you’ve got to be smart about what you do. You want to get as much pressure on him as you can. But the more you start getting vertical and the more people you blitz, the more seams there are,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “The key is being able to catch a guy like this if he pulls it down and takes off running.
“I would think coming off this injury, he still ran with the ball Monday night. It was mostly scrambles. It wasn’t where they majored in the read-option, but they have that element in that they can run against it anytime and you certainly have to be prepared for it. And he’s very capable of extending plays and letting receivers uncover down the field. A big part of their offense is taking the vertical shots. They run a lot of very deep routes and if you don’t get some pressure on them, he can sit back there and launch that ball down the field.”
Ball security: Eddie Lacy should have known better. As admirable as it was that he wanted to get an extra yard or two against San Francisco last Sunday, the end result – a fumble – was avoidable.
“It’s a fine line. You get big guys who break tackles, you have to keep your legs churning and trying for extra yards. (But) we say in our room, ‘Know when the journey is over.’ Sometimes you have to pull the plug, protect the football and go down,” running backs coach Alex Van Pelt explained during the week. “Unfortunately, it cost us seven points there with the turnover, but hopefully it’s a lesson he learns throughout his career. At some point in the middle of the run you have to know, ‘OK, I’ve gotten all I’ve gotten. Now I have to get on the ground and take care of the football.’”
The Packers, meanwhile, are hoping that they can do exactly what the 49ers did to Lacy. McCarthy made forcing more fumbles an offseason emphasis, and the Packers responded by failing to force a single turnover in the opener, although cornerback Tramon Williams did drop an interception.
“I think most people in the league, if you say, ‘What do you want to do?’ We try to make the game one dimensional and when you do that, you can create more pass rush and you can get more takeaways,” Capers said. “I think if you did a study on where the takeaways come, the majority of them come when the game becomes more of a throwing game. The quarterback’s involved in a lot of them. The fumbles, if you study that, more of them happen with the quarterback than anybody else.
“Obviously the more disruptive you can be with the timing of these passing games now, then the more takeaways you get. If the game’s two-dimensional and they can run the ball on you and they keep the down and distance in their favor you don’t have as many opportunities to all out rush and probably not as many opportunities to get the ball taken away.
Safety in numbers?: Undoubtedly you’ve heard the old football saying that if you think you have two starting quarterbacks, you have none. That might be the case for the Packers at safety, too. Forced to play without Burnett last week when his hamstring, neither M.D. Jennings nor Jerron McMillian – the two young players who competed all offseason and training camp for the starting job opposite Burnett and whom the coaches said were both starters – looked deserving of such a role. With Burnett questionable, that pair could start again.