WASHINGTON — The Redskins will take the field on Sunday at FedEx Field looking for their first playoff win in 10 years. The Green Bay Packers are making a postseason appearance for the seventh straight year. But it’s the Redskins who are NFC East Champions and have won four straight, while the Packers come in on a two-game losing streak, having finished the season losing 6 of 10 after starting 6-0.
It’s hard to believe that the Redskins enter this week as the team playing at a high level. One thing that has been a constant with this team has been its resiliency. Every time this year that they needed a win, they have gotten it.
A lot of the credit for that goes to General Manager Scot McCloughan for the group he has assembled. The mix of veterans and rookies has developed into a team that believes it can win. Jay Gruden has allowed the players to patrol the locker room, as Jason Hatcher told the media on Thursday. He said that Gruden has stayed out of the way and let his players work through things along with putting their own stamp on this team. For that, the players give Gruden a lot of credit for the way he has handled things this year.
The Redskins’ strength right now is the offense and the play of Kirk Cousins. The unit is performing at a high level and thinks it can score anytime they take the field — the numbers don’t lie either.
Over the last 10 games, Cousins has thrown 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. He had 24 career touchdowns and 27 interceptions prior to the recent run.
The health of DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed have played a big part in that, and the fact that teams have to choose who they are going to cover. Even as teams have adjusted for Reed he has still shined, twice going for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the final four weeks of the year. If the Redskins can go out, put some points on the board early, and impose their will on the Packers, it could be a big day for this offense.
The Packers’ defense has been pretty good this year, especially with Clay Mathews and Julius Peppers on that side of the ball. They enter this week sixth in pass defense and 12th in run defense, giving up 119 yards a game. They also give up 20 points a game.
On the other side of the ball, the key is going to be the defensive line against the Packers’ offensive line. It’s been proven over the last few weeks that the Packers can’t protect Aaron Rogers — he’s been sacked 47 times this year, compared to just 27 for Cousins.
Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is someone to watch this week. He’s been limited in practice with an ankle injury. Even though he’s had to improvise a lot this year, Rogers is still dangerous, as he’s the best in the league at extending plays and finding receivers down the field.
The Packers finished the season 23rd in total offense and 25th in passing. The Redskins’ secondary has been banged up, but if the front seven does its job, the secondary may not have a tough day after all.
The Redskins’ locker room this week has been the same as it has all year long. The group seems confident, but say that they can’t get too amped up too soon. They understand that — while it is a playoff game — it’s still just football.
The veterans have stressed to the rookies that the speed of the game is taken up a notch in the playoffs, but again once the ball is kicked off, it’s just football. There are too many guys in that locker room that have been through this before and know what it takes to win in the playoffs. The approach this team has taken this year has worked, so don’t expect anything to change this week. We are watching a team growing up each week and gaining more confidence each time it steps on the field.
Who knows how far this team can go, but a win on Sunday can help it take the next step forward.
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