Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Packers-Redskins: Teams headed in opposite directions

LANDOVER, Md. — Aaron Rodgers has been a Super Bowl champion and a two-time NFL MVP. He owns the best passer rating in league history. His Packers are in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Kirk Cousins started a grand total of nine regular-season games entering this season, wasn't chosen as Washington's quarterback until a couple of weeks before the opener, and his only postseason experience to date consists of 10 passes as a backup in a loss three years ago.

Look at each of them now, though.

Heading into today's playoff matchup between the wild-card Packers and NFC East champion Redskins, Rodgers struggled through a poor-by-his-lofty-standards season, certainly hurt by the absence of top receiver Jordy Nelson, and his team went 4-6 down the stretch. Cousins, meanwhile, broke team passing records and set a league mark for completion percentage at home while leading Washington to four victories in a row down the stretch.

Fans attending the game will be given white towels with burgundy lettering that pays tribute to Cousins' catch phrase: "You like that?!"

And get this, given their comparative careers to date: An actual topic of debate in the D.C. area this week was which of the two QBs would be the player you'd want for the next five years.

As for the Redskins themselves, they express nothing but confidence in Cousins, who replaced Robert Griffin III as the starter late in the preseason. They're not disparaging Rodgers in any way, though.

"He's still got 31 touchdowns — how can you say he's not really having a good year? He's still got the intangibles of an elite QB," Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. "Sometimes his supporting cast is not there to bail him out, but I feel like he's one of those guys you've got to be on your toes with, every play."

A young Washington offensive line — right guard Brandon Scherff, right tackle Morgan Moses and left guard Spencer Long became starters this season — allowed only 27 sacks. Today the team gets back center Kory Lichtensteiger, who returns after missing half the season.

"It's like he never left. ... Should be like riding a bike," Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. "There's hardly any looks that we're going to come across that he hasn't seen and doesn't know how to diagnose."

They'll have to deal with a veteran defense. Julius Peppers is still going strong in his 14th year in the league. His 101/2 sacks led the Packers and was his highest total since getting 111/2 in 2012. Peppers and fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews give Green Bay two dangerous rushers.

Cornerback Sam Shields will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion.

As for the offense? Among plenty of problems for Green Bay has been an inability to convert on third downs. Green Bay was 28th in the league in third-down conversions at 33 percent, partly a reflection of an inconsistent running game.

"We need to be more disciplined and execute," Packers offensive coordinator and former FSU running back Edgar Bennett said.

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