Kirk Cousins
Packers-Redskins Preview
Kirk Cousins

Packers-Redskins Preview

Published Jan. 9, 2016 1:13 p.m. ET

While the Green Bay Packers hope the playoffs present an opportunity to start anew, the Washington Redskins would like to ride their late-season push for as long as possible.

The performances of both quarterbacks have mirrored their team's fate down the stretch as Aaron Rodgers has looked human while Kirk Cousins has played like an All-Pro.

As the Packers try avoid losing three in a row twice in the same season for the first time in seven years, the surging Redskins seek their first postseason victory in 10 years Sunday in an NFC wild-card game at FedEx Field.

Green Bay was considered one of the conference's top contenders after winning its first six games. Now it's stumbling into the playoffs with six losses in its last 10, and things could have been worse if not for a Hail Mary on the final play against Detroit in Week 13.


The Packers are focused on forgetting about the end of the regular season after coughing up an opportunity for a fifth straight NFC North title in last Sunday's 20-13 loss to Minnesota. They haven't lost three straight twice since 2008, the only time they missed the playoffs in the past nine seasons.

''I think it helps everybody, but you have to be realistic with fresh starts. I think you have to have fresh starts for the right reasons,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''The things that we've done wrong are just as important as the things we've done right. It's what we need to focus on because when you win, you can't just sweep the things you didn't do right until the rug.''

Rodgers completed 28 of 44 passes for 291 yards with one touchdown and one interception while getting sacked five times last weekend. The two-time MVP hasn't thrown for more than two scores in a career-high eight straight while also turning the ball over eight times in his last six.

Rodgers finished with his lowest completion percentage (60.7) since 2006 and his lowest passer rating (92.7) since '08. He'll try to get on track while helping the Packers (10-6) avoid a fourth loss in five playoff games since winning three straight road games and the Super Bowl after the 2010 season.

The five-time Pro Bowler, though, has been sacked 13 times in his last two games. That has to be a concern against a Washington team that has racked up 14 sacks over its past three.

Green Bay was 23rd in the league with 334.6 total yards per game, its lowest average since 2005.

''I think you have to remember, (Rodgers is) a great player. He wants the ball in his hands and when things break down he's going to make things happen,'' McCarthy said. ''But also the risk and exposure he's put to is unacceptable to myself. And he knows that.''

Cousins certainly doesn't want to wipe the slate clean after leading the Redskins (9-7) to their longest winning streak in three years en route to the NFC East crown. Since Week 7, the fourth-year pro leads the league in completion percentage (72.4) and passer rating (119.1) to go along with 23 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

He's also thrown for 11 scores without a pick over his last three games, completing 12 of 15 for 176 yards and three touchdowns before sitting down in last Sunday's 34-23 win at Dallas.

Jordan Reed has emerged as Cousins' top target with 29 receptions for 378 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games. Pierre Garcon has a scoring grab in each of his last three.

The Redskins, who have won six of their past seven home games, haven't won a postseason contest since beating Tampa Bay 17-10 on the road in the wild-card round at the end of the 2005 season. However, they're seeking their first victory this season over a team that finished above .500.

''If you start saying, `This is the biggest game of your life,' you don't want people to get too tense around here,'' coach Jay Gruden said. ''I think you have to prepare like you've been preparing.''

Washington has averaged 35.7 points and 428.7 total yards over its past three games, and although Green Bay ranks sixth in the NFL against the pass with 227.6 yards allowed per game, it won't have cornerback Sam Shields due to a concussion. The Packers held Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater to a career-low 99 yards through the air last weekend.

''Obviously a proven football team over there, with a lot of playoff experience,'' Gruden added. ''We're going to really have to up our game.''

Green Bay might want to get Eddie Lacy going against the Redskins, who ranked 26th against the run with 122.6 yards allowed per game. Lacy, however, averaged 39 yards on 3.3 per carry in the final three and Washington held opponents to 100 rushing yards or fewer in five of its last six.

The Redskins are banged-up on that side of the ball. Safety Kyshoen Jarrett is out because of a nerve issue affecting his arm, but cornerback Dashaun Phillips may try to play through a stinger.

The Packers have won five of the past six games in this series. In the most recent, Rodgers threw for a career-high 480 yards with four touchdowns in a 38-20 home win in September 2013.

This is the first playoff matchup since Washington's 16-3 divisional home win on Dec. 24, 1972.


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