The Early Read: Packers vs. Redskins Matchups

Bill Huber

Here are three of the defining matchups, one in each phase, as we begin our lookahead to Sunday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.

Packers offense vs. Redskins defense

If the Packers are going to have success moving the ball, they’re going to have to contend with a Redskins defensive front that is highly underrated. Of that group, no player is more underrated than Matt Ioannidis. A fifth-round pick in 2016 who inked a three-year, $21.75 million extension before this year’s draft, Ioannidis has matched his career high with 7.5 sacks.

Among all interior defensive linemen (all 3-4 linemen and 4-3 defensive tackles) who are averaging at least 20 rushes per game, Ioannidis ranks fourth in’s pass-rushing productivity, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. According to the official league stats, he has 7.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and nine tackles for losses. The entire Packers defensive line combined has three sacks, eight quarterback hits and six tackles for losses.

The starting trio of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Ioannidis should be the focal point of the perennially rebuilding Redskins. They’re all 25 or younger and they’re all productive. Allen, a first-round pick in 2017, has five sacks. Payne, a first-round pick in 2018, is at his best stuffing the run. They rose to the occasion in last week’s win against Carolina. The Panthers had a first-and-goal at the 1 in the final moments but failed on four tries to score the potential game-tying touchdown.

“I think everyone all around did their one-eleventh. Everyone just did their job,” Ioannidis said. “We were obviously in a high-pressure situation, and I commend the guys on this team. ... It’s a testament to their efforts.”

Redskins offense vs. Packers defense

With the season going nowhere, the Redskins handed the ball to rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The 15th pick of this year’s draft has been terrible in starting the past four weeks. He’s completed 54.1 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 58.5. Had he thrown enough passes to qualify for the league leaders, he would rank last by wide margins in accuracy and passer rating (Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield is last with 60.0 percent accuracy and a 79.9 rating).

The Redskins’ best chance is to run the football. With veteran Adrian Peterson and second-year player Derrius Guice, they are well-equipped to pound away at a Green Bay defense that ranks 25th in rushing yards per game (123.0) and 28th in yards per carry (4.69).

The ageless Peterson has rushed for 642 yards and a 4.4-yard average. Guice, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL and eight games of this season with a torn meniscus, has rushed for 203 yards and a 5.5-yard average in four games. In the 29-21 win over Carolina, Guice carried 10 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard dash, and Peterson was 1 yard short of his third 100-yard game of the season.

“They finally got to see the two-headed monster of us [together],” Guice said after the game. “Those are the days I’ve been waiting on.”

The kicking game

Will this be the week Green Bay’s historically bad punt-return unit, which has minus-8 yards and two fumbles this season, makes a positive contribution? The Packers released Tremon Smith and added Tyler Ervin, who in four seasons has an 8.3-yard average. Meanwhile, Washington punter Tress Way is No. 1 in the NFL with a 49.9-yard average and a 44.1-yard net average. Still, half of his punts have been returned for a 9.7-yard average.