Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Washington Redskins (2-2)
Kickoff: Noon, Sunday.
TV: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver).
Keys to the game
With Clinton Portis (groin) out, the Redskins won't veer from the run-first approach that worked at Philadelphia with Ryan Torain, but expect more from Donovan McNabb against the Packers' beat up defense that is without injured S Morgan Burnett and LBs Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar, too. The Packers could play more two-tight end sets to preserve QB Aaron Rodgers' health. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has hugged the throttle with blitzes when facing potent passing offenses with mixed results. He might back off a bit fearing pronounced mismatches with TE Jermichael Finley, who is emerging as one of the top tight ends in the NFL. The Packers are still trying to replace RB Ryan Grant, averaging 82 rushing yards in the past three games.
By the numbers
The Packers rank 19th in offense (22nd rushing, 14th passing) and 10th in defense (24th rushing, seventh passing). The Redskins rank 17th in offense (19th rushing, 13th passing) and 31st in defense (12th rushing, 31st passing). Two big differences: Washington is tied for sixth in turnovers at plus-3 and the Packers are tied for 19th at minus-1, and the Packers rank 2nd in red zone offense at 75.0 percent while the Redskins are tied for 30th at 27.3 percent.
The Packers' five longest runs allowed this season all have been by quarterbacks. ... McNabb has 209 rushing yards in six career games against Green Bay — including 107 in the infamous fourth-and-26 playoff game.
Inside the Redskins
There's a changing of the guard in Washington's backfield: Clinton Portis out, Ryan Torain in. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced after Wednesday's practice that Portis, the starter when healthy for seven seasons, will miss four to six weeks with a torn left groin.
Portis, who was hurt during the third quarter last Sunday at Philadelphia, has a "third degree" separation meaning that the muscle is off the bone. However, Shanahan said that Portis won't need surgery.
Bill Huber has his three keys to the game, one each for offense, defense and special teams, at Fox Sports Wisconsin.
The 29-year-old Portis, Washington's second-leading all-time rusher behind Hall of Famer John Riggins, has 49 carries for 195 yards (4.0 average) and two touchdowns. Torain, who had split the workload with Portis the past three games, has 25 carries for 116 yards (4.6 average) and a touchdown.
Torain, whom Shanahan drafted in 2008 in Denver, will make his second career start Sunday against Green Bay. He was on the Redskins' practice squad when the Packers decided to sign Dimitri Nance off Atlanta's practice squad. Chad Simpson, who has yet to play since being signed on Sept. 21, is the backup, at least for now. Rookie free agent Keiland Williams, the third-down back during the first two games, was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday rather than bringing back Larry Johnson.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Ryan," Shanahan said. "He's a top back in the NFL if he can stay healthy."
The 24-year-old Torain, whom Shanahan drafted out of Arizona State for the Broncos in 2008, missed the final seven games of his senior year with a fractured toe and was injured twice as a rookie, missing the final seven games after tearing an ACL.
"I definitely had that (injury-prone) label," said Torain, who signed with Washington in April. "I definitely had to get rid of that. ... Any opportunity you get, you've got to take advantage of it."
Torain did that against the Eagles with 18 carries for 70 yards and the 12-yard touchdown on which he ran over safety Quentin Mikell.
"Ryan did a great job," said right guard Artis Hicks. "Those fresh legs, man, he was able to hit a lot of holes. He ran tough. He ran physical. He's been waiting for an opportunity to showcase what he can do. He got it and he's doing a great job. We knew what he was capable of doing. He's been doing it all throughout OTAs and training camp. It was just a matter of him getting in a meaningful game when you're on the big stage. He showed he could live up to it and deliver."
Center Casey Rabach said it was "awesome" to look up at the scoreboard at Lincoln Financial Field to watch the replay of the touchdown.
"Ryan's always kind of had a smash-mouth mentality," said left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, another 2008 Broncos draft pick. "When there's somebody standing in his way, he's not going to try to go around them. He's going to try to knock them on their butt. He's got all the ability. If anything, he's gotten better since we were rookies."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went on the attack after Sunday's narrow win over the winless Detroit Lions by saying spread formations out of shotgun is the best tonic for what has been ailing the Packers' talented, yet inconsistent offense through the first four games. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy downplayed Rodgers' comments, but the frustrated signal caller could get his wish with a coverage-challenged Redskins defense on the other side.
Washington ranks second from the bottom in the league, allowing a whopping 305 passing yards per game. Mixing in 15 to 20 runs between the unspectacular tandem of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn should be sufficient to keep Washington from totally selling out to defend the pass.
Defensively, the Packers' aiming point is quarterback Donovan McNabb, a nemesis of theirs when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Green Bay's top-ranked run defense of 2009 has been a mirage because it has carelessly allowed opposing QBs to break free for total gains in excess of 200 yards. Keeping the mobile McNabb from breaking containment in the pocket is a must.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.