Every game at this point in the season is huge (Donald Trump voice). Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers is especially so for the Washington Redskins (5-3-1) when considering the location of their next three games: At Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, at Arizona, at Philadelphia. Factor in the head-to-head tiebreaker angle for a possible Wild Card berth and there's plenty in play.
That's what makes the time of Sunday's kickoff frightening. The Redskins are an abysmal 5-20 in primetime games since the start of the 2008 season. The last win in such a scenario? The 2012 regular-season finale. Yikes.
The good news is these players don't have anything to do with the vast majority of those losses. Then again, this topic came up ahead of the Monday night season opener against Pittsburgh. The Redskins lost, of course. The topic resurfaced this week as well.
“I think you get put in primetime games usually when you’re playing against good football teams, and we have to play well," coach Jay Gruden said. "It’s always a challenge to beat a good football team and the Packers are no different. So we’ll have a great challenge in front of us, but we just go out there and try to play our best football and handle our week of preparation leading up to the game as best we can so that we have a chance come Sunday night.”
That talk is logical. Bummer we're all humans, meaning that our brains don't always allow logic to dictate our emotions and actions. That's why the best advice may have come from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: R-E-L-A-X.
The context isn't the same; Rodgers was telling the Green Bay fan base to chill last season when the Packers started slowly. The team eventually worked things out and beat the Redskins in the Wild Card round.
The basic application does work for the players. This isn't to suggest anyone gets tighter in these scenarios compared to the standard 1 p.m. kickoffs, but something is up. Bad mojo exists until it doesn't. There isn't always a logical escape. The coaching staff surely warned about Rodgers' playmaking ability, about Green Bay's deep receiving corps and about its stout defensive line while emphasizing everything that has Washington in playoff position for a second straight season. That's all important.
So is doing everything possible to get rid of this primetime funk. That's clearly not easy for the Redskins. That's why turning that Rodgers advice into a mindset is worth embracing. This also applies for everyone watching, especially if Green Bay takes the lead. Relax, at least as long as possible. You know, like until the second possession.
Two other keys to the game:
* The Packers allowed 154 rush yards last week, but almost half of that came on one run by Tennessee's DeMarco Murray. For the most part, their defense hasn't allowed much on the ground. That doesn't mean less Robert Kelley, or at least it shouldn't. That's especially true in the red zone, where Washington's scoring struggles are due in part to a lack of run-pass balance.
Who Sits -- Seven players will be declared inactive before kickoff. Best guesses and the impact of those choices.
Nate Sudfeld - Here's the wash, rinse, repeat entry for the rookie. If the Redskins are lucky, the third-string quarterback will never be part of the 46-man gameday roster. The 2016 sixth-round pick isn't ready for primetime yet in more ways than one.
Matt Jones - Reminder: Jones going from active to inactive is about not playing on special teams, a role the third RB, like Mack Brown, typically handles. Going from starter to reserve is about fumbles and Robert Kelley running away with his opportunity.
Rashad Ross - If DeSean Jackson is active, the other speed threat likely sits. Maurice Harris and Ryan Grant would serve as the backups behind Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder. It's been odd that Washington hasn't given Ross much of a look in the return game considering he made plays last season.
Blaine Clausell - See above.
Martrell Spaight - The odd man out at linebacker. Spaight played only on special teams last week while fellow ILB Terence Garvin received four snaps plus more work on ST. The inside linebacker unit has been one of the healthier groups this season.
Nick Sundberg - The long snapper could still end up playing, but the back injury he suffered in practice appears worrisome enough that the Redskins signed former Green Bay snapper Rick Lovato on Saturday.
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