1. Aaron Rodgers vs. Ryan Kerrigan
The Packers are optimistic David Bakhtiari (knee) will be available, but it’ll be incumbent on Rodgers and the offensive line to help out whoever lines up at left tackle. Virtually all of Washington’s pass rush comes from Ryan Kerrigan (seven sacks), Trent Murphy (seven sacks) and Preston Smith (3½ sacks). Rodgers was sacked only once in January’s wild-card playoff game in Washington, a catalyst in the Packers shaking off an early deficit to pull out the 35-18 win. Rodgers has rolled with the punches this season en route to the offense picking up steam over the past month. His adaptability and the offensive line’s depth have been among the Packers’ biggest strengths this season, and both will be tested again with Don Barclay likely stepping in for the injured T.J. Lang (foot) at right guard.
2. Jordy Nelson vs. Josh Norman
It also could easily be Norman vs. Davante Adams. There’s really no telling how Washington will deploy its biggest defensive weapon. Norman, a first-team All-Pro selection in 2015, landed in the nation’s capital after Carolina revoked the franchise tag this offseason. A press-man specialist, the 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback has lined up strictly on the left side at times this season, but also matched receivers at times. Nelson and Adams are both coming off big games against the Titans. Nelson caught a career-high 12 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Adams finished with a career-best 156 receiving yards. Since having only one catch for nine yards against Chicago on Oct. 20, Nelson is averaging 7.7 catches and 104.7 yards with a touchdown in each of the last three games.
3. LaDarius Gunter vs. Pierre Garçon
Sunday night could be a rematch from last year’s wild-card playoff game if Gunter ends up across from Garçon. As an undrafted rookie, Gunter had only eight defensive snaps during the 2015 regular season before supplanting an injured Quinten Rollins in the second half against Washington last January. He held Garçon in check, batting away a crucial third-down pass in the third quarter to help seal Green Bay’s win. Washington’s third-ranked passing offense is powered by the three-headed monster of Garçon, DeSean Jackson and speedy slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who will test a Packers’ secondary that’s been stressed by injuries this season. However, it’s getting healthier with Rollins back for his third straight game after missing three games with a groin injury.
4. Nick Perry vs. Kirk Cousins
Perry had a breakthrough performance in January against Washington All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, recording four tackles and a career-high 2½ sacks. It foreshadowed the strong start Perry got off to this season. He’s already established a new career-high in both tackles (37) and sacks (six), though he only has ½ sack in the last three games. The Packers’ pass-rush could be getting a significant lift if Matthews is able to return from a three-game layoff for a hamstring injury. Williams is currently in the midst of a four-game suspension, but the offensive line has held its own. Washington’s 12 sacks are the second-fewest in the NFL this season behind Oakland (11).
5. Micah Hyde vs. Jordan Reed
Reed, who’s quickly developed into one of the NFL’s premier tight ends, has been tough for opposing defenses to stop this season. He’s been a steady presence in the middle of the field for Washington, catching 44 passes for 456 yards and three TDs in seven games this season. The Packers are all too familiar with Reed, who caught nine passes for 120 yards and a score last January. With Jake Ryan out with an ankle injury, Hyde and safety Morgan Burnett could see a lot of Reed on Sunday night. Hyde has been battling a shoulder injury but practiced all week. If Reed wasn’t enough of a challenge himself, veteran tight end Vernon Davis has picked his game up with 14 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s last three games.