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Packers' pass defense will be put to the test in Washington

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Can the Packers' defense keep one of the league's hottest QBs in check this week?

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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The Green Bay Packers have featured one of the better pass defenses in the NFL this season. By both conventional statistics as well as more advanced analytics, Green Bay has contained opposing passing games well. This week, however, they will face one the league's hottest quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins, who finished the season 5th in the NFL in passer rating.

Players in weekly fantasy leagues may be tempted to punch Cousins' name into their rosters this week, but we see Dom Capers' defense as a reason to avoid him on Sunday.

Overall, the Packers rank 6th in the NFL in passing yards allowed this year, with 3,642 yards on the season. Green Bay also ranks 9th in the league in interceptions (16), 6th in passing touchdowns allowed (20), and tied for seventh in sacks (43).

For more advanced analysis, let's look at DVOA, Football Outsiders' metric for measuring overall performance which adjusts for the opponents. Overall, Green Bay ranks 6th in passing DVOA, but the FO folks break down a pass defense's performance into matchups against the opposition's top wide receiver, the #2 wideout, and all other receivers, plus performance against tight ends and running backs.

Here's a look at how Green Bay has fared under this measurement (keep in mind that negative numbers are better for the defense):

vs. #1 WR: +7.5% (22nd-best in NFL)
vs. #2 WR: -31.7% (2nd)
vs other WRs: +6.4% (19th)
vs. TEs: -20.8% (4th)
vs. RBs: -24.7% (4th)

Overall: -6.8% (6th)

If the trends continue, this suggests that DeSean Jackson (Washington's top receiver) and Jamison Crowder (their #3) should have solid performances on Sunday, while #2 wideout Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed, and the running back group will not do much.

Of course, the Packers have not faced many tight ends this season with the combination of size, speed, and athleticism that Reed has. Furthermore, the Packers have had much less success defending passes in the middle of the field compared to those on the outside.

Ultimately, the matchup of the Washington passing game against the Packers pass defense is strength-versus-strength, and should be a fun one to watch on Sunday. And because of that, I wouldn't feel confident in trusting either unit in a weekly fantasy league this week.