There is no rest for the battered and bruised Philadelphia Eagles, who have to travel all the way across the country to Green Bay, Wisconsin for a Thursday night tilt with the Packers following a humbling 27-24 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Can the Birds bounce back or will the injuries and poor starts continue to plague them?
EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. PACKERS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 90.4 PASSER RATING (18/32), 265.3 YPG (12/32)
GB- 63.1 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (2/32), 197.3 YPG ALLOWED (5/32)
But at least the Eagles will be getting Alshon Jeffery back.
“Yeah, I expect him to play,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said during his press conference Wednesday. “Obviously, with the limited full-speed practice reps this week, he took part in everything this week. He feels good, so I would expect him to go. It just gives our offense a lift from the standpoint [that] he’s a veteran player, a guy that Carson [QB Carson Wentz] knows, understands, and he’s a good player.”
The Eagles are going to need to keep Carson Wentz protected because the tandem of Preston and Zadarius Smith has wrecked major havoc so far through three games. They combined for five sacks last week in Green Bay’s win over Denver, with Preston recording three of them. Preston is currently third in the NFL with 4 1/2 sacks, while Zadarius has three.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has done a tremendous job of manufacturing pressure with all of his new toys, using stunts and bringing blitzes using their defensive backs and linebackers. Philadelphia’s offensive line has surrendered 2.3 sacks per game, which is 17th in the NFL. This contest is about Jason Peters and Lane Johnson preventing the Smith Brothers from getting after Wentz. Green Bay is averaging four sacks per game, which is fourth.
This was a problem last week against Detroit, while Matthew Stafford had all the time in the world to get through all of his progressions, it wasn’t the case for Wentz. So when the receivers are struggling to create separation as it is and the offensive line hasn’t been giving Wentz enough time to consistently get through his reads, it’s an issue.
This is where Jeffery comes in, the Eagles need him immensely with DeSean Jackson still sidelined. Head coach Doug Pederson said during his presser Wednesday that he won’t be limited either like Dallas Goedert was on Sunday. Goedert played just nine snaps.
“Dallas was more of a game-time decision last week and we had already kind of put the game plan together. We kind of went in thinking Dallas wasn’t going to be available, so it was a little limited in his respect. This week is different. Alshon kind of went in this week hoping, kind of anticipating him playing more in this game, so we went in with a full game plan with that in mind.”
EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. PACKERS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.6 YPC (25/32), 99.7 YPG (17/32)
GB- 4.9 YPC ALLOWED (25/32), 131.0 YPG ALLOWED (25/32)
This is the area of weakness for the Packers, stopping the run.
Denver was able to establish it in the first half last week before having to play from behind and throw the ball over the final 24 minutes. Minnesota also fell behind in Week 2 21-0, but Dalvin Cook still managed to run for 154 yards on 20 carries.
The Packers’ defense is fast and flows to the ball well, but misdirection and counter plays have worked against them because teams have used their speed and aggressiveness against them. Running up the middle and exploiting the middle linebackers has been a recipe for success as well.
The Eagles, however, haven’t established a consistent ground game. Miles Sanders is averaging just 3.1 yards per attempt, while Jordan Howard is churning out 4.0 yards per tote. The Eagles are 16th in pass/run ratio at the moment, throwing the ball 61.3 percent of the time. I expect Philadelphia to run the ball early and often, as long as it works.
PACKERS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 95.3 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (16/32), 293.7 YPG ALLOWED (29/32)
GB- 96.5 PASSER RATING (14/32), 197.3 YPG (27/32)
The Packers have been on the precipice of breaking out offensively all season, but still haven’t done so.
Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, but what about his weapons? Davante Adams is obviously a stud, he possesses arguably the best release off the line of scrimmage in the league at the moment. What about everyone else, however? Besides Adams, there’s not much. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison aren’t household names and are still trying to figure things out.
Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby is expected to miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury and to be honest with you, it might be a blessing in disguise. He’s struggled immensely coming off the ACL tear from a year ago, currently ranking 101st out of 110 cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Without Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas will man the outside spots, while Avonte Maddox is in the slot.
“Those guys have built up a lot of good snaps and have been there for us and have played consistent ball for us and have made some plays,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Jones and Douglas. “But what they’ve done in the past isn’t going to make any difference now. They’re going to have to play well in a different set of circumstances now rather than spot-subbing or filling in for somebody, they’re going to have to go in and play because we’ll be without [CB Ronald] Darby for a little while.”
The biggest issue for the Eagles at the moment has been the lack of pass rush. Two sacks in three games is despicable and none have been made by a defensive end. Schwartz has had to manufacture pressure over recent weeks with more blitzes than usual, but Rodgers is the last person in the league you want to come after.
Rodgers can do it a lot of different ways. He can throw it quick, but he also is very, very good at buying time and getting and creating spots for receivers down the field. He’s also a master of hard-count free plays, and we can’t afford any of those, either. We’ve been pretty good the first couple weeks — with one big exception on the third-and-1 against Atlanta — but we’ve been pretty disciplined in not being offsides, and that’s going to be paramount in this game, too, because if you get offsides — they had a touchdown last week.
What about the lack of pressure, should it be a cause of concern?
“Sometimes you can get off track if you judge yourself on statistics. This is a win-loss league, and you win, every one of your statistics was good enough. You lose, it’s not. But that being said, we’re a team that is very reliant on our pass rush. We’re very reliant on the four-man pass rush. You saw like we’ve made some plays blitzing, we’ve also given up some plays blitzing, and when your rush is getting there without having to blitz, it puts you in a much better position defensively.
And we’re confident in the guys we have, and we also know that when teams choose to try to really take care of our pass rush, other things need to step up. You saw the quarterback holding the ball a long time on some of those, and there were some plays that we were able to get off the field on the 3rd down. However we do it, whether it’s getting a sack, whether it’s getting an incomplete pass or tackle short of the sticks, it’s a bottom line business, get off the field on 3rd down, and we can do a little bit better with that, and I think our pass rush will help us do that.”
PACKERS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 2.8 YPC ALLOWED (5/32), 42.5 YPG ALLOWED (3/32)
GB- 3.5 YPC (25/32), 105.0 YPG (24/32)
The Packers are running the ball about 44 percent of the time, which is the 10th best run percentage in the NFL. It’s more than they’ve done in the past.
Aaron Jones ran for 116 yards in Week 2, but has totaled just 58 yards rushing over the other two weeks.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has been stuffing the run through three games and if Jones can’t get it going on the ground, then it will limit the deep play-action game of the Packers.
PREDICTION: I like the Packers, they were my darkhorse NFC Super Bowl contender before the year started, but I also think they’re more vulnerable than people think. If the Eagles can finally get their running game going, I think they can steal this win. Green Bay’s offense isn’t as explosive as you’re accustomed to seeing.