The Eagles Have (Crash) Landed.Posted:Dec 4th, 2020 11:39 pm
I remember walking out of Lambeau following a loss to the Eagles on a Thursday night last season, replaying Aaron Rodgers' last minute red zone interception, and thinking, well at least they lost to a good football team.
How times have changed a year later. Yes, the Eagles are theoretically in playoff contention, but only because they're part of a historically awful division. The wheels have fallen off for QB Carson Wentz, who, much to the chagrin of most of the impatient fan base, is financially tied to the team for at least another season. The Eagles have been awful offensively and are coming off a short week, after playing on Monday night.
That said, their offensive game plan in last year's win was to run the ball all night, using two tight ends--they ran for 175 yards in that game. The return on Sunday of their best offensive weapon, tight end Zach Ertz, will allow them to use that formation again and see if they can move the ball on the ground against the Pack, and keep Rodgers on the sidelines. The problem is, their offensive line is in tatters: Sunday's unit will be the 11th different five guys they've used in 12 games.
Wentz has been sacked 46 times, has thrown 15 interceptions (vs. 16 TDs) and is completing just 58% of his passes. Mike Pettine's pass rush should feast on this offensive line, though we'll keep an eye on Za'Darius Smith. He missed practice on Friday (apparently he's been dealing with an ankle issue for weeks), thought Matt LaFleur seemed pretty confident that he'd be willing to go. Preston Smith is coming off his best game of the season and Rashan Gary is improving every week, so the defense should provide enough heat, with or without Z.
The skill position players don't inspire a lot of fear. The return of Ertz, along with fellow tight end Dallas Goedert are the main guys to watch. Receivers Travis Fulgham, Alshon Jeffery and rookie Jalen Reagor have not done much of late. Running back Miles Sanders has some ability, both as a runner and a receiver, but the offense has not committed to the run.
As it was last week, the premier matchup is the Pack's offense against the Eagles' top ten defense, led by a strong front four against the Pack's offensive line. With Corey Linsley out, rookie Jon Runyan gets his first start at left guard and he'll have to deal with the Eagles' best player, Fletcher Cox. What a moment for Runyan, who basically grew up in the Eagles' locker room--his dad was a fixture on Philly's line in the 2000s. On the edges, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham have been productive, but the Pack's tackles have been up to pretty much every challenge this season.
The other fun matchup to watch will be Davante Adams against former Lions CB Darius Slay, who's coming off a rough outing against DK Metcalf. Slay is questionable with a calf injury, but is expected to play. If he's hobbled even a little, Adams should have a big day. The Eagles are easier to run against than throw against, though Rodgers should be able to do pretty much whatever he wants, as he has all season.
It will be interesting to see if Tavon Austin sees some action, since signing earlier in the week to replace Darrius Shepherd. The former top ten pick figures to be a replacement, or insurance for Tyler Ervin, who appears on track to miss another game. Whether he knows the offense well enough to take some snaps remains to be seen, but he figures to be the punt returner at the very least.
My main concern is just that the Packers have been playing up or down to the level of competition this season, and with this game sandwiched between division games, there's a chance for a letdown in energy. Let's see if they've learned from the Jags game and take control early and never let the Eagles in the game.
Packers 27 Eagles 20