Shawn: Some could say that the Green Bay Packers are fortunate that Aaron Rodgers went down, obviously if first assuming that he HAD to go down, during an easier part of the schedule. I would say the opposite. These games at Lambeau Field against the Bears and Eagles were two games that I believe the Packers rather easily win simply by rolling Rodgers and the Packers offense out there. With Rodgers under center, I think the Packers score 38-45 points in each game against two of the worst defenses in the NFL, and they would have simply out-sprinted two good offenses instead of relying on their defense to slow those offenses down much.
Well, that is no longer the case. Now the Packers need their defense to do exactly that, and it remains to be seen if they are capable.
The Eagles in many ways are similar to the Bears. They both have backup QBs running the show who are playing well. They have elite running backs who are just as good out of the backfield as they are in it. And they are both more than willing to simply spread you out and throw the football all game long.
The Eagles run a fast-paced style that will force the Packers to play their nickel defense for the vast majority of the game. Matt Forte found the Packers’ nickel much softer against the run than their base, and LeSean McCoy may find the same.
One of the consequences of the fast-track style that the Eagles play is that it tires out the pass rush. The Packers are especially susceptible to this since, if Nick Perry remains out, then Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Nate Palmer are the only outside linebackers the Packers have, and Neal is dealing with a sore knee and Matthews has been in street clothes the past month.
Of course, the Packers offense can help prevent all this by holding onto the football, and likely, the bulk of the work for the offense will be put on the running game. Again, can Mike McCarthy be creative enough to keep the defense off balance even while mostly running the football?
Even if the running game is working, the Packers will still need Seneca Wallace to convert third and shorts in order to keep drives alive. Absolutely the biggest wild card in this game is whether a full week of work will show a noticeable difference for Wallace, like it did for Matt Flynn against New England in 2010. If Wallace can just be serviceable, then I would still consider the Packers to be the favorite in this game.
Regardless, I don’t see the Packers offense scoring in the 30s, which means the Packers defense will need to either get stops or get turnovers. If they can’t, I don’t see the Packers offense keeping up.
The Packers have to find a way to win this game. Lose this one, and I see no reason to think the Packers can win a game without Rodgers. If they can’t do that, then their season is likely lost.
Still keeping the faith.
Packers 24, Eagles 20
Monty: The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a game where quarterback Nick Foles threw seven touchdown passes. That came against the Oakland Raiders, though.
I expect Foles to duplicate that feat again… never. In fact, I’d wager he never comes close to throwing seven touchdowns in a game again in his career.
I expect to see something closer to the Nick Foles who lost to Dallas 17-3 three weeks ago. That guy went 11-of-29 for 80 yards and no touchdowns.
But let’s throw out the Eagles for a second. They’re a mediocre team at best. Some, including me, would say they’re a bad team. All of the questions in this game are on the Green Bay Packers side.
Can the offense function without Aaron Rodgers? With a full week of preparation and a game plan tailored to the strengths of the guys on the field, I would say yes. We’ve seen this before. As Shawn pointed out, the Packers went through this with Matt Flynn heading into New England in 2010. They were well-prepared, had a game plan that suited the personnel on the field and they played tough in a hostile environment against one of the best in the league. Ultimately, the Packers dropped that game by four, but were in it until the end.
These Eagles are not those Patriots. On top of that, this game is at home. So, while it’s doubtful the Packers will score like they do with Rodgers on the field, the offense should be just fine.
You can look to Thursday night’s Oregon-Stanford game as the recipe for success in this game. Eagles coach Chip Kelly coached Oregon last year and they still run his system. Stanford dominated the game by punching Oregon in the mouth behind their running game. That kept the vaunted Oregon offense off the field and out of sync.
That’s what the Packers will have to do in this game. If the defense is on the field for extended periods, the Packers are cooked. The Eagles offense doesn’t allow many substitutions because of their pace and we’ve seen what happens when the Packers defense gets tired. No pass rush and lots of missed tackles.
The Packers play Stanford football and work Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Seneca Wallace makes just enough plays (and doesn’t make any stupid ones).
Packers 24, Eagles 17