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Eagles VS. Packers Preview and Prediction

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The Eagles (5-5) take on the Packers (4-6) on Monday Night Football, in a game that is essentially a must win for both teams and their playoff hopes. The Eagles come into the game fresh off a 26-15 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle. That game was really the first game all year that the Eagles did not have an opportunity to win at the end of the game. The Packers, on the other hand, are coming off a 42-24 beating at the hands of the Redskins in which they allowed Kirk Cousins to throw for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Stats to know:

The Eagles are 4-0 at home, one of only three unbeaten teams, the others being the Seahawks and Texans. The Eagles defense has been absolutely dominant at home, giving up only 9.5 points per game including stellar performances against the Falcons and Steelers in which they held both teams to season lows in points.

Much like the rest of the team, Carson Wentz has played noticeably better at home than on the road. Wentz has a passer rating of 91.5 at home versus 80.7 on the road as well as only 2 interceptions versus 5 on the road. The Eagles run game is also better at home as they average 141.75 yards per game at home versus 123.2 on the road.

Aaron Rodgers, usually known for his ability to create big plays down the field, has not been doing so this year. On passes of 20 yards or more, Rodgers is 8/40 (20%) for only 266 yards, or 6.65 yards per attempt and 2 touchdowns compared to 2 interceptions.

The Packers have only had a 100 yard rusher once this year and haven’t had a runner reach even 75 yards since week 5. The Eagles run defense, on the other hand, has only allowed a back to reach 100 yards once all season.

Despite all their struggles, the Packers still have a strong offense, ranking 10th in points per game at 24.7 and passing yards per game at 262 and have averaged almost 27 points per game over their last 4 games.

The Packers pass defense is historically bad, as they’re allowing 8.6 yards per pass attempt, rank 31st in opponent passer rating and are tied for the fourth most passing touchdowns allowed.

Key Matchups:

Eagles pass catchers versus the Packers secondary: As stated above, the Packers have a really, really bad pass defense. What makes this interesting is that the Eagles have really, really bad receivers. Not only do the Eagles receivers not create separation, but when they do, they drop it. The Eagles have a drop rate of 4.8%(via sporting charts), good for fifth worst in the NFL. In fact, against the Seahawks, the Eagles outside wide receivers had less yards receiving than Russell Wilson for most of the game, until Dorial Green-Beckham had some garbage time catches. In that same Seahawks game, wide receiver Nelson Agholor played so poorly, costing the Eagles a huge touchdown and big gain, that he told the media he was in his own head. As a result of Agholor’s poor play all season long, there is a good chance he will be benched with his snaps likely going to undrafted rookie wide receivers Bryce Treggs and preseason sensation Paul Turner. The Packers secondary, on the other hand, has been decimated by injury, losing Damarious Randall in week 5, Demetri Goodson for a good portion of the year, and Micah Hyde. Randall is questionable this week which could provide a boost,but even with Randall it is a very weak unit. Whichever team can win this battle of weakness versus weakness will have a big advantage in this game.

Eagles pass rush vs Green Bay offensive line: While Rodgers hasn’t been as good as usual, he’s still as dangerous and talented a quarterback as you’ll find in the NFL. Pressuring him will help out the Eagles weak cornerbacks, which could be very big. The Eagles pass rush feeds off the energy of the crowd as they have averaged almost 4 sacks per game at home compared to only 2.2 on the road. They’ll need the likes of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan to perform and provide a pass rush if they want to keep Rodgers and the Packers offense off the scoreboard. If the Packers offensive line is able to provide Rodgers with a lot of time, the Eagles corners will have a hard time sticking with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams down field.

Packers run defense vs Eagles rushing game: The Packers’ strength defensively is in stopping the run as they’ve allowed the 6th fewest rushing yards per game in the league. The Eagles run game has been vitally important in the Eagles wins as they average 133.4 rushing yards per game in wins and only 103.2 in losses. The run game helps take pressure off of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and is also effective in wearing down opposing defenses. If the Packers can keep the Eagles running game in check, they can force the Eagles into obvious passing situations and try to exploit the Eagles lack of playmakers in the passing game.

X Factors:

Eagles: Wendell Smallwood: As stated above, getting the run game going is critical for the Eagles. With Ryan Mathews out, Smallwood will be leaned on to make some plays on the ground. If the rookie can get something going it will open up the field for everyone else, especially tight ends Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Brent Celek, who could be key in getting the Eagles passing game going.

Packers: Clay Matthews: The Packers will need a pass rush to aid their struggling secondary. Matthews is as good a pass rusher as you’ll find and he needs to generate some pressure on Carson Wentz. The Eagles offensive line has had some injuries and suspension problems as Lane Johnson’s replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, went down with an injury last week. The Eagles offensive line will be shuffled a bit as left guard Allen Barbre will move out to right tackle and veteran Stefan Wisniewski will step in at left guard. The lack of continuity could possibly give Matthews and the rest of the Packers pass rush opportunities.

The Pick:

Eagles win 27- 17. Carson Wentz has a good day on the Packers weak pass defense and the Eagles defense stays hot at home.