The Green Bay Packers will host the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lambeau Field in an NFC battle. The Packers are 8-3 after last week’s decisive 41-25 win over the Bears. The Eagles are struggling at 3-7-1 and have lost their last three games including last week’s 23-17 loss on Monday night against the Seahawks. Despite their poor record, the Eagles are just one half game out of first place in the moribund NFC East where Washington and the New York Giants are tied for first place with a 4-7-0 record.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 26-15-0 although the Eagles won their last meeting 34-27 in Green Bay last season. Philadelphia has won two of the three playoff meetings between the two teams including the 1960 NFL Championship Game which was Vince Lombardi’s only career playoff loss as head coach of the Packers.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game:
- Protect Aaron Rodgers
The Eagles defense is inconsistent but their pass rush is the strongest part of the defense and remains solid. Philadelphia has four players with at least four sacks already this season and 16 different players who have been credited with at least half a sack.
Brandon Graham is their top pass rusher with seven sacks. Graham is expected to up against Billy Turner for a good portion of the game. Turner has quietly done an excellent job at right tackle for the Packers this year but will need to be on top of his game against the Eagles.
Philadelphia may be without DT Fletcher Cox who has 5.5 sacks and is a strong player on the inside. The Packers will be without center Corey Linsley with Elgton Jenkins the most likely candidate to replace him. Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat are also strong pass rushers for the Eagles.
Green Bay’s offensive line has been one of the league’s best this season despite being hit hard by injuries. Rookie Jon Runyan, Jr. is likely to get his first career NFL start this week at guard after filling in after injuries struck mid-game in five different contests so far this season.
If Rodgers has time to throw, he should be able to pass the ball well against the Eagles secondary.
- Run the Ball Enough
The Packers ran the ball extremely well last week against the highly-regarded Bears defense. In fact, they ran the ball more often than they threw it against Chicago.
The Packers need to keep running the ball frequently enough to set up their play action passing game and to keep the Eagles defense off-balance.
The Philadelphia defense ranks 23rd in the league against the run and is giving up 128.2-yards per game.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have provided the Packers with a steady one-two punch out of the backfield. They should be able to move the ball consistently and keep the chains moving for the Green Bay offense.
- Put Pressure on Carson Wentz
The Eagles have allowed 46 sacks in 11 games or more than four-per-game thus far this season. Injuries have hurt the Philadelphia offensive line this season and quarterback Carson Wentz has been under constant pressure.
Wentz hasn’t helped his own cause either, often holding on to the ball for too long while trying to find an open receiver. The Eagles receivers have struggled to get separation, so when you add those three factors together, the offense has been unable to get untracked.
Za’Darius Smith should have a big day against this Philadelphia offensive line. He should get some help from Preston Smith, who has improved his play in recent weeks, and Rashan Gary who is doing a good job of pressuring the passer and is earning more playing time. Kenny Clark is also playing his best football of the season in recent weeks and should add some pressure from the inside.
The Packers should be able to pile up some sacks and pressures in this game and slow down the Philadelphia offense. If not, Wentz could have the dreaded get-well game and the Packers cannot allow this.
- Stop the Eagles Running Game
One big way for the Eagles to give Wentz more time to throw the football is to run it effectively. The Packers defense has struggled to stop the run all season so look for Philadelphia to try to grind things out.
Miles Sanders is the Eagles top rushing weapon. He has 600 yards this season on 108 carries, an impressive 5.6-yard average. Sanders is quick and has the ability to gain good yardage after contact so the Packers defenders will need to make sure they wrap up Sanders and prevent him from turning two or three-yard gains into six or seven yard pickups.
Backup Boston Scott is only 5’6” but he’s fast and can get lost behind much larger blockers. He also weighs 203 pounds and has a low center of gravity which helps him break tackles and add yards after contact.
The Packers best run defense has been taking a big lead in games. They will need to slow down the Philadelphia rushing attack early if they hope to take control of this football game.
- Contain the Eagles Tight Ends
The Eagles have depth and talent at tight end and expect to get Zach Ertz back in the lineup Sunday after the former Stanford star missed the last six weeks with an ankle injury. Ertz has been activated from the injured reserve and has been a limited participant in practice thus far this week. He gives the Eagles a consistent receiving weapon if he returns to action.
The Eagles also feature third-year man Dallas Goedert and former Packer Richard Rodgers. Goedert is third on the team with 30 catches and tied for second with three touchdown passes. Rodgers is not a breakaway threat, but he’s reliable and consistent and has 24 catches thus far in 2020.
The Packers safeties have been playing better in recent weeks. The trio of Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage and Raven Greene will have to find a way to slow down Philadelphia’s trio of tight ends to prevent the Eagles from converting key third down chances.
- Get Davante Adams Involved Early
The Packers have one of the game’s best receivers in Davante Adams and while they need to spread the ball around over the course of the game, they also need to get Adams involved early.
Tae had a big game against Philadelphia last year before getting injured in the fourth quarter. He still finished the game with 10 catches for 180 yards. Adams will likely see plenty of a familiar foe in former Lions CB Darius Slay. Adams has played well against Slay in the past and will hope to repeat that on Sunday.
The Eagles lack size at cornerback and Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown will all have a big size advantage over 5’9” Avonte Maddox who starts opposite Slay. The Packers will need to take advantage of this height differential as well.
The Packers are the better team on paper as the Eagles are struggling, especially along the offensive line. The Packers should get good pressure on Wentz and possibly force the Eagles to turn to backup Jalen Hurts who has more mobility and isn’t as emotionally beaten down.
The Packers should win this game if they take care of business and don’t lose the turnover battle badly. Look for Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams to lead the way.
Also look for Aaron Rodgers to get at least three touchdown passes to get him to 400 for his career.
Packers 34, Eagles 17
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