Tha Sports Junkies 101

Green Bay Packers Week 12 Preview – Philadelphia Eagles

Packers - NFL Elvis Kennedy via Flickr


Packers, Eagles Desperate For a Win on MNF

The Green Bay Packers (4-6) are back in a prime-time slot for the second straight game, this time on Monday Night Football, and for the fifth time overall in 2016. This week, the struggling Packers will again be heading east, this time to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (5-5).

With the Detroit Lions sitting at 7-4 atop the NFC North and Philadelphia trailing the Redskins in the wild-card race, both teams will be in desperation mode.

Packers Pass Defense Trying to Avoid Another Poor Performance

As of late, the formula for beating the Packers has been pretty simple. Just pass the ball around the field.

Green Bay currently ranks toward the bottom of almost every defensive passing category, ranking 28th in touchdowns allowed (22), 31st in QB rating allowed (105.5), 23rd in yards per game (266), and 22nd in completion percentage (64.8%).

The weak and wounded secondary will try to rebound against a talented rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, but in order to do so they must reverse some pretty unfortunate trends:

Opposing QB's During Packers 4-Game Losing Streak

PlayerComp/AttPass YardsPass TDQBRQB Rating
11 87.25 124.78
Matt Ryan 28/35 288 3 84.6 129.5
Andrew Luck 23/36 281 1 72.5 74.0
Marcus Mariota 19/26 295 4 96.2 149.8
Kirk Cousins 21/30 375 3 95.7 145.8
All Statistics via

Along with the outstanding passing numbers being put up against them during their four-game losing streak, the Green Bay defense as a whole has allowed 153 points (38.25 ppg) the past 16 quarters.

Dealing with a mini-skid of their own, the pressure will fall on Wentz to make plays for Philadelphia against a bad Packers defense. 

Wentz, who started the season as hot as any quarterback in the league, has been experiencing some troubles as of late. Ironically, most of them have been identical to those that plagued Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earlier in the year.

Both have experienced a lack of consistent play-making around them, dealing with drops and a revolving door at running back, but haven’t made it easy on themselves. They have seemingly perceived pressure that isn’t there, leading to unbalanced and inaccurate throws from the pocket, regularly keyed in on one receiver before a play even develops, and given up on plays too early due to impatience. There seems to be an absence of in-play reads and adjustments happening within both offenses.

In their last four games, the Eagles have gone 1-3 and looked like a completely different team than the one that beat Pittsburgh 34-3 early in the year. Wentz more than anyone has taken a step back, throwing for just three touchdowns and four interceptions with a QBR of 33.96 in the losses.

Green Bay is hoping to avoid being the team that reinvigorates the stale passing offense, and may get some help if their projected number one corner Damarious Randall is cleared of his groin injury this week. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said he was optimistic Randall would be available against Philadelphia in a press conference Friday.

Randall would be a step-up from what the Packers have been placing on the field as of late, and the Eagles weapons on the outside are far from the level of Washington or Atlanta.

In fact, many of the problems Wentz has been facing lately can be drawn back to his wide-outs. Most notably second year receiver Nelson Agholor.

Agholor, who reminds me a lot of Green Bay’s Davante Adams during his second year drop-off, has a lot of potential but is so far in his own head that every catch has become a struggle. Head Coach Doug Pederson is not unaware of his internal issues, stating that he may pull Agholor from the line-up this week and allow his mind some time to decompress if needed. This would leave Wentz with undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner flanking talented but inconsistent wide-out Jordan Matthews on the edge.

Matthews is currently the Eagles only receiver with more than 30 catches and 400 yards ( 53 and 639 to be exact), despite being responsible for eight of the team’s 26 dropped passes, tied for third most in the NFL according to Sportradar.

Due to the lack of play-making on the edge, the Eagles have been forced to rely on their running backs and tight-ends for increased production.

The past two games they have caught 30 of Wentz’s 48 completions, and their more prominent roles have been just one of the adjustments Doug Pederson has made to correct the problems former coach Chip Kelly caused in personnel moves.

Pederson is an expert in the west-coast offense he learned with the Packers in 90’s, and is always looking to get the two groups involved. It’s not unusual for Philadelphia to have three tight-ends on the field at once or old school style formations not seen often in today’s game.

The Eagles affinity for using tight-ends is not great news for a Green Bay defense that has continually failed to contain the position.

As evidenced in the fact that the last three games, Green Bay has allowed an average of 98 yards to opposing teams tight ends and are one of only four teams to allow 700+ yards overall to tight-ends this season.

Philadelphia’s best being Zach Ertz.

Ertz ranks second on the team in both catches and yards behind Matthews, and when healthy, is one of the top-10 best pass catching tight-ends around.

Green Bay’s inability to defend over the middle will be even worse in the coming weeks because of an injury to rookie Blake Martinez against the Redskins. Martinez has been one of the best cover-linebackers on the team, which isn’t saying much, and if the Packers are also without Jake Ryan at inside linebacker Ertz may have a field day. Despite Green Bay stating they are hopeful Ryan will play, I’m not sure how effective he can be.

Ryan’s health is even more important when it comes to stopping the run. Last week, Robert Kelley rushed for over 130 yards against the Packers defense without him, and as the team’s leading tackler his importance in stopping the duo of Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood can’t be understated.

Ryan Mathews is the team’s leading rusher with over 400 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but he will miss the game with a knee injury. It’s actually Sproles that presents the most dangerous challenge anyway.

Sproles has compiled 623 yards from scrimmage this year (319 rushing, 304 passing), and is often the one that sets up Mathews in a position to ram in a short yardage touchdown. He has given the Packers problems in the past with his dynamic game-changing ability to break off a monster gain at any moment.

It will be important this week, after allowing the Redskins to convert on 9 of 13 third downs, to have a constant eye on Ertz and Sproles. The Crowder and Garcon touchdowns jumped out at you last week, but it was the short distance passes to Jordan Reed and the runs by Robert Kelley on third that set up those 1st and 2nd down bombs.

NFL Tickets

Packers Offense In For Battle Against A Defense That Loves to Protect Their House

I’m not sure if there is a bigger contrast between home and away play this season than the Eagles defense.

Philadelphia sits at 1-5 in road games, while holding a perfect 4-0 record at Lincoln Financial Field. In those four wins, the Eagles defense has only allowed a total of 38 points (9.5 ppg), including impressive wins, in which, they held the Steelers and Falcons to 3 and 15 respectively.

They have also doubled their productivity in the pass rush when at “the Linc”, averaging 3.8 sacks per game at home compared to 1.9 on the road. The Packers ability to pass block should prove to be a crucial element to their success.

Much like Green Bay, the Philadelphia corners are not very skilled or experienced, putting even more pressure on their pass rushers to make Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable. 

They are led up-front by a duo of probable Pro-Bowlers in tackle Fletcher Cox and end Brandon Graham. Cox is one of the deadliest three technique lineman in the game, possessing long arms and incredible instincts. Graham has shown speed and ability off the edge, especially at home, and ranks second in the NFL in quarterback pressures (42).

For the Packers’ recent offensive surge to continue, they will need to rely on the simple principles of the west-coast offense to negate the Eagles’ front seven. Head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy needs to go back to running quick timing routes allowing guys like Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, and Davante Adams to get the ball early and make plays with their feet.

The quick and intermediate pass game works much like a successful running game, it opens up holes deep down the field for Jordy Nelson because it forces safeties and linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage. This could lead to the Rodgers-Nelson tandem regaining their deep play connection that has been missing since 2014.

Jared Cook will also play a large role in hopefully spreading out the Eagles.

Cook is a puzzle. Against Washington he caught the two longest pass plays by a tight-end for Green Bay this season, but also dropped a wide open touchdown and fumbled a first down completion late in the game. Like Bubba Franks and Jermichael Finley before him, Cook can’t seem to put it all together. He has all the talent and potential in the world but has been prone to big-play fails his whole career.

Getting him going against Philadelphia will be no easy task either. The Eagles have allowed just three touchdowns to tight-ends all year, and have allowed just over 100 yards to the position the last four weeks combined.

In large part, this has been due to safety Rodney McLeod and linebacker Nigel Bradham, who have partnered to wipe out many would-be gains for opposing teams’ big men over the middle and in the flats. It’s always guaranteed within a Jim Schwartz led defense that nothing comes easy, and it would take some creative play-calling to repeat his 100-yard performance from week 11.

Like Cook brought to the pass game last week, the offense could receive a boost in the run game this week with the debut of Christine Michael.

Michael was picked up off waivers last week after being cut by the Seahawks. In nine games this season, he rushed 469 yards on 117 carries (4.0 per carry) while reaching the endzone seven times. After Rodgers was again Green Bay’s leading rusher against Washington, Michael’s presence is a pray answered for Packer Nation.

No player but Rodgers has recorded a rushing touchdown this season, and if the Packers are going to salvage any part of this year it starts with getting Michael going.

Final Thoughts

With so much negativity raging around the franchise, Aaron Rodgers has been a calming presence once again. He hasn’t allowed his team to feel down or out, and his words earlier this week prove that.

In a post-practice media session, he remarked that he thought the Packers could “run the table” and reach the playoffs.

Even if it seems to be a sports cliche similar to that of “play to the final whistle” or “it’s not over until it’s over”,  if you’re a Packers fan there is a reason to trust those words.

Whether he was “Shhh-ing” his critics in 2012 after a 30-point win in Houston, coming back from a shoulder injury to win the division on a fourth down prayer to Cobb in 2013, or telling everyone to R-E-L-A-X in 2014 after rough start, Rodgers has made it clear he won’t give up on a teammate, a game, or a season regardless of the odds.

Despite it getting harder and harder to put any faith into the Packers defense, if Aaron Rodgers isn’t giving up on 2016, neither am I.