Philadelphia Eagles News

Game Preview: Eagles vs. Packers

The Eagles are in Green Bay to take on the undefeated 3-0 Packers on Thursday Night Football.

The Packers are off to a hot start under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, who was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans last season. 

Even with All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers teaming up with an offensive mind in LaFleur, the Packers' offense hasn't been explosive in the first three weeks. The Packers are tied for 23rd in the league in points per game (19.3), 28th in yards per game (286.7) and per play (4.83).

The Packers don't make many mistakes as Rodgers has not thrown an interception this year. Green Bay also has the second-best red zone offense in the NFL (86 percent success rate). 

Green Bay leads the league in turnover differential at +6 thanks to an aggressive defense led by Mike Pettine, who is in his second season as the defensive coordinator. 

Free agent pass rushers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith have made an instant impact, combining for 7.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and an interception. Yikes!

Defensive lineman Kenny Clark is an interior disruptor with another 1.5 sacks, while linebacker Blake Martinez chases down everything. Martinez leads the team with 32 tackles. Former first-round pick at cornerback Jaire Alexander has six pass breakups. Last week against Denver, he stole the ball out of the hands of rookie tight end Noah Fant for a fumble recovery.

The Packers' win over the Broncos last week highlights the team's M.O. Late in the first half, the Packers' defense forced the Broncos to settle for a field goal to make it 10-10. A strip-sack by Preston Smith led to a touchdown to make it 17-10 just before halftime. Alexander's strip of Fant to start the second half led to another short-field touchdown and it was 24-10.

Green Bay ranks seventh in yards allowed per play, fifth in passing yards allowed, third in sacks per pass attempt, fourth in interception rate, and fourth in red zone defense while giving up just 11.7 points per game (second in the league).

If there is an area for opportunity, the Packers are 25th in rushing defense, so this could be a big game for the Jordan Howard-Miles Sanders duo. Plus, the return of Alshon Jeffery should open up the middle of the field for Zach Ertz and a healthier Dallas Goedert.

Thursday Night Football has been impactful for the Eagles in recent years. The Eagles went on the road at Carolina in 2017 and beat the Panthers in Week 6 28-23 in a game that many players and coaches felt set the course for the rest of the season. Maybe that will happen again, this time in Green Bay.

Key Storylines

1. How will the Eagles handle the short week?

The Eagles are 4-0 in Thursday night games since Doug Pederson took over as head coach. Three of those games have been on Thursday Night Football. The other was the 2018 season opener against Atlanta. Pederson said that the key is making sure the players get plenty of rest and keeping the game plans simple since the preparation will be more mental than physical. The Eagles are a veteran-laden team playing in the same offensive and defensive schemes for years which helps. The return of players like Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert on offense will help as well. Can the Eagles eliminate the mistakes that have held them back to start the season? 

2. What will Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert add to the offense?

Goedert contributed to one of the seven drops last week against the Lions, but the coaches didn't even think he would be available, so his snaps were limited. Planning for Goedert gives the offense some flexibility in its 12 personnel packages when Zach Ertz is also on the field. Jeffery, meanwhile, provides quarterback Carson Wentz with a target he can trust in clutch situations. If the Packers have to devote added attention to the outside, that should open up the middle for Ertz, Goedert, or even Nelson Agholor who leads the team with 18 catches and three touchdowns.

3. How will Jim Schwartz attack quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

The Eagles have just two sacks so far this season and it might be tough to generate more on Thursday. Aaron Rodgers will hold the ball to buy time for his playmakers at wide receiver – Davante Adams (15 rec., 198 yards) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (13 rec., 170 yards, 1 TD). But Rodgers is willing to simply spike the ball if the rush is getting to him. While he's cut down on the heroic plays, Rodgers can still roll outside the pocket and unleash a laser to anywhere on the field.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been willing to dial up the blitz more this season with mixed results. Rodgers is a smart quarterback who has seen virtually everything that defenses will throw at him. The key is for the young cornerbacks, as Ronald Darby will be out with a hamstring injury, to not lose track of the wide receivers when Rodgers does get free. Or when his patented hard count gets the defense offsides and the quarterback will chuck the ball down the field on the free play, many times for success like last week against Denver.

The Eagles are second in the league in run defense, and they must keep that going to force Rodgers and company to take to the skies in order to win.

By the numbers

.607 – Doug Pederson has led the Eagles to a 34-22 record since 2016 (including playoffs), the highest winning percentage (.607) by a head coach in team history.

50.7 – Cameron Johnston ranks second in the NFL in gross punting average (50.7), behind Tress Way (51.8). He has totaled seven punts of 50-plus yards in 2019.

25.6 – Philadelphia owns the sixth-highest scoring offense (25.6) since 2017 (including playoffs), trailing only the L.A. Rams (29.6) and the New Orleans Saints (28.8) in the NFC.

18 and 3 – Nelson Agholor is just the second player in Eagles history to produce 18+ receptions and 3+ touchdowns through 3 games, joining Terrell Owens in 2004 and 2005.

5-5 – Philadelphia has posted a 5-5 record in its last 10 regular-season games vs. Green Bay (last win against Packers: 27-13 on November 10, 2013 at Lambeau Field).

2.95 – The Eagles have limited opponents to just 2.95 yards per rushing attempt, which ranks second among NFL defenses, behind New England (2.29).

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