Philadelphia Eagles News

Is Today All About The Quarterbacks?

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The tarp covering Lambeau Field was removed four hours and 20 minutes before the start of Sunday's kickoff, unveiling the truth here: This is going to be a fast, offensive-minded football game.

Yeah, it's going to be cold and the wind may be whipping around the stadium for much of the game, but the weather isn't going to limit anything the Eagles or Packers want to do offensively (unless there is an unforeseen weather system lurking).

What's so intriguing about the matchup is that it pits two high-powered offenses that, when they get it going, are nearly unstoppable. So, to boil it down even more, this could be a contest that comes down to the performances of the quarterbacks.

In one corner is Aaron Rodgers, healthy now after an injury-plagued 2013. He leads the NFL in passer rating and has an obscene 25 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions thrown. Rodgers is the total package in that he's part brains and physical skills and everything in between.

In the other corner is Mark Sanchez, his career resurrected in Philadelphia. Sanchez replaced the injured Nick Foles in Houston and has guided the Eagles to wins there and on Monday night against Carolina, compiling a 97.7 passer rating with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

If it comes down to it, can Sanchez outduel Rodgers?

As much as any game, this one comes down to the quarterbacks as well as coaching adjustments. How do the Eagles contain Rodgers, if only enough to win the game? Let's examine, because this is where the strategy and one-on-one battles away from the pocket are critical.

Clearly, the Eagles need to apply pressure on Rodgers. It's something they've done extremely well this year. The Eagles have gotten excellent production from Connor Barwin, who leads the NFL with 10 1/2 quarterback sacks, from Trent Cole (4 1/2), Vinny Curry (5), Brandon Graham (4 1/2) and Mychal Kendricks (3). Fletcher Cox has won battles up front, along with Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton.

And the Eagles are going to need all of them to come up big today to win against Rodgers. As good as he is, Rodgers can't beat a constant pass rush. He can escape here and there, but if the pressure is relentless, the defense wins. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has to have the right feel for when to bring pressure and from where. He has to dial up the right personnel packages and looks to counter what the Packers are doing.

The Eagles must get to Rodgers and hit him and wear him down and hope that they do it enough just to make that sliver of difference to win this critical November game.

For the offense, and for Sanchez, the goals are as they've been. No turnovers. No mental mistakes. Touchdowns, not field goals, in the red zone. Green Bay's defense has been iffy for much of this season, but the Packers take the football away and create short fields for Rodgers.

Sanchez is going to see a lot of different looks from Green Bay, which moved linebacker Clay Matthews from the outside to the inside last week and confounded Chicago in a Sunday night blowout. The Eagles have the tempo and they have potentially good matchups and Sanchez has to be on point.

He played a solid game in his first Eagles start -- he completed 20 of 37 passes for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns -- but he also made some mistakes. A couple of missed throws here. A near interception there.

Through it all, though, Sanchez was poised and confident and the Eagles didn't turn the ball over and they were perfect on three trips into the red zone and they won in a walk. It's the formula the offense needs to employ today, without exception.

While Monday night was Sanchez's first national exposure in his second NFL life, this spot has greater significance and much more of a critical focus. Can Sanchez and the Eagles come into Lambeauf Field and beat the powerful Packers? Can they stand toe to toe with a team that has won five of its last six games and that many think is a top, top contender in the NFC?

There aren't going to be a lot of surprises today. The teams know each other from scouting last year, and they have a lot of mutual respect. This is a fantastic game upon us today.

It's not all on Sanchez today, but it's a big spot and a chance to create a full game of distance between the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East and, of course, push the Eagles even closer to the top of the conference playoff picture.

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