Philadelphia Eagles News

Next Up: Huge Challenge At Packers

The page turns quickly in the NFL on a short week. What happened on Monday night was a distant memory by the middle of the day on Tuesday as the Eagles set their sights on the Green Bay Packers.

What the Eagles saw, very briefly on a recovery day for the players, is a team that is playing as well as any team in the league right now. Green Bay has won five of its last six games since opening 2014 with a 1-2 mark. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in the first half against Chicago on Sunday night. The Packers scored 23 points in their loss at New Orleans on October 26 before the bye week, and prior to that scored 38 to beat Carolina, 27 -- including a last-minute touchdown drive -- to win at Miami, 42 to crush the Vikings at Lambeau Field and 38 way back on September 28 in their first blowout win over Chicago.

Rodgers has 25 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions, has completed 67.5 percent of his passes and has compiled a lusty passer rating of 120.1. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson (56 catches, 889 yards, 8 touchdowns), Randall Cobb (44-650-10) and rookie Davante Adams (25-273-2) are terrific. Eddie Lacy is a bulldozer at running back and a good receiver out of the backfield.

How does a defense stand up and slow down the Packers? That's what coordinator Bill Davis is working on now with his coaching staff, and the first order of business is a strong plan to attack Rodgers, pressure him and limit his ability to keep plays alive with his legs.

The overall tenor, though, is that the Eagles are a fine football team going to what is expected to be a frigid Lambeau Field on Sunday to play another good team in the 6-3 Packers. These are the games you circle on your calendar.

"We know what's ahead of us, but our thing is we have to just keep playing our game and doing what we're doing," linebacker Brandon Graham said. "It's really about us. It's about playing football the way we know we are capable of playing and then we'll see what happens after that."

Graham represents a perfect microcosm of what the Eagles have become in the last two seasons. The team's first-round draft choice in 2010, Graham had an up-and-down first couple of seasons and then the coaching staff changed and the defensive scheme changed and he wasn't sure how he fit the plans. But Graham has worked hard on his fitness and his technique, and he's received excellent coaching from outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern and all of a sudden Graham is, as they say, ballin'. He's got 4 1/2 quarterback sacks. He's been physical against the run. Graham is chasing down the football much more aggressively than he did in the past. He's got a league-high 4 forced fumbles.

"Brandon has really improved his game. He has worked hard on his craft," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "He's been a valuable part of our defense on both sides at linebacker."

That the Eagles have brought the best out in Graham and have found a role for him to help the defense is an example of what makes this a special team. Look at all of those who were here for the previous coaching regime and who have blossomed with the current group of coaches -- Graham, safety Nate Allen, Trent Cole in his new role, wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, linebacker Casey Matthews and others.

The coaches are outstanding here. The system is sound. The players buy in. It's all a great working relationship.

And the next test is Green Bay, which begins a challenging final seven games. The margin for error is slim for the 7-2 Eagles with the 7-3 Cowboys on their bye week. The entire conference playoff picture is so muddled that, as of right now, the Packers are on the outside looking in.

We've got a lot of football ahead.

"You can't look ahead and we're not doing that," tight end Brent Celek said. "Beating Carolina was just step. Now we have a short week to prepare for Green Bay. We need to get our bodies back and play our best football to beat the Packers. They're a great team. It's going to be a fun atmosphere on Sunday. I think everybody is excited about it."

Green Bay is next, with its superstar quarterback and high-functioning offense and a defense that stepped up on Sunday night against Chicago. The Packers have a plus-10 difference in turnover ratio. The mystique and the plunging temperatures of Lambeau Field are factors.

The week ahead is a countdown to something special.

"I think we approach it like that every week," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "That's one of the things about this team: Every week means something. Every game is the most important game. That's how we look at the season."

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