Can Eagles "Catch" a Break on Thursday Night Against the Packers?

Alex Kielar | September 26th, 2019

The Eagles are coming off a tough, tough 24-27 loss by the hands of the Lions on Sunday, and have a quick turnaround as they face a tough and surprising 3-0 Packers team tonight at Lambeau. Kickoff is at 8:20 on Fox to open up Week 4 of the regular season. Not that any game this early in the season is a “must-win”, but after starting the season 1-2 following Super Bowl aspirations, this is as “must-win” as a Week 4 game gets. The Cowboys, while they have only faced the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins (combined 1-8 record), have started off 3-0 and look to be the team to beat at the moment in the NFC East. If the Eagles are going to want to keep pace with Dallas, they are going to have to win this game.

Players to Watch For

WR Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery, along with fellow receiver DeSean Jackson, was a key scratch last week, and it showed. The Eagles receivers dropped seven passes and lost one fumble, leaving Carson Wentz to basically do everything himself. Even the Eagles offensive line seemed to completely give up on a play, as they stopped blocking and left Wentz trying to scramble around by himself. While Jackson has been ruled out for the second straight week, Jeffery has been cleared to return and will be a huge factor and hopefully give the receiving core a boost. Jeffery caught five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first game against the Redskins, and he will give Wentz a big target to throw to, while also take some pressure off tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz was double-teamed for a majority of the time last week.

QB Carson Wentz

Wentz was one of the few bright spots last week as the drops and fumbles did not help him or the offense. If you just look at the numbers from the last two weeks, it won’t do how good he has been justice. In each of the last two weeks, he has completed less than 60 percent of his passes, but that is mainly not all his fault. I mean you can’t expect more from him than what his receivers have given him. In week one against the Redskins, when his receivers actually wanted to hold onto the darn football, he threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, putting up a 121.0 QB rating. He has been left scrambling around like crazy and trying to find open turf or a lane to throw in, and when he has, his receivers have let him down. Wentz will have one more receiver to play with in Jeffery and that should definitely help him. If the receivers catch his passes, I expect a huge game from him.

Packers Defense

Yes I know, it isn’t just one player here. But that is how good the Packers defense has been as a whole so far. Did anyone expect them to be this good? Because I certainly didn’t, even with the additions. But after their very impressive defensive performance in week one against the Bears, outdoing Chicago’s own top defense, I knew they were for real. The Packers defense has been lackluster for years, but now they finally have one that has been huge for them so far and will continue to be all season. The biggest addition of the offseason for the Packers was signing former Bear Adrian Amos, who came up with the game-sealing interception off Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in week one. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have also been huge additions to the Packers defense, as they have made big impacts. Linebacker Za’Darius Smith leads the NFL with 14 quarterback hurries, while linebacker Preston Smith leads the Packers with 4.5 sacks and has gotten seven hits on the quarterback. One player who was already on the team who has made a huge impact is linebacker Blake Martinez, who is fifth in the NFL with 32 tackles. The Packers defense as a whole is second in points-per-game allowed with 11.7 and first in takeaways with eight. This will be a tough test for Wentz and the Eagles offense.

Keys to Victory

Secure the Ball

As I said, the Eagles had seven drops last week, (at least one that could have won the game with under a minute left), along with two lost fumbles out of three total. If the Eagles are going to win this game, they have to help Wentz out when he drops near-perfect passes right into their hands. They also need to secure the ball after catching it or running with it, as the two fumbles lost by Miles Sanders and Nelson Agholor were ultimately the difference in the game. They both led to points and the Eagles only lost by three.

Get the Run Game Going

I said this exact same thing over the last couple weeks, that a big key to an Eagles victory was getting the run game going. I thought for sure that they would have last week, being down two top receivers. But they still really didn’t, even when Jordan Howard got his first Eagles touchdown. Howard didn’t get much besides that, and Miles Sanders got more carries than him, which still wasn’t much. Sanders had 13 to Howard’s 11 carries, and Sanders coughed up the ball twice. Howard still has to get going, and in my Lions game review, I said it was mind-boggling that they still really haven’t been using him as much as they should. They traded for him for a reason, and even if Sanders is the back of the future, they need to use Howard how he’s meant to be used. Howard has carried the ball 25 times for 99 yards so far, averaging four yards a carry, and one touchdown. He needs to be the starting back and the Eagles should rely on him mightily in this game, as the Packers have a pretty strong secondary. Howard could have a chance to neutralize the Smith brothers who have gotten off to such a good start.

Keep the Packers Offense Contained

While the Packers defense has been strong this season, their offense hasn’t gotten off to such a fast start. They are only averaging 215.7 yards per game, which is 25th in the NFL, and just 19.3 points per game. The ongoing storyline has been how Rodgers would fit in rookie head coach Matt LeFleur’s offense, and the play so far has kept to that. Rodgers does have four touchdowns through four games, but that is not like Rodgers. If the Eagles want to win this game, which I expect to be somewhat of a low-scoring affair, they will have to keep that offense grounded. However, the Eagles have allowed an average of 350 yards through the air in the first three games, and have been allowing themselves to get burned in the secondary. Something is going to have to give in this game, either the Packers offense will break out or the Eagles defense will finally be able to contain an offense.

Score Prediction: Eagles 23-20

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