Packers at Eagles: Five games to watch

After losing their first game of the season to the Washington Commanders, the Philadelphia Eagles got back in the win column with a bad comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts. They will be looking to put together a more complete performance on Sunday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.

Here are our five matchups to watch.

In Week 10, the Packers beat the Cowboys in a game that looked similar to the Eagles’ loss to the Commanders. The Packers wanted to run the ball effectively, thus (a) shortening the game and (b) making life easier for Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 37 carries for 203 yards and a touchdown in that game.

Jones is one of the best running backs in the NFL, averaging 5.1 yards per carry over his six-year career. He can run in and out, catches passes from the backfield and is good at pass protection. On the season, he ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing yards, as he carried 143 times for 778 yards (5.4 YPC), despite playing on the Packers worst offense we’ve seen in a while. He is elusive and creative, with exceptional vision.

Dillon, meanwhile, isn’t the most explosive back, but he’s a heavy load of 6’0, 247 pounds who can drag tacklers and usually falls forward. His numbers are less impressive, as he has 117 carries for 467 yards (4.0 YPC).

The Eagles’ run defense came under scrutiny after a pair of shaky performances against the Texans and the Commanders, but they bounced back against Jonathan Taylor and the Colts on Sunday. Still, it’s a good bet that the Packers will lean into their running game against the Eagles, just like their last three opponents have.

The additions of DTs Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh were useful in stopping the race last Sunday, as well as resting Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Joseph has been particularly effective, as we demonstrated on Tuesday. We’ll see if the Eagles defense can capitalize on that positive performance against the run, but for now it will be the match that will be highlighted every week, even if a little boring.

2) Darius Slay and James Bradberry of the Eagles CB vs. the Packers’ tall receivers

The Packers’ starting receivers are 6’5, 227-pound Allen Lazard and 6’4, 208-pound rookie Christian Watson.

Lazard is Aaron Rodgers’ most focused receiver, as he has 38 catches on 68 targets for 529 yards and 5 TDs. Lazard isn’t just a great possession wide receiver. He can play the field, as evidenced by his 10 receptions of more than 20 yards, with eleventh in the NFL.

While Lazard leads the team in goals, yards and first downs, the Packers’ most dangerous receiver could very well be Watson, who struggled early this season but is starting to figure things out. In his first six games, Watson had 14 catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns. In his last two games, he has had 8 catches for 155 yards and 5 touchdowns. He set the Cowboys Week 10 on fire with 4 catches for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Watson has a special blend of size and athleticism.

When the Eagles are in man cover, I suspect Slay will be tasked with covering for Watson, while Bradberry will be monitoring Lazard.

The other matchup that should worry the Eagles is Josiah Scott against whoever the Packers decide to field in the slot. It could be Randall Cobb (24 catches for 330 this season), or Lazard, who often lines up inside. The Commanders and the Colts both had success attacking Scott in the slot with Avonte Maddox out.

3) Where could the Eagles go to feast?

The Packers’ offensive line has battled injuries all season and they haven’t been able to establish consistency and continuity, until recently. By my calculations, they had six different starting offensive line combinations:

Week LT LG c RG RT
1 Josh Nijman Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Jack Hanson Roy Newman
2 Josh Nijman Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Roy Newman Elton Jenkins
3 David Baktiari Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Roy Newman Elton Jenkins
4 David Baktiari Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Roy Newman Elton Jenkins
5 David Baktiari Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Roy Newman Elton Jenkins
6 David Baktiari Jon Runyan Josh Mayers Roy Newman Elton Jenkins
7 Zach Tom Elton Jenkins Josh Mayers Jon Runyan Josh Nijman
8 David Baktiari Zach Tom Josh Mayers Jon Runyan Josh Nijman
9 David Baktiari Elton Jenkins Josh Mayers Jon Runyan Josh Nijman
10 David Baktiari Elton Jenkins Josh Mayers Jon Runyan Josh Nijman
11 David Baktiari Elton Jenkins Josh Mayers Jon Runyan Josh Nijman

Nijman is the interesting player in the current Packers starting lineup. Due to Newman’s poor play, the versatile Jenkins moved from his RT seat to LG and Nijman filled in at RT. The Packers believe Nijman, a 2019 undrafted player, is one of their best five. The Packers seem to have finally found their best lineup.

Nijman has started eight games in 2021 at LT and seven so far this season at RT. He has length (6’7) and athleticism, but has little experience. Perhaps Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham can take advantage of this.

Across the line, Bakhtiari has bounced back after missing a lot of time rehabilitating a serious knee injury and is getting closer to the player he once was.

#FeastinMeter: πŸ—πŸ—πŸ—πŸ—πŸ—

4) The Eagles’ rushing attack against the Packers’ running defense

Some Packers run defense stats:

Packers Run D statistics Rank
Fast yards per game 135.8 24
Fast first downs per game 7.4 25
yards per attempt 4.6 21
Running percentage resulting in first downs 38.6% 29

The Eagles are good at passing the ball, and they should be able to do it against the Packers, who can be soft to the gut at times.

5) AJ Brown vs. the Packers CBs

With Eric Stokes out, the Packers adjusted by playing safe Darnell Savage in the slot and Rudy Ford safe. Savage is fast, but he’s small.

I think there should be opportunities for AJ Brown to bully Savage in the middle of the field or run away from Rasul Douglas in the field if the Eagles can create one of these pairings.

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