8:30 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Eagles -4, Over/Under: 47.5
Desperation is the word of the day in the City of Brotherly Love, as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field in a contest that both teams absolutely need to have. In the case of the Packers (4-6, 3rd in NFC North,) their well-documented fall from grace has driven the faithful in Green Bay to near madness, courtesy of a four-game losing streak, their longest since Aaron Rodgers became the Starter back in 2008. Three games out of First Place in the North, and three of their final five opponents being division leaders, their Playoff hopes are as a frozen as the tundra of Lambeau Field this time of year. Many theories are abound as to why Mike McCarthy’s charges have struggled so much this season, ranging everywhere from poor Pass-Protection to predictable Play-Calling, but at the end of the day, folks, it all really comes down to one thing: Health, or in their case, a lack thereof. Simply put, this team has been absolutely decimated on both sides of the ball, causing the Front Office to scramble in an effort to bolster a number of position groups where they’ve suffered a rash of injuries. The Offensive Line has been playing without Starting Interior Linemen J.C. Tretter (Knee) and T.J. Lang (Ankle) for weeks, while the Backfield has been obliterated with Eddie Lacy (Ankle) on Injured Reserve, and the Secondary has been a proverbial game of Musical Chairs with Sam Shields (Concussion) on IR, and the likes of Demetri Goodson (Knee) and Damarious Randall (Groin) remaining sidelined as well. And those are just the guys expected to miss tonight’s affair, for you could create a challenging trivia game of your own guessing who’s on the field for the Packers these days. As you can imagine, all these bodies on the Injury Report have done nothing but expose this team’s lack of depth, creating a storm of criticism towards the Front Office and their staunch belief in developing players in-house opposed to spending in Free Agency. As the saying goes, where there is smoke, there tends to be fire; Green Bay has allowed 38.3 points during their four-game slide, including forty-seven and forty-two in their last two outings. These last two games have essentially served as a microcosm of their season thus far, as the Defense has been torched for an average of 44.5 points on a staggering 480.5 Total Yards, while failing to register a single takeaway. Compounding matters is the fact that throughout it all, they appear to be wasting yet another stellar season from the aforementioned Rodgers, who has been hamstrung all year by an underachieving supporting cast. The two-time MVP is completing 63.2% of his attempts for an average of 276.1 yards, twenty-five touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for 239 yards and three more scores to boot. In those two particular losses, he’s done everything he can to keep them in games, completing 57-of-92 passes (61.9%) for 722 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, while scampering for another touchdown with his legs. Don’t worry, folks, he’s not really playing Offense, Defense, and Special Teams, it only APPEARS like he is. With that said, nothing has been easy for the 33-year old, as his targets have rarely gotten open; at 5.9 Net Yards per Attempt (23rd Overall), the Packers have struggled to throw the ball downfield with any sustained success, relegating Rodgers to dinking and dunking his way through games. It’s hard to fathom that a Receiving Corps consisting of playmakers such as Jordy Nelson (663 yards, 9 TD) and Randall Cobb (517 yards, 3 TD) doesn’t feature a single player averaging over 13.2 yards per reception, but that’s the case in Green Bay, where they’ve essentially been playing inside of a 10-yard cage. Once upon a time, this team was capable of winning a shootout, but these days that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Meanwhile, after a quick start to the campaign, things have slowed considerably for the Eagles (5-5, 4th in NFC East), who have now lost five out of seven games after winning their first three in a row. Playing in the competitive NFC East certainly doesn’t help matters either, as every team in the division is currently .500 or better. Indeed, it’s got to be a bitter feeling for Eagles’ Fans, for if their team played in a division like say, the AFC South, they’d have a share of First Place. So what’s the problem in Philadelphia, you ask? Honestly, it’s just the unavoidable ups and downs of starting a Rookie Quarterback. As the Second Overall Pick in the Draft, much is expected out of Carson Wentz, particularly after the team moved mountains to acquire him in the first place, and through the first ten games of his career, there have been highs and their have been lows. During the initial three-game winning streak, Wentz played remarkably efficient, mistake-free football, completing 64.7% of his attempts for 769 yards, with most importantly five touchdowns and NO interceptions, leaving the faithful in Philly to start coining catchy nicknames such as Wentzylvania and the Wentz Wagon. Things have changed considerably since then, as defenses have adjusted to the young signal-caller, relegating him to 1,570 yards on 62.65 passing, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. During that stretch he’s also been sacked seventeen times, fumbling on ten occasions. Last week’s 26-15 loss at Seattle summed up this kid’s season thus far, as there was again some good and some bad against one of the league’s most formidable Defenses. Wentz struggled to complete 23-of-45 attempts (51.1%) for just 218 yards (4.8 y/a) with a pair of interceptions, while also taking a couple of sacks, but nevertheless kept things relatively close with two touchdown passes. With that said, his supporting cast hasn’t necessarily been very helpful of late, for the Receiving Corps has struggled all season with drops, particularly Jordan Matthews (639 yards, 3 TD), who is supposed to be the team’s primary weapon in the passing game. Similar to the plight in Green Bay, this position group has struggled to get open as the team has averaged just 5.9 Net Yards per Attempt (25th Overall), with no regular contributors averaging anything greater than 12.1 yards per reception. Part of the issue is that Doug Pederson and his Staff have gone out of their way to be conservative in calling plays for the Rookie, for they don’t want to put him in too many compromising positions. However, the Offensive Line has had a hand in matters as well, with the right side of the Line in particular a culprit, given Lane Johnson’s ten-game suspension for PEDs. Defensively, Philadelphia has been a mixed bag too, permitting 18.6 points (4th Overall) on 334.6 Total Yards (8th Overall), while feasting off turnovers with sixteen takeaways (9th Overall), but has been prone to being pushed around in the trenches, yielding 4.5 yards per carry (25th Overall). On four occasions this season, the Eagles have relinquished fewer than seventy rushing yards, but on the other hand, they’ve been gashed for 120 or more yards on the ground four times. Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox (4 SK, 1 FF) has been dealing with an undisclosed injury for weeks now, with his status for tonight’s contest currently up in the air, while last year’s leading sack master, Connor Barwin (4 SK, 1 FF) is dealing with a mysterious injury of his own, leaving his availability against Green Bay in doubt too.
Predicted Outcome: Packers 26, Eagles 21