Friday, November 14, 2014

Preview: Packers Host The Eagles On Sunday

If you've forgotten last season's game when the Packers hosted the Eagles, it's probably for the best. The Packers lost 27-13 and it never felt like they had a chance to win. It was the first career start for QB Scott Tolzien, who looked OK but struggled to maintain drives (obviously, this won't be a problem on Sunday) and it was one of QB Nick Foles's near perfect starts that he had in his magical 2013 season (which isn't going to happen again either since he's out with a broken collarbone).
I feel like the Eagles are distracting the entire NFL with their shiny Chip Kelly led offense, when the truth is that their offense hasn't been very good this season. QB Mark Sanchez is probably a down grade from Foles (not by much) but their big problem this season has been the injuries/suspensions on their offensive line, which shouldn't be a problem for them on Sunday. Though Todd Herremans is out for the season, the other four-fifths of their starting offensive line have returned. But they aren't back to their 2013 season form; Jason Kelce didn't think they were clicking yet last week against the Panthers. Overall their offense is ranked No. 17 this season by Football Outsiders. Sanchez only completed 54% of his passes and RB LeSean McCoy only ran for 19 yards last week against the Panthers. The Packers's defense will have some success against them.

The strength of the Eagles is their defense, which is ranked No. 6 overall by Football Outsiders and is excellent against the run and pass. Their defensive unit is playing about as well as the Seahawks this season, and the Packers had little success against them in Week 1 (though they also had to rely on RT Derek Sherrod in that game, which was a bad idea). The Packers's offense has been playing better in recent weeks, but it's something to be concerned about if they can't run the ball and the Eagles can pressure QB Aaron Rodgers.

The breakout star for the Eagles this season might be their special teams. RB Darren Sproles is having a monster year as a returner, and overall their unit is clearly the best one in the NFL this season. The Packers are about average, ranked No. 15 overall by Football Outsiders, but they're not very good on kick and punt returns, and they just allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown last week. Maybe that touchdown return was a lapse because it was near the end of a blowout against the Bears, but this will be a major concern against the Eagles.

It's taken me a while to settle on a score, but if the Eagles don't commit to shutting down WR Jordy Nelson and Sanchez helps out with a turnover or two, the Packers should win by a score of something like 31-24.

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