The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Packers
Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the Packers.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
LeSean McCoy had gotten on a bit of a roll, but he carried just 12 times for 19 yards against the Panthers last week. On the season, he’s averaging 3.7 YPC, and the Eagles’ rushing offense ranks 20th overall in efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
Carolina schemed to take away the run, so Chip Kelly didn’t force it. On the season, the Eagles are running the ball 40.09 percent of the time (20th). Last year, that number was 46.98 percent (sixth).
The Packers’ defense, meanwhile, has been vulnerable against the run, ranking 20th per Football Outsiders. But Kelly talked recently about how Green Bay made a lot of changes on defense during the bye. And they paid off in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears.
Clay Matthews moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker after the Packers had been struggling against the run. He turned in an 11-tackle performance against Chicago and will likely team up with the Packers’ leading tackler, A.J. Hawk, on the inside once again.
The Packers rotate several bodies on the defensive line, including Mike Neal, Mike Daniels and 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones. They will show different fronts and employ different numbers of down linemen. Per the Journal Sentinel, Green Bay used more slants and stunts against the Bears than they had previously.
Julius Peppers will play left outside linebacker and get matched up with Lane Johnson. For the Eagles, Evan Mathis is in his second game back. Right guard Matt Tobin has easily been this group’s least consistent player.
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
Mark Sanchez will make his second start of the season. Against the Panthers, he completed 20 of 37 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, Sanchez did not turn the ball over.
Pass protection against Carolina was fantastic, and Sanchez did an excellent job of navigating the pocket. His favorite target was Jordan Matthews (seven catches, 138 yards). Brent Celek had five grabs for 116. Jeremy Maclin has 48 catches for 828 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Overall, the Eagles rank 18th in terms of passing efficiency. They have produced 40 pass plays of 20+ yards, tied for second-most in the NFL.
Green Bay’s pass defense ranks 12th. The Packers are tied for fourth overall with 12 interceptions and are third as a defense in interception rate (3.81 percent). Sanchez did not throw a pick against the Panthers, but some of that was luck. A Carolina defender had a relatively easy interception near the sideline, but couldn’t keep his feet in bounds. Against Houston, defenders twice dropped what appeared to be easy interceptions.
The Packers start cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams.
“They’ve got guys who can cover,” Kelly said. “Shields and Williams can really do a good job on the outside. They have a young safety in there in [Ha Ha] Clinton‑Dix. They’ve got guys that can cover and have done a good job with it.
“But they’re going to vary it. They’re not going to give you one certain coverage. It really depends on down and distance and the packages that they have in there. And they’ve changed. Up until their bye week, they were really kind of one way defensively and they really kind of drastically changed going into the Chicago game. So, we have to have a plan for both [man and zone].”
Don’t be surprised if the Packers play a lot of man coverage and zero in on McCoy.
It is believed that the Eagles liked Clinton-Dix as a prospect in last year’s draft, but he didn’t make it to them. Morgan Burnett mans the other safety spot, and the Packers play a lot in their sub packages with defensive backs Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward.
The Packers are 20th in adjusted sack rate, but have some talented players up front.
Peppers has five sacks, and Matthews has 3.5. He can get after the quarterback whether he’s lined up inside or outside. Right outside linebacker Nick Perry (three sacks) will go up against Jason Peters. Neal and Mike Daniels have combined for 4.5 sacks.
WHEN THE PACKERS RUN…
Green Bay ranks 12th in rushing efficiency. Eddie Lacy is averaging 4.0 YPC on 119 attempts. James Starks has 203 yards on the season.
Last year, the Eagles limited Lacy to 73 yards on 24 carries (3.0 YPC). But DeMeco Ryans had a monster game with 13 tackles. He’ll be spelled by Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho once again. They did a good job last week, but Sunday will provide a better gauge of how much the Eagles will miss Ryans the rest of the season. Mychal Kendricks has been playing lights-out at the other inside linebacker spot.
Up front, the Eagles have played very well. Bennie Logan was outstanding last week. Fletcher Cox has been the defense’s best player. And Cedric Thornton shows up every week. Outside linebackers Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have all done a good job against the run, as have the safeties and cornerbacks.
In the playoffs last year, Billy Davis dared the pass-happy Saints to run the ball and played a lot of nickel. The Packers are much more balanced, but it will be interesting to see if he takes a similar approach in this one.
WHEN THE PACKERS PASS…
This is where all the attention will be Sunday. Aaron Rodgers is completing 67.5 percent of his passes and averaging 8.7 yards per attempt (tops in the league). He’s thrown 25 touchdowns against three interceptions for a passer rating of 120.1, tops in the NFL.
Even though Rodgers has the highest YPA in the league, a lot of that is YAC. Per Pro Football Focus, just 8.3 percent of his attempts have gone 20+ yards downfield. That ranks 34th in the NFL.
Rodgers’ favorite target is Jordy Nelson. Nelson has 56 catches for 889 yards and eight touchdowns. Randall Cobb, meanwhile, is having an excellent season in his own right with 44 catches for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s produced 13 catches of 20+ yards, tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Nelson and Cobb have accounted for more than 63 percent of Green Bay’s receiving yards.
The Packers rank fifth in passing efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
Eagles coaches deserve a ton of credit for the improvement in passing defense. They suddenly rank ninth against the pass, per Football Outsiders. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 57.2 percent of their passes against the Birds. That’s the second-best mark in the NFL. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher will start at cornerback. Fletcher has played some of his best football as an Eagle in recent weeks. Brandon Boykin could see plenty of snaps in this one depending on how Green Bay deploys its personnel. And Nolan Carroll will continue to get on the field in dime.
At safety, Malcolm Jenkins has been great. Nate Allen will have to play with discipline, tackle well and stay cautious on passes over the top.
While the secondary has improved, the main reason for the Eagles’ success against the pass has been the rush. Barwin is tied for second in the NFL with 10.5 sacks. He’s not always the first guy at the quarterback, but rushes with discipline and has shown the ability to clean up and finish. Don’t be surprised if Barwin spies Rodgers at times to reduce his ability to make plays outside the pocket.
Both Cole and Graham have also been very good rushing the passer.
Cox has been disruptive every week and got his first sack of the season against Carolina. Vinny Curry has found a role as an interior pass-rusher, and Kendricks has been great as a blitzer.
The Packers start rookie Corey Linsley at center, but otherwise this is an experienced group. Bryan Bulaga starts at right tackle, and second-year player David Bakhtiari gets the nod at left tackle. He’s started 25 straight games. Veterans Josh Sitton (LG) and T.J. Lang (RG) start at the guard spots. They are dealing with toe and ankle injuries, respectively.
The Eagles will need to find ways to make Rodgers hold the ball, and when they get close, they have to finish. Rodgers is capable of making plays inside and outside the pocket.
SPECIAL TEAMS, ETC.
The Eagles continue to have the best special teams unit in the league. Darren Sproles is averaging 17.0 yards per punt return, tops in the league. He’s the only player who’s scored twice on punt returns. The Packers rank 15th on special teams.
Green Bay has scored touchdowns on 34 percent of its offensive drives. That’s the top mark in the league.
The Packers have produced turnovers on 17.7 percent of their defensive possessions, third-best. But opponents are averaging 6.51 plays per drive against them; that’s the second-worst mark in the league.
The Eagles have turned it over on 17.5 percent of their offensive possessions (30th).
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the game on FOX. Erin Andrews will be the sideline reporter. The Eagles are six-point underdogs, according to Bovada.