Three-And-Out: Eagles-Packers Predictions


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

Player I’ll be watching

McManus: Mark Sanchez

Sanchez posted a clean stat sheet in his first start as an Eagle, going 20-of-37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. As you may have heard this week, Monday’s game marked the first time in his career that he threw for over 300 yards without tossing an interception. 

Now onto frigid Lambeau Field, where an opportunistic Packers defense awaits. Sunday’s forecast in Green Bay calls for a high of 29 degrees and a low of 14 with a chance of early snow showers and winds at 14 miles per hour. Sanchez has never played at Lambeau but the former Jets signal-caller has plenty of experience in cold-weather games. He also has large 10 1/2- inch paws, or as Howie Roseman described them to us, “Big hands to play in the cold weather.”

He’ll need every edge he can get. The Packers rank second in the NFC with 18 takeaways. Nine different players on Dom Caper‘s defense have at least one interception on the season.

“This defense is one of the best at forcing turnovers,” said Sanchez. “They’re an unselfish group. They don’t care who makes the play and they have 11 guys that can make a play. We need to be real sharp.”

A big test for Sanchez.

Kapadia: LeSean McCoy

The mood of some of the central figures responsible for making the Eagles’ offense successful has been fascinating to observe this week.

It started late Monday night when I approached Jason Kelce at his locker after the game. The Eagles’ starting center explained that he was frustrated with the offense’s inability to run the ball, even though the team had just hammered the Carolina Panthers, 45-21.

The next day, Chip Kelly was quick to point out that the offense didn’t play well at all. And on Thursday, McCoy had to stand at the podium and answer the same old questions about how defenses are scheming to stop him.

The run game is the lifeblood of this squad. It’s the identity of any team coached by Kelly. And the excuses for why the run game ranks 20th no longer hold much weight. The bottom line is McCoy, the offensive line and Kelly need to work together to get the ground attack back on track. The passing game works a lot better when play-action is a factor and the quarterback can get favorable looks.

Clay Matthews playing inside linebacker will be a factor, but this should be a defense the Eagles can run against.

Over/under: 90 rushing yards for LeSean McCoy — Whaddya got?

McManus: That’s the amount of yards per game McCoy is averaging since Lane Johnson returned from suspension in Week 5. I’ll say he finishes a bit under that number.

This looks like a favorable matchup for McCoy on paper, as the Packers are ranked 30th against the run, yielding 143 yards per game. He went off for 155 against this team last year. But, as McCoy said this week, “None of that matters. That was last year and this last team we played [Carolina] was a terrible run defense too, so I don’t look at that any more — and I had 19 yards. You can’t really go by how they are against the run.”

To his point, some opposing defenses have gone away from their tendencies and are selling out to shut the Eagles’ ground game down. I’m guessing Green Bay does the same, and McCoy finishes just below the 90-yard mark.

Kapadia: I’ll go with the over. Following up on what I said in the first section, Kelly, McCoy and the offensive line take it personally when they are not successful with the rushing attack.

Earlier this season, when the run game stalled, Kelly introduced a new play against the Giants that was a huge success. And before last week, McCoy was on a nice roll in his previous three.

The guess here is that Kelly could have a trick or two up his sleeve Sunday afternoon, and I expect McCoy to rack up 100+ yards at Lambeau.

Predictions

McManus: Packers 31, Eagles 27

While respect needs to be given to the 8-1 Cardinals and 7-2 Lions (along with, of course, the defending-champion Seahawks), I look at the Eagles and Packers as the top two powers in the NFC at the moment.

The Packers are blessed with one of the finest quarterbacks on Planet Earth in Aaron Rodgers, who has some nice weapons at his disposal. And as described above, Green Bay’s defense isn’t dominant but does generate turnovers. Good formula for success.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are just a real pain in the ass. They’ll scorch you on special teams and harass you with their defense. Then comes Kelly’s tempo offense, which turns the whole affair into a test of endurance and will power. I’d imagine playing them can be an overwhelming experience.

I’ll give the nod to the Packers. They are perfect at home (4-0) and I think the advantage in quarterback play will show up here. I would not be at all surprised, however, if these teams meet again come January. The race for homefield advantage will be an important one.

Kapadia: Packers 31, Eagles 30

We see this one pretty similarly, T-Mac. I’ve heard some suggest the Eagles don’t have a shot. I don’t see it that way at all. I think these are two pretty evenly matched teams, and it would not surprise me if the Birds came out on top.

Defensively, until the Eagles get run on, I’m going to assume they’ll be fine there. But Rodgers is on fire and can hurt defenses in a variety of ways. I’ve been impressed with the job Billy Davis and the other defensive coaches have done with the pass-rush. I think they’ll be able to pressure Rodgers, but he’s a master at escaping and hitting on plays downfield.

You can tell it’s been a strange season when we can legitimately say that it’s a lot easier to predict what the Eagles’ defense is going to do on a given week than the offense. I’m just not quite sure what to expect from Sanchez and company at this point.

I see a close game, but if Rodgers has the ball in his hands with a chance to win down the stretch, I have to give him the nod. Green Bay wins a close one.