If there's one thing Aaron Rodgers going down should remind Packers fans of, it's just how good we've had it, and not just with the quarterback, either. Perhaps no team illustrates that point more than the team coming to Lambeau this Sunday - the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Packers have been the mark of consistency and stability under Thompson and McCarthy, the Eagles have changed identities more often than Marcus Vick tweets something stupid. In just the last three years alone they've gone from a "Dream Team" of prized free agents, to a team playing for their coach on the plank and now to the Chip Kelly style of rapid-fire offense. The Packers philosophy might not be the sexiest, but it's an organization that knows who they are. That doesn't quite make up for the fact that your star quarterback's clavicle has a crack in it, but it's worth something.
As for this week, the Eagles come in after torching the Raiders - a team masquerading as an NFL franchise - last week. Can the now Aaron Rodgers-less Packers slow them down? Here are 5 things to watch.
Wallace and the passing game
The Seneca Wallace era starts this week (pardon me while I reach for a bottle of scotch) and the big question on everyone's mind is "can he make the throws?" Obviously, that's not the question you want to be asking about the guy responsible for, you know, throwing the football, but here we are. Last week the Bears played defense like Wallace didn't even have arms and until he makes a team pay for it, that's likely how most defenses will play. A whole week of preparation will certainly help Wallace to at least get his timing down, but ultimately, it will come down to him making at least some basic throws and playing smart to keep the Packers afloat. He doesn't have to be Aaron Rodgers, but they need Wallace to be much better this week than he was last.
McCarthy's game plan
There's been some who have thought for a while now that the greatness of Aaron Rodgers often covers up Mike McCarthy's coaching deficiencies. Well, it looks like we'll finally get to see what kind of coaching chops McCarthy really has. Certainly Seneca Wallace's success will come from him making accurate throws and reading progressions - stuff that McCarthy can't really impact. But what he can do is build a game plan that maximizes Wallace's strengths, while finding creative ways to make the offense still work. Whether that's running more unconventional plays or simply calling for some low-risk throws early to get Wallace's confidence up, Mike McCarthy will need a good strategy to keep the defense honest.
No one's really sure what to make of Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. One week the Eagles are racking up points and it looks like an innovative, game-changing approach. The next week they're flaming out and it looks like putting nitrous oxide on an 87' Cutlass Cierra. But despite the team's inconsistency, there's one threat opposing teams always have to account for - LeSean McCoy. Not only is McCoy the league's leading rusher, he's on pace to smash his career high in yards per reception, and should end the year with near his career high in catches. Because of that, the Packers will need to do everything they can to bottle him up because when McCoy does get into the open, he's one of the shiftiest, most elusive players in football. Basically, the dude is Nightcrawler.
Which defense shows up?
You get the feeling the 49ers or Seahawks could manage a win or two without their starting quarterback. But the Packers? That all depends which defense shows up. Will it be the one that was stuffing running backs and getting pressure and playing physical? Or the one that made Josh McCown look like Johnny Football? That's really the challenge for this defense in the upcoming stretch of games. Just like McCarthy will have to devise a new game plan based on not having Aaron Rodgers, (pardon me while I reach for a bottle of vodka) Dom Capers will have to prepare the defense for having more responsibility than ever. Finally having a solid ground game certainly helps, but for the first time in a long time, this Packers team will have to win with its defense.
Right side of the Offensive Line
The good thing about Seneca Wallace is that even though he's north of 30, the guy can move. This Sunday, he may have to do plenty of it. With the offensive line likely missing guard T.J. Lang due to a concussion, backup Marshall Newhouse will once again be slotted at right tackle while Don Barclay fills in at guard. Friggin' Barclay, man. I joked about it last week on Twitter, but I'm dead serious - I've called Barclay ‘Friggin' more times than ‘Don' this year. It's not that he's been awful (mostly) but if there's one weak link on the line, it's been him. Granted, he'll be playing out of position this week, but given his past performances, I'm not sure it matters, especially with Newhouse breathing down his neck and Derek Sherrod potentially just a few weeks away from getting playing time. If Barclay wants to keep his job, he'll have to play well regardless of his position.
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