The Green Bay Packers are staring down a Sunday Night Football matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles that will have massive implications on Green Bay’s playoff hopes. To help us break down the upcoming game, Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation — our sister site covering the Eagles — stopped by Acme Packing Company to answer a few questions about Philadelphia’s football team.
The Eagles have the best record in the league but have had back-to-back disappointing performances against the Washington Commanders and Indianapolis Colts. What happened?
The Eagles’ defense was a huge problem for the first 2.5 quarters of the Commanders game. They repeatedly failed to get third down stops, allowing Washington to sustain long, clock-eating scoring drives. Jonathan Gannon’s preference to eliminate big plays and instead challenge teams to go without making a mistakes on a given drive can have success. But it wasn’t the right away to attack Taylor Heinicke, who doesn’t mind playing small ball. The Eagles should’ve challenged him to make more plays down the field with his subpar arm. They eventually adjusted but the damage had been done. The Eagles were not aided by an offense that turned the ball over three times and went three-and-out in a couple key spots.
After the Eagles’ first loss, there was a lot of talk about their poor defense. Which wasn’t totally unwarranted, given how they ranked 28th in run defense DVOA. But it’s also not like they got killed by the Commanders’ game; they allowed a long run of 11 and 3.1 yards per carry. The problem is that they didn’t create enough negative run plays to knock the Commanders off schedule, instead allowing for a lot of 3rd-and-manageable situations.
The Eagles decided to address their defensive interior by signing not only Linval Joseph but Ndamukong Suh as well. These vets made an instant impact in Philly’s win over Indy. Jonathan Taylor started strong on the Colts’ opening drive (7 carries for 49 yards and 1 TD) but was shut down the rest of the way (15 carries for 35 yards). Gannon’s unit rebounded nicely, allowing just 16 points. And six of those came from two field goals set up by Philly turnovers.
After taking care of the ball so well for most of the season, the Eagles have five giveaways (six if you include Week 10 garbage time) in their last two games. The Birds were bound to regress in that category at some point.
But it’s not like bad luck is solely to blame for the Eagles’ offensive struggles. Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen were uncharacteristically bad in Week 11. They made a lot of perplexing decisions when it came to play calls, personnel usage, and game management. It was really odd to see considering how sharp they’ve been for most of the season.
Do you expect those issues to continue down the stretch?
I don’t expect the Eagles to continue to turn the ball over multiple times per week.
I don’t expect Sirianni and Steichen to continue to turn in poor coaching performances.
I do expect the offense to have some issues with Dallas Goedert being out. He’s such a great player and there’s a big drop off to what the Eagles have at tight end behind him. The team really misses him as a super efficient target.
I do expect the defense to frustrate by allowing some long drives. Gannon’s unit got absolutely picked apart by non-awful quarterbacks last year. They allowed five quarterbacks to complete over 80% of their passes, which is just insane. Obviously the defense has been better this year. But they also haven’t been tested by the best and brightest passers. These are the quarterbacks the Eagles have faced:
The Eagles don’t exactly face a murderer’s row of quarterbacks down the stretch. But Rodgers and Dak Prescott will be among the top they take on this year.
Who do you fear in the NFC and why are the Minnesota Vikings massive frauds who are getting lucky in close games this season?
So, I obviously don’t think the Eagles are unbeatable. Especially in their current state. But I wouldn’t really say I “fear” anyone in the NFC. The Cowboys and 49ers jump out as the bigger threats from the field. I’d rank them very closely, perhaps with San Francisco ahead in part due to how they’ve actually proven the ability to win in the playoffs. The Cowboys with Mike McCarthy, not so much. You just know he’s going to screw up in a high leverage moment.
I’m glad you asked this question about the Vikings. I have long not been a Kirk Cousins guy. While everyone was getting caught up in his empty stat-stuffing, I was early to point out his lack of success against teams with winning records. Cousins regularly wilts in big games so there’s really no reason to be afraid of them going on a deep playoff run. That and their one-score game luck is going to run out at some point.
What do you expect this game to look like on Sunday?
I expect the Eagles to get A.J. Brown more involved. He saw 8.6 targets per game through the first eight games. Over the last two weeks? Just 5.5 targets per game. Brown is too good not to be a huge part of the offense, especially with Dallas Goedert out. It’s been nearly a month since he’s truly taken over a game. The Birds could use another big performance from him.
Aided by a big day from Brown, I see Jalen Hurts playing well in this one. I mean, if Ryan Tannehill can throw for 333 yards against this Packers defense, why can’t Hurts have success through the air?
The Eagles should be able to turn in an efficient rushing performance as well. Their offensive line should have an advantage going up against the Packers’ defensive front. Philly should really be able to win in the trenches on both sides of the ball, which makes me feel like they’ll win the game.
The Eagles haven’t been good at covering the spread lately but I’ll take them to do it here.
The Packers are averaging just 13.6 points per game on the road this year. Contrast that to their 20.7 points per game at home.
Green Bay’s highest road point total is 21. And seven of those points came on a pick-six. Their highest road offensive point total is 17. And seven of those points were scored in garbage time!
The Eagles’ lowest home point total, meanwhile, is 21. They’re averaging 27 points per game at Lincoln Financial Field. They’re also allowing just 18 points per game at home.
And so the Packers winning this game would require them to turn in their best road performance of the year with the Eagles being uncharacteristically bad at home. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility but it’s hard to say it’s a likely outcome.
Given how the Packers REALLY need this game at stay alive, perhaps it’s a competitive one that goes down to the wire. But I’m betting on the Birds to bounce back and win comfortably.
Final score: 24 to 16.