PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Prove It

The Packers haven’t beaten anybody.  That’s something that you’ll hear on a regular basis.  I’d tend to disagree.  I think that the Dolphins are a couple plays away from being 8-2 and beating them on the road was a heck of a win.  With that said, it’s true.  The combined record of the teams Green Bay has beaten is 18-29-1.  That’s not great.  There is no guarantee that Green Bay has even beaten a playoff team yet.  Miami appears to be on the outside looking in at the AFC playoffs, and it would take a pretty serious collapse from the Saints for the Panthers to make the postseason in the NFC.  I would say that the best 3 teams the Packers have played have all been faced on the road, and all 3 times Green Bay has faltered.

This Sunday is a chance to right all of those wrongs.  The Philadelphia Eagles come flying in (see what I did there?) at 7-2, leading the NFC East.  According to Football Outsiders, there’s an 85.9% chance that Philadelphia qualifies for this year’s postseason.  This is a good test for the Packers and this time it comes at home.  Green bay is 4-0 at Lambeau Field and just 2-3 in road contests.  The team is averaging a staggering 41.5 points per game on their home turf.  Philadelphia comes into town with a competent defense, but an offense that is largely overrated because of head coach Chip Kelly’s reputation.

Green Bay is favored by a touchdown in most places that you can place a wager and that seems about right.  This season, despite the big names and sterling reputation, the Philadelphia Eagles are only 17th on offense according to Football Outsider’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. They are 20th running the football, even with star RBs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.  A lot of that can be credited to an injury epidemic on the offensive line, but Todd Herremans is now on the injured reserve and center Jason Kelce is playing poorly.  All world guard Evan Mathis is back, though so brighter days may be ahead.  This is a big game for potential playoff seeding and tiebreakers, so we’ll see how the Packers do against a good team on the home turf.

Why the Packers Will Win- Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.  In the games that Rodgers has been healthy enough to both start and finish since the Super Bowl XLV run, the Packers are 32-2.  That is a staggering number.  He’s thrown 26 TDs at Lambeau Field since his last home interception, which although I can’t remember it I’m only assuming glanced off his receiver’s hands.  Philadelphia certainly has a better defense than Chicago and Minnesota, but is it going to be good enough to hold the Packers under 35 points? I don’t really think so.  On offense you might see the Packers eschew running the football and replacing that idea with short passes and screens.  The Eagles are very good up front, including solid play from Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox, but their secondary is weak.  Should the offensive line hold up, this could be a very big game for #12.

Defensively is where Green Bay is going to win this game.  In a home contest, the defense knows that it basically has to defend a 30 point performance by the offense.  Keep the opponent under 30 and you’re going home with a “W”.  There is quite a bit of trepidation about Philadelphia’s running game, but as I’ve stated, they can’t really run the ball.  Yes Evan Mathis returned last week, and he actually played really well.  Despite his playing well the Eagles ran the ball for 1.6 yards a carry.  There is also trepidation about the soft underbelly of the Packers’ defense.  Sproles and Ertz and Celek are going to run wild, they say!  The Packers get killed by backs and tight ends they say! Here’s the thing though, Brad Jones has been replaced by Clay Matthews.  MD Jennings has been replaced by HaHa Clinton-Dix.  Andy Mulumba and Frank Zombo are not trying to get pressure on Mark Sanchez, Julius Peppers is.  This isn’t your classic Packers defense.  It’s your classic Packers defense if you’re playing Drew Brees in the SuperDome without Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields and Datone Jones.  But with the Packers defense at full strength and CM3 at ILB, Mark Sanchez at Lambeau Field is not #9 in Louisiana.

Why the Eagles Will Win- they have a chance.  They’ve won in Lambeau Field as recently as last season.  Granted, that was against Scott Tolzien but they won the game.  LeSean McCoy is still LeSean McCoy.  Darren Sproles scores basically every time he laces em’ up against the Packers (though he seems to lose every time).  The Eagles might have just enough defense, and just enough offense to keep this close and possibly have the Packers’ shortcomings on special teams (and there are some) decide this game.

The Packers do not need to respect Mark Sanchez on the read looks in the run game.  Not only that, but they don’t have Clay Matthews on the edge to over-pursue those read looks.  With that said, this is still the Packers run defense and that Eagles line still has Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce.  Mike Pennel and Letroy Guion are going to need to play well on Sunday for Green Bay to continue the running woes of the Eagles.  If they play poorly the Eagles offensive line and running game could snap right back to life.  The worst case scenario for the Packers defense in any situation is to get down and have their pass rushers neutralized.  The best case, and I think the most likely case is that at some point Mark Sanchez is going to have to catch up to Aaron Rodgers by throwing the ball.  If the Eagles can control the line of scrimmage they have a chance to win the game.

Fantasy Packer to Start- Davante Adams- I’m back on the Davante bandwagon.  #1 CB Bradley Fletcher is a decent player.  So is nickelback Brandon Boykin.  #2 CB Cary Williams is not a decent player.  Since coming over from Baltimore after their Super Bowl run, he has been abysmal.  If the Eagles do what I would do and cover Nelson with Fletcher, Cobb with Boykin, I would watch Davante Adams undress Cary Williams play after play after play.

Fantasy Packer to Sit- Packers Defense- The packers D/ST has been a very useful unit this fantasy season.  They’ve been especially useful at home.  In standard scoring, the defense has provided 3, 22, 6 and 17 points for players this season.  It’s certainly possible that a Mark Sanchez turnover turns directly into fantasy points, but I’m not rolling those dice.  Keep your eye on the Green Bay D/ST for the fantasy playoffs.  Their week 14-16 matchups against Atlanta, Buffalo, and Tampa should be very helpful.

Bottom Line- this is a chance, at home, for the Packers to establish themselves as a contender in the NFC.  I’ve written before that I don’t necessarily care how the Packers get in to the playoffs, as long as they get in, there’s always a chance at a title.  Guess what, kids?   If the season ended today the Packers would not qualify for the post season.  I obviously want Green Bay to win every game they play. but this one matters.  It matters for the playoff race, and it matters so that I know how good this team is.  If Green Bay can put Philadelphia down, they go into Minneapolis for an easy one.  If they go into the Patriots game at Lambeau Field at 8-3, that’s going to be an exciting time for everyone. At the end of the day with all other things being pretty equal on these teams, (Green Bay’s rush D is bad, but Philly’s pass D isn’t great either) it comes down to whether or not you believe that Mark Sanchez can beat Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay with a lot on the line in November.  Could he beat Scott Tolizen? Sure.  Can he beat #12? I don’t think so.  Green Bay 38 Eagles 27

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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