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Eagle Eye: Eagles-Packers Predictions
Eagles (4-5) at Packers (5-3)
1 p.m., FOX
Packers favored by 1
After failing to score a touchdown in their previous two games, the Eagles’ offense exploded last Sunday in a 49-20 rout of the Raiders in Oakland.
Much thanks of Nick Foles, who tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes while throwing for 406 yards and throwing fewer incompletions (six) than touchdowns. And he didn’t even play the fourth quarter.
Will Foles repeat history Sunday against Green Bay? Probably not, but he’ll get his chance as Michael Vick’s hamstring is keeping him hamstrung for another week.
Here are five things you'll want to know before Sunday’s kickoff:
1. Where do they rank?
Offense: 413.2 yards per game (4th), 265.3 passing (10th), 147.9 rushing (4th)
Defense: 419.3 yards per game (32nd), 307.6 passing (32nd), 111.8 rushing (14th)
Turnovers: 15 takeaways (T-11th), 14 giveaways (T-17th), plus-1 differential (T-12th)
Offense: 423 yards per game (2nd), 274.4 passing (6th), 148.6 rushing (3rd)
Defense: 345 yards per game (15th), 250.5 passing (20th), 94.5 rushing (5th)
Turnovers: 7 takeaways (T-28th), 10 giveaways (T-5th), minus-3 differential (T-21st)
For the most part, the Eagles’ offense has been disappointing under Chip Kelly. It started out with a bang in the first two weeks before cooling off considerably over the next six games.
The Birds don’t have any trouble moving the ball. Kelly’s unit averages the fourth-most yards per game (413.2) and fourth-most rushing yards per game (147.9), but scoring is the problem.
Numbers can be deceiving, as the Eagles score 25 points per game. But, take away last week’s 49-point effort and that number drops a full three points. And the Eagles’ red-zone efficiency is putrid, ranking 26th in the league (48.2 percent).
Green Bay’s offense is one of the league’s elite units, and it has been for quite a while under Mike McCarthy. It helps to have one of the best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, though he’s out approximately 4-6 weeks with a broken collarbone.
Still, the Packers have multiple threats at receiver (Jordy Nelson, James Jones) and they’ve added a new weapon to their arsenal: a rushing attack, something they haven’t had a lot of in McCarthy’s pass-happy offense.
The Packers have the third-best running game in the NFL with rookie Eddie Lacy and James Starks, averaging 148.6 yards. Quite a turnaround from last season when Green Bay averaged 106.4 yards, 20th in the NFL.
2. Two tight ends
Helping Foles perfect his Peyton Manning impression last Sunday were the Eagles’ tight ends, who finally contributed in the passing game.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for 10 targets, eight catches, 69 yards and two touchdowns against Oakland. It was the most combined targets, catches and touchdowns by Eagles tight ends this season.
Mostly, Celek and Ertz have been involved in blocking. But that changed against the Raiders.
“We’ve got plays where they’re first or second in the progression," Shurmur said earlier this week (see story). “And then there were plays in the [Oakland] game when they caught the ball when they were third or fourth in the progression. It’s just the way the game flows.”
Ertz, a rookie drafted in the second round out of Stanford, has been more involved the past few weeks as he’s gotten more acclimated to the offense. He missed some of OTAs and minicamps because of a graduation rule.
Now, he’s starting to produce more on the field. In the last four weeks, the 22-year-old has been targeted six, five, three, and six times, respectively, with three, three, one, and five catches. His touchdown last week was the first of his career.
Kelly’s offense came in to the NFL advertised as tight end-happy, but for the most part, the tight ends haven’t been involved much in the passing game. Can the Eagles get similar production from the tight ends on Sunday to last week?
They’ll have a chance against a Packers defense that surrenders 5.5 catches and 64.8 yards per game to tight ends. In eight games, tight ends have scored five touchdowns against Green Bay’s defense.
3. Get DeSean the ball
In games this year in which DeSean Jackson has more than 100 receiving yards the Eagles are 3-1 and have scored at least 30 points in each game. Their only loss came in Week 2 against the Chargers, a three-point defeat that could have gone the Eagles' way.
Jackson exploded for 150 yards on five catches and a touchdown in Oakland. He was targeted just six times, whereas in his other 100-yard games he was targeted at least nine times.
Most of Jackson’s success this season has come on first down. Twenty-four of his 50 catches, 499 of his 823 yards and three of his six TDs have come on first down.
He’s only 177 yards away from his first 1,000-yard receiving season since 2010. There are still seven games remaining on the schedule, including Sunday’s matchup with Green Bay.
In one career regular-season game against Green Bay, Jackson caught four passes for 30 yards. That was 2010, and he added two catches and 47 yards in the Eagles’ 21-16 playoff loss to the Packers that season.
4. Lock up Lacy
With Seneca Wallace starting for the Packers, Lacy will be heavily relied upon against the Eagles. And he’ll be tough to contain.
Lacy (5-11/230) missed the Packers’ third game after suffering a concussion in Week 2 on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, but has since carried Green Bay’s rushing game.
The 23-year-old has averaged 23.8 carries, 108.6 rushing yards and 6.5 yards per reception since Week 5. Last week, on Monday Night Football against the Bears, Lacy torched Chicago’s defense for 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 rushes.
On the season, Lacy has 596 rushing yards on 134 carries and four rushing touchdowns, three of which have come in his last three games. Only two games this year has Lacy gone without a reception -- when he got hurt against Washington and last week.
His former teammate at Alabama, Damion Square, will be part of the Eagles’ defensive line that will attempt to slow Lacy down, which the Eagles must do to beat Green Bay (see story).
“Somehow, some way, he sees the lanes and can hit it with burst,” Square said. “He hits it at the right time. He can put his foot down and pick up speed. In one second, he’s a guy who can accelerate and hit a high speed.
“I can’t see him busting an 80-yard run, but he’s very, very powerful for 40 [yards]. He’s very, very powerful for 20 [yards]. He’s a guy who’s very patient in the gap, and a guy who has a spin move that I haven’t seen out of anybody that I’ve played football with.”
The Eagles had trouble stopping the run against the Raiders. Oakland ran for 210 yards, including 102 from backup RB Rashad Jennings and 94 from quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Jennings was the first 100-yard rusher against the Eagles this year.
If the Eagles come out of Lambeau with a win, the run defense likely will have played a big role.
5. This and that
• Lacy isn’t the only back the Eagles have to worry about. Change of pace back Starks has 284 yards and four touchdowns on 47 rushing attempts this year. He has four rushes of 20-plus yards and is averaging six yards per carry.
Oh, Eagles fans will remember his performance against them in the 2010 playoffs, when he ran for 123 yards on 23 carries.
• Clay Matthews is expected to return to play for the Packers. That’s bad news for Foles. In his only regular-season game against the Eagles, Matthews had seven tackles, three sacks and gave then-starting quarterback Kevin Kolb a concussion.
• In 10 games, Foles has nine completions of at least 40 yards. He has more deep ball connections than Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning (see story).
• Foles is averaging 244.8 yards in his four starts. He has 10 touchdown passes as a starter and three as a backup. He has 13 touchdowns and no interceptions on the season. Only Peyton Manning started the season with that many TDs and no picks.
• Green Bay converts on 43.4 percent of its third downs, fifth-best in the NFL. (Though that was with Rodgers.) The Eagles are tied for 13th at 40 percent.
• The Eagles have held their opposition to 21 or fewer points in five straight games. The Packers have scored 21 points or fewer just twice this season.
• Only twice this season have the Packers not had a 100-yard receiver. Nelson was the team’s leading receiver both weeks -- 93 yards in Week 3 vs. the Bengals and 67 last week against the Bears.
• Injury Report: For the Eagles, QB Michael Vick (hamstring) and LB Jake Knott (hamstring) are doubtful; Bradley Fletcher (pectoral) is questionable; and Damaris Johnson (ankle), Chris Polk (shoulder, knee), Patrick Chung (Shoulder), Julian Vandervelde (Knee), Jason Peters (pectoral, shoulder), Cedric Thornton (knee) are all probable. For the Packers, QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) is out; LB Andy Mulumba (ankle) and OG T.J. Lang (concussion) are questionable; and NT Ryan Pickett (knee), LB Clay Matthews (thumb) and DE Mike Neal (knee) are all probable.
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