There won’t be any fans at Lambeau Field on Sunday. But that won’t make things much easier for the 3-7-1 Eagles. The Packers are 11-2 at Lambeau under Matt LaFleur. Aaron Rodgers is 75-19-1 at Lambeau with a 108.2 career passer rating and a plus-174 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential there.
Here is a breakdown of Sunday’s game and a look at what the Eagles have to do to pull off an upset:
When the Eagles run
The Eagles ran the ball just 14 times against Seattle, and five of them (for 42 yards) were by Carson Wentz. Running backs Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Corey Clement combined for 29 yards on nine carries. Just four of the Eagles’ 24 first-down plays were run plays. Much of the reluctance to run the ball has had to do with the struggles of the Eagles’ injury-ravaged offensive line, which has started 10 combinations in 11 games. The Eagles are third in the league in rush average (5.0), and Sanders is third individually in rush average (5.56), behind only the Browns’ Nick Chubb (6.2) and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (5.58).
But the Eagles are 29th in rush attempts per game (23.2) and 31st in run-play percentage (35.1). The Eagles had more than 23 rush attempts in just three of their last seven games. The Eagles ran the ball effectively against the Packers last year. They rushed for 176 yards on 33 carries. Jordan Howard had 15-87. Sanders had 11-72. Ninety-nine of their 159 yards were with 12- and 13-personnel.
The Packers aren’t particularly good against the run. They’re 25th in opponent rush average (5.0). In their three losses to the Colts, Vikings and Bucs, they gave up a total of 471 rushing yards. In their last three games, they allowed 4.9 yards per carry.
When the Eagles throw
Wentz was sacked six more times Monday, bringing his league-high total to 46. In the last eight games, he was under pressure on 40.8% of his drop-backs. The problems are a combination of poor protection, receivers who aren’t getting separation, and Wentz’s own poor decision-making. Wentz has a league-high 15 interceptions and threw red-zone picks in each of the last two games after throwing just two in his previous 65 career starts. He has struggled with the short-to-intermediate passes, which, in past years, was a strength. He has a career-low 67.3 completion percentage with seven interceptions on 0- to 10-yard throws. Last year, he had a 74.3 completion percentage with just one interception.
Wentz attempted just 27 passes against the Packers last year. The Eagles are hoping to get tight end Zach Ertz back. He missed the last five games because of an ankle injury. If he can play, it will be the first time that Wentz has had both Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field together since the third week of the season.
The Packers this season have given up 20 touchdown passes, 12th-most in the league. They have only seven interceptions (eighth fewest). Linebacker Za’Darius Smith is one of the league’s better edge-rushers. He has nine sacks and 35 total quarterback pressures. No one else on the defense has more than 2½ sacks.
When the Packers run
Jim Schwartz said this week that the Packers run the ball “sneakingly well.” It was an apt description. While Aaron Rodgers and the passing game grab the bulk of the headlines, this isn’t a pass-happy offense. Matt LaFleur believes in balance. The Packers are 10th in the league in run-play percentage (43.6) and are 13th in rushing attempts (27.6 per game). They are 10th in rushing (121.9) and 10th in rush average (4.4).
Aaron Jones is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The fourth-year back from Texas-El Paso is a compact inside/outside runner who is quicker than he is fast. He has the third-best first-down rushing average (5.51) in the league, behind only the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook (5.68) and Chubb (6.45).
The Eagles are 24th in run defense (128.2). But that number is misleading. Thirty-six percent of the rushing yards they’ve given up have been to quarterbacks and wide receivers. They’ve held opposing running backs to 3.5 yards per carry, though they gave up a 16-yard TD run to Chris Carson on Monday night and a 54-yard run to Chubb the week before. The Eagles are the second-most run-on defense in the league this season (31.4 rushing attempts per game). They were the least-run-on defense three of the previous four years. Their last four opponents averaged 35.2 rush attempts against them.
When the Packers throw
Rodgers is having one of the best seasons of his career in his second year in LaFleur’s system. He leads the NFL in passing (117.6), has a league-high 33 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, and has been sacked just 11 times. He’s getting the ball out fast. His snap-to-release average has dropped from 2.74 seconds last year to 2.50 this year. He’s been under pressure on just 22.9% of his drop-backs.
Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, who spent Monday night matched up with the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf, won’t get a break Sunday. He’ll travel with Davante Adams, who had 10 catches for 180 yards in little more than a half-game of work against the Eagles last year, He has 74 receptions on 99 targets. His 74.7 catch rate is far and away the best of his career. He’s tied for second in the league in touchdown catches with 11.
Third-year tight end Robert Tonyan is having a breakout season. Tonyan, who had a total of 14 catches in his first two NFL seasons, has 37 this year, including seven for touchdowns. The Eagles have given up six TD catches to tight ends this season, but just one in the last seven games. The Eagles are tied for second in sacks with 36. They’ve given up the third-fewest touchdown passes (14) in the league, and have allowed just one in the last four games. They are ninth in passing yards allowed (210.7) and have given up an average of 175.8 in the last four games. They haven’t allowed 300 passing yards in a game since Week 4.
Jake Elliott is 11-for-15 on field goal attempts and has made three in a row, from 40, 43, and 42 yards, since his 29-yard, Week 7 miss against the Giants. He had his first missed PAT of the season against Seattle. He’s 14-for-15. He missed two last year (37 attempts) and two in 2018 (35). Punter Cam Johnston is fourth in gross average (48.9) and eighth in net average (42.4). Thirty-four of his 50 punts have been returned. The Eagles are 11th in punt coverage (7.1).
Dave Fipp hasn’t gotten much out of his return game this season. Punt returner Greg Ward has sure hands, but isn’t going to break many for big gains, and there isn’t a lot of trust yet in Jalen Reagor’s sure-handedness. The Eagles are 22nd in punt-return average (6.4) and 24th in kick-return average (20.0).
The Packers’ coverage units aren’t very good. They’re 31st in punt coverage (15.2). Packers kicker Mason Crosby is one of just two kickers in the league who haven’t missed yet. He’s 13-for-13. Punter J,K. Scott is 25th in net average (36.3). The Packers’ return game has been even less productive than the Eagles’. They’re 26th in punt-return average (5.6) and dead last in kickoff-return average (17.7).
It’s all about the quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers’ passer rating is 44.2 points better than Wentz’s right now. And he’s playing at Lambeau, where he’s lost just 19 of 95 starts and has a 108.2 career passer rating.
Packers 27, Eagles 16
Eagles OTs Jordan Mailata and Jack Driscoll vs. Packers LB Za’Darius Smith. Smith lines up on the left and right pretty evenly. Mailata and Driscoll both show promise, but have a combined seven NFL starts. ADVANTAGE: Packers
Eagles CB Darius Slay vs. Packers WR Davante Adams. Out of the frying pan and into the fire for Slay. Adams has 74 catches, including 23 on third down. ADVANTAGE: Packers
Eagles C Jason Kelce vs. Packers NT Kenny Clark. Kelce, who struggled against Seattle, needs to control Clark inside to give the Eagles a chance in both the run and pass game. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Keys to the game
Third-down defense. The Packers have the fourth-best third-down success rate in the league (48.5). Forty-eight of Aaron Rodgers’ 101 third-down pass attempts (47.5%) have resulted in first downs. But Schwartz’s defense has been very good on third down, holding opponents to a 30% success rate in the last six games.
Run the ball. The Eagles’ ground game was one of the keys to their win over the Packers last year at Lambeau. This year, they are third in rush average, yet are averaging the fourth-fewest rushing attempts in the league. In the loss to Seattle, the Eagles ran the ball 14 times. Just four of their 24 first-down plays against Seattle were run plays. That can’t happen Sunday.
Ball security. The Eagles won the turnover battle (plus-2) in last year’s Week 4 win over the Packers. Chances of that happening again Sunday are between slim and none. The Packers have just nine giveaways, third- fewest in the league. Rodgers has the second-best interception percentage in NFL history and is going up against a defense that has a league-low three picks. But if the Eagles can just avoid any of their own turnovers, if Wentz can play what would be just his second turnover-free game of the season, it would increase their odds of pulling off a Lambeau upset.