Five on the Packers
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It’s not quite literal but in a practical sense, Monday’s game between the Eagles and the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field is a game that in many ways can almost be considered a playoff eliminator.
Mired in a rare four-game losing streak, the Packers, who haven’t had a losing season since Aaron Rodgers’ first as a starter in 2008 and just two dating all the way back to Brett Favre’s arrival in 1992, are currently buried in third place in the NFC North but a run of the table would ensure yet another division title for a team used to success.
The Eagles, meanwhile, although in last place in the East, still have three divisional games games at the Linc where they are 4-0 this season and allowing just 9.5 points per game so winning out game and stealing one of the remaining two road games (at Cincinnati or at Baltimore) would likely garner a wild card in Philly.
The margin or error is virtually gone for both teams, though, and while each still has the opportunity to turn this thing around, it either begins or ends on Monday night.
Here’s what you need to know about the Packers:
A-ROD IS STILL A-ROD
Make no mistake, no matter what you’ve heard, Rodgers is the best QB Jim Schwartz’s defense will see all season.
While his numbers are slightly down from his typical fare, Rodgers will still bring 25 touchdowns against seven interceptions and a 96.0 passer rating to South Philadelphia for Monday night’s game, numbers most quarterbacks would give their first born for. In short, his “slumps” are Pro Bowl seasons for others.
In his past five games, Rodgers has heated up, tossing 15 TDs versus three picks while throwing for over 300 yards a game with a completion percentage north of 66 percent despite lacking any semblance of a consistent running game and being asked to drop back far too often.
And the Eagles are aware of what’s in store for them.
“He’s still playing at a high level,” star safety Malcolm Jenkins said when discussing Rodgers. “They’re not necessarily getting the results they want in wins, but if you take the scoreboard off of the tape and you just watch the game, their offense is still moving the ball, still putting up points.”
While the Eagles continue to mull sitting the disappointing Nelson Agholor in favor of the unproven Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner, the Packers, as usual, have a host of receiving threats, boasting three different options with 500-or-more yards.
That trio is Rodgers’ favorite target, Jordy Nelson, as well as Davante Adams and slot star Randall Cobb, who have 663, 663 and 517 receiving yards, respectively, and 18 total TDs with Nelson contributing nine to that total.
Schwartz loves to make teams one dimensional and that doesn't figure to be an issue against the Packers, who have been a disaster trying to run the football since losing Eddie Lacy to an ankle injury back on Oct. 20.
Without Lacy, Rodgers is actually the leading rusher on this team and has the only three rushing TDs Green Bay has amassed all season. Veteran James Starks is back from injury and that should help but he picked up only 25 yards in Washington last week.
NOT SO ‘DOM-INATING’
The biggest problems in “Titletown” have been with just how offensive Dom Capers’ defense has been by allowing 153 points during their four-game skid, an average of 38.3 points per game, and the first time since 1953 that a Packers’ defense has allowed 30-or more points in four consecutive games.
And the disappointment has been growing incrementally as the last two weeks have been plus-40 outings for the opposition as Marcus Mariota and Tennessee rung up 47 on Nov. 13 and a week later, it was Kirk Cousins and Washington piling up 42.
The biggest problems are on the back end. Both of Green Bay’s starting cornerbacks -- Sam Shields and Damarious Randall -- have been lost to injury and Demetri Goodson joined them against Washington when he left with a knee injury.
The Eagles’ offense, meanwhile, has not topped 24 points since right tackle Lane Johnson left the lineup due to his PED suspension back in early October and needs a breakthrough against this group.
Maybe it’s the chicken of the injuries in their secondary or the egg of the front being somewhat productive but the Packers have been solid defending the run, surrendering just 91.1 yards per game.
Ryan Mathews has already been ruled out with a knee injury for the Eagles, meaning Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood will have to carry the load against a solid base 3-4 unit of Kenny Clark, Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels.
973espn.com Prediction: I’ve always described Rodgers’ greatness in this fashion: Green Bay is the only team in football you hope that runs its offense. In other words, if it’s 3rd-and-7 and Mike McCarthy dials up a slant, you want the Pack to run the play and stop Nelson before he gets to the sticks because if Rodgers breaks contain and extends the play, you might as well look to the sky because the other shoe is dropping in the form of a big play.
That said, the Eagles have been lights out this season at the Linc so look for them to find a way. Eagles 27, Packers 24
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen