Coming off a dominating 41-25 victory over the Chicago Bears last Sunday, you might assume it would be warranted to take a deep breath and kick your feet up. The Green Bay Packers will do the same thing to a struggling Philadelphia Eagles team this Sunday at Lambeau Field, right? I’m not using scare tactics: The Eagles are not a good football team. They haven’t scored more than 17 points in three weeks, Carson Wentz has been a mess at quarterback, and they haven’t won in over a month.
One constant positive with this Eagles team, however, has been the defense. They are another really stout unit Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have to face, quite the outlier for a three-win team in December. And it’s a defense with some studs up front that will try and force the issue against a solid Green Bay offensive line.
There just aren’t going to be positive narratives being spun and churned out when you’re in the midst of a 3-7-1 season, as the Eagles are. When you tack on the fact that the main source of blame is resting on head coach Doug Pederson and the right arm of Carson Wentz, who leads the league in interceptions and is in the middle of his worst season as a pro according to PFF, that’s rightfully all that will be talked about. Go ahead and add on the four-year, $128 million contract Wentz inked up after his rookie deal in 2019, and yes, the Eagles faithful is restless and pissed off.
All of that stirs up a recipe that makes it near impossible to take notice of what Jim Schwartz has this defense doing in Philadelphia. The Packers have put up back-to-back 30-plus point performances against two of the most highly regarded defenses in the NFL — the Bears and the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles haven’t allowed a team to put up 30-plus in five straight games. The last team to do so was the Baltimore Ravens back on Oct. 18. The Ravens jumped out to a 17-0 lead, and all three of those opening possessions started in Eagles territory. One was a result of a Wentz fumble. Yikes.
So how have the Eagles been a beacon of light on defense? The same way Schwartz has always done it: physicality. And this year, he’s been getting plenty of pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz too often.
The Eagles are second in the NFL in sacks, sitting at 36. They are able to do so with members of their front four accounting for exactly 50% of their total sacks.
Having a defensive front causing that kind of disruption, and not having it come from just one source, is what gets this defense humming. And with the Eagles able to do this without blitzing that much (26th in the league), it provides Schwartz with the luxury to get more creative on defense. It has to be immensely frustrating for Graham, Barnett and Cox, who are stringing together really solid years that are going completely unnoticed because of the erratic and otherwise horrendous play of their offense.
On the flip side, the Packers offensive line has been outstanding this season. Aaron Rodgers is on pace for the least amount of sacks he’s ever had in a season (11 so far this year, 21 in 2013), and a large part of that is the big boys up front. Green Bay will be without center Corey Linsley and while he’s part of that nucleus, they didn’t appear to skip a beat when he left last week’s game against Chicago. The mixture of the offensive line playing lights out, Green Bay’s scheme crafting masterpieces and Rodgers getting the ball out in a timely fashion has all led to top-of-the-league numbers for the offensive line. The Packers give up one sack per game, on average, second-best in the NFL. Tip of the cap to the big fellas.
While the national perspective will focus on the Wentz’s struggles, the Eagles being 3-7-1 but still in the NFC East hunt and Rodgers battling Patrick Mahomes in the MVP race, one of the best matchups to watch featuring top-tier talent will be the Packers offensive line against the Eagles defensive line. I won’t stretch my neck out and say it decides the game because, well, Wentz is still playing quarterback. BUT, it will be a solid test for the Packers up front and to see how Rodgers navigates against some of the unpredictability that Schwartz offers.