Green Bay Packers

The Playoffs Begin In Philly. In November.

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with the obvious: The Green Bay Packers look nothing like a playoff team. They’ve lost six of their last seven games. Statistically, they have a 3 to 8% chance to play in the postseason, depending on where you look, and they would likely need to run the table to have a chance.

And you probably know that six years ago, the Packers were a four-win operation heading into Week 12 and had to play the Philadelphia Eagles on the road in primetime. The Pack won on that Monday night and proceeded to run the table and reach the playoffs.

Okay, it’s always fun to reminisce. But Green Bay’s inability to follow up their stirring win over the Dallas Cowboys with a win at home against the Tennessee Titans makes it impossible to believe they have a six-game winning streak in them.

Granted, the Eagles have looked very mortal the last two times they’ve taken the field. They lost at home to the Washington Commanders and fought from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts by a point last Sunday in Indy. But you kind of feel like they got their dud home game out of their system against the Commanders. They’ll be ready for the Pack and look imposing with the blackout look, including black helmets for the first time.

The Eagles have been the NFC’s most complete team since the start of the season, with a top-five offense and defense. I think the San Francisco 49ers have taken that mantle from them, but this roster will be the ultimate challenge for the Pack on both sides of the ball.

Jalen Hurts has been one of the best stories of the year. So many questions surrounded Hurts when the season started. After they added A.J. Brown in the offseason, this had to be the season he proved he could lead this team deep in the playoffs. Brown has exceeded all expectations. He’s firmly in the MVP conversation and has given Eagles fans reason to believe he can lead them deep into the postseason.

I’d love to believe that Joe Barry will task Jaire Alexander with following Brown around, but I doubt we’ll see it. Brown missed practice Friday with an illness, but he does not appear on the Eagles injury report; neither does any of the other players on the roster. Their injury report is blank — must be nice. They lost tight end Dallas Goedert a couple of weeks ago, and that’s a big loss for this offense. Maybe they’ll pluck Rob Gronkowski out of retirement like they did with Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph in recent weeks. For now, though, that’s a big void in their offense.

Even if Alexander contains Brown, DeVonta Smith will be a problem. The Pack are missing Eric Stokes, the only other corner on the roster who could deal with his quickness. Look for Hurts to find Smith in space — all of the Eagles are dangerous after the catch.

Of course, Hurts can kill you with his legs too. He has 440 yards on the ground and has scored eight times. The Pack will likely assign Quay Walker to keep tabs on Hurts, but with De’Vondre Campbell set to miss another game, they will need a big night from Krys Barnes and Isaiah McDuffie to handle their assignments and keep the missed tackles to a minimum. Expect the Eagles to give Miles Sanders a bigger workload than he’s gotten lately. It’s no secret that you can run on the Pack. While they held their own against Derrick Henry, they basically dared the Titans to pass and did so very efficiently. That will not be the game plan against the Eagles. There will be running lanes for Sanders, and he can be very dangerous if they commit to handing him the rock.

There’s no secret to what the Packers want to do. Philadelphia’s No. 2-ranked defense is strong from top to bottom, and the loss of impressive rookie nose tackle Jordan Davis a few weeks back has been felt, as teams are running it down their throats since he got hurt. Hence the additions of Suh and Joseph, who made their Eagles debuts last weekend. They rank 19th against the run for the season, giving up 137 per game over the last six weeks. The Aaron JonesAJ Dillon duo needs to combine for at least 35 touches if Green Bay is going to have a chance.

With Rodgers’ admission that he broke his thumb on that fateful final last-gasp play against the New York Giants in London, the Packers have a legit excuse to hand the ball to Jordan Love once they’re eliminated from the playoffs. As good as Rodgers looked against the Cowboys, it was that ugly against the Titans. He’ll need to give us another Sunday night special if the Pack is to spring the upset. They have been the best SNF team in the league over the last four years, going 8-2, and are 16-4 in prime time over that span. However, that didn’t mean much the last time we saw them play.

Darius Slay is dying to take one away from Rodgers. He says he needs it for his Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks he’s picked off, something he never did in his seven years with the Detroit Lions. The Eagles’ 13 picks is tops in the league, and they’re +12 in turnover differential for the season, also No. 1 in the NFL. (At -4, the Pack ranks 27th, in case you were interested — a far cry from what we’re accustomed to.) Needless to say, there’s probably not a path to a Sunday night upset if the Packers lose the turnover battle.

I’d be surprised if it’s a blowout. With a few day’s extra rest, with the Packers playing for their unlikely playoff lives, and with that Titans performance stuck in their throats, I think they go toe to toe with the Eagles for 60 minutes. But the Eagles make one more play.

Eagles 24

Packers 20

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