The Eagles (3-7-1) will travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers (8-3) on Sunday afternoon.
Here are five matchups to watch:
Davante Adams vs. Darius Slay
After facing DK Metcalf on Monday night, things don’t get any easier for Slay, who will now have to deal with another top receiver in Adams on Sunday. While Slay took blame for the Eagles’ loss to the Seahawks after Metcalf went for 10/177, Jim Schwartz didn’t see it that way. He actually praised Slay for taking on that responsibility, playing 1-on-1 against Metcalf, which allowed Schwartz to free up other defenders.
“It's part of it, goes along with that business, is you're out there one-on-one,” Schwartz said. “You're on that island. And I've always told guys in the NFL playing coverage is a lot like guarding in the NBA, and my analogies have gone, like old but it used to -- hey, look, you can play great defense against Michael Jordan and he will still score 20. If you play crappy defense, he's going to put 45 on the scoreboard. You got to just keep being resilient and know sometimes they're going to hit a 20-foot turnaround fall away jumper and you just got to hike your socks up and come back for the next play.”
Still, Slay’s allowed to make plays too.
At least Slay has plenty of experience covering Adams from his time in the NFC North. Last season, Slay gave up 4 catches for 63 yards to Adams on 5 targets in Week 17. In their previous meeting (Week 5 of 2018) Adams caught 7 for 99 and a touchdown on 9 targets against Slay.
This season, Adams has been terrific. In just nine games he has 74 catches for 908 yards and 11 touchdowns. So this season, in nine games, Adams has put up numbers that just two players in Eagles history have met (Terrell Owens in 2004 and Irving Fryar in 1996).
Aaron Rodgers vs. Jim Schwartz
Now 37, Rodgers is having one of the best seasons in his long career and has put himself in the MVP mix. He has completed 68.5% of his passes for 3,100 yards with 33 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He’s on pace for a 4,509/48/6 season. So this future Hall of Famer is on pace to throw for more yards and touchdowns and any previous season in his career.
“I have so much respect for him going against him since 2008, I think was our first matchup, and then obviously in Detroit facing him twice a year,” Schwartz said. “But I think he's really taken his game to another level this year. He's incredibly efficient. He was always good at making big plays and doing those kinds of things, but he's just so efficient. He doesn't miss a check down. He runs a boot and he's taking the positive yards. He still scrambles. He still makes those plays, but I think you're seeing it in his overall play. He still makes his big plays down the field, but I think he's taken his game to another level this year.”
When the Eagles beat the Packers last season, they did a decent job of keeping Rodgers in check and he still threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns against them. He’s a tough guy to stop and he’s playing better than he ever has before in Year 2 of Matt LaFleur’s system.
David Bakhtiari vs. Derek Barnett
Derek Barnett is finally healthy and is coming off one of the best games of his NFL career against the Seahawks last week. But now he’s about to face arguably one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. In fact, Bakhtiari ranks as ProFootballFocus’s top tackle and it’s clear just how much respect he has around the league. A few weeks ago, Lane Johnson went out of his way to praise Bakhtiari based on his level of play, especially in Green Bay’s blocking scheme.
Barnett has primarily played right defensive end for the Eagles over the last few years, which means he’s the guy who has to face left tackles. Against most teams, that’s a bigger challenge. Meanwhile, Brandon Graham plays on the defensive left, which means he sees right tackles. This week that means this week he’ll face North Dakota State product Billy Turner, who has been a pretty average starter.
Eagles’ tackles vs. Za’Darius Smith
The Packers like to move Smith around and he played pretty close to equal snaps on both sides of the defense. So he’ll be facing Jordan Mailata and whoever the right tackle is on Sunday — either Jack Driscoll or Matt Pryor. Either way, Smith might be able to take advantage of the Eagles’ young tackles.
“We don’t know who we’re going to line up against, both guys,” Mailata said. “No. 55 (Smith) lines up both left and right, so it’s gonna be interesting. We’re gonna keep looking at the film and build our protection plan.”
Smith is fifth in the NFL in sacks this year with nine and has been very good recently. In his last four games, he has 3 sacks, 9 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles and 2 TFLs.
Miles Sanders vs. Packers’ run defense
When the Eagles beat the Packers at Lambeau last September they did it behind the strength of their running attack. In that game, Jordan Howard had 15 carries for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Miles Sanders chipped in 11 for 72. The Packers were the NFL’s 23rd-ranked run defense in 2019 and the 176 yards the Eagles put up against them in that game was their third-worst performance of the season.
In 2020, the Packers are still susceptible to give up yards on the ground. While they’re technically the 14th run defense in the league, which puts them in the middle of the pack, a lot of that success is because they’re getting up on teams and forcing them to pass. Because they have also given up 4.6 yards per attempt this season, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
You can run on the Packers. Whether or not Doug Pederson will actually do it is a complete mystery. Sure, the Eagles were facing a historically awful Seahawks’ pass defense last week but Wentz dropped back over 50 times and Sanders had just six carries, which is inexcusable.
Throughout his time as head coach, Pederson simply gets away from the run too early. He’d be wise to not do that on Sunday afternoon, but I don’t have much confidence.
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