NFL 2019 (Week 4): Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 4): Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Undefeated Green Bay appears on Thursday night for the second time in four weeks. Aaron Rodgers and a smothering defense snuck by the Chicago Bears in the first game of the 2019 season. First-year head coach Matt LaFleur has brought with him an offense focused on balance and a productive running game, but the defense has been the real story, giving up under 12 points per game. All of this has taken tremendous pressure off of Rodgers and his right arm. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz, unfortunately, has not received such assistance. After coming back to beat Washington in their opener, the Eagles have dropped their last two games – at Atlanta and to Detroit – by a combined seven points. Wentz is averaging nearly 40 pass attempts per game, and mounting injuries to his receiving corps have left the offense in an ever-more desperate state. Could Doug Pederson's team really drop to 1-3 after entering the season with Super Bowl ambitions?

Eagles: One thing that has taken Philly fans by surprise is the complete lack of a pass rush. Through three games, the Eagles have amassed only two sacks, worse than all but lowly Denver. With Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry up front, so little production is hard to fathom. The lack of pressure has allowed opposing quarterbacks to victimize cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas. Darby has been ruled out of this game with a hamstring injury, which may not be the worst thing for Philadelphia's defense based on his play to this point. Of course, a depleted secondary is music to Rodgers' ears, so defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will need to dial up the exotic blitzes and coverages to give his team a fighting chance.

Packers: On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Green Bay, where Mike Pettine sees the team leading the league in takeaways (8) while ranking third in sacks (12). Investing first-round picks in the secondary for consecutive years has paid its dividends for the Packers, as rookie safety Darnell Savage has made plays all over the field in an outstanding complementary role to lock down second-year corner Jaire Alexander. Fellow rookie first-rounder Rashan Gary finally made his presence known in last week's 11-point victory over the Broncos. The outside linebacker from Michigan notched four tackles, his first career sack, and a fumble recovery against Denver after being shut out of the stat column for the first two weeks. Starter Za'Darius Smith tweaked his knee Tuesday and is listed as questionable, so Gary may soon be making his first career start too. Without DeSean Jackson, Philly's offense lacks explosive speed, which may allow the Packers to squat on underneath routes and bring the heat against Wentz.

Prediction: It is difficult to truly count out a championship franchise, and these Eagles rallied through key injuries to win the Super Bowl a mere two seasons ago. Still, this year's team seems to lack the magic – and the pass rush – that the 2017 team had in spades. Rodgers, in his 15th season (his 12th as the clear starter), knows that his window to win another Lombardi Trophy is closing. And he comes out with a fire in his eyes.

Green Bay Packers 28, Philadelphia Eagles 20

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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