Last week I offered my five keys to the game that could lead to a victory (Run the ball, bring the heat, protect Carson Wentz, limit secondary mistakes, and create turnovers). In true fashion, the team failed to check even one of those boxes and the result was a horrible loss to the Detroit Lions. Now at 1-2, the Philadelphia Eagles face as close to there is of a must win game on Thursday against the PACK.
Coming into this season, the Eagles were one of the favorites to compete for a championship in the NFC. Instead the team finds itself 1-2 and in danger of going 1-3 after the first quarter of the season. The blame tree is vast in this comedy of errors so far this season.
We could spend an entire week debating these issues and I will leave that to the analysts and podcasters who breathe this on a daily basis. The past is dead and gone and the only way for the team to right the ship is to win this evening. With that being said, here are my keys to the game and ways that I believe the Eagles can have success:
1. Stop Aaron Rodgers
At 35 years old, Aaron Rodgers is not playing at the same elite level that he was even five seasons ago. However; Rodgers is only one big game away from turning that around and once again being the best of the best. The Eagles defensive line has been a terrible disappointment as the unit has posted only ONE sack in three games. With the lack of pass rush, coordinator Schwartz has had to dial up more blitzes so far to generate pressure. This quandary puts the Eagles at a severe disadvantage and could be a recipe for disaster when facing Aaron Rodgers. If the Eagles blitz this guy, he will pick this secondary apart with reckless abandon. In other words it is absolutely imperative that guys like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham step it up and bring their A game. The Eagles defensive line must find a way to put pressure on Rodgers or it will be game set match. Bring the heat and apply pressure and you will give yourselves a chance. If not it will be lights out.
2. Double Team Devante
Devante Adams has quickly become one of the top wide receivers in all of the NFL. He is an absolute speed burner and provides the ultimate package of route running and pass catch ability. The Green Bay Packers have a few other promising young receivers that complement Devante but Adams remains the most dangerous weapon. So far in 2019, Devante has not had any "monster" type games. In fact, he has only had 1 game over 100 yards and has not scored a touchdown. However, this is the type of receiver that can put up a totally crooked number on any defense that does not take him seriously. Knowing that, the Eagles need to double cover Devante and force the other unknowns to beat them. Don't let this guy run wild on a secondary that is already down its best cornerback. Whatever type of schemes that Jim Schwartz comes up with, the number one focus better be #17 or else their dinner could become burnt toast. Devante Adams better be in the cross hairs of the game plan if the Eagles hope to have success against Green Bay.
3. Feed Jordan Howard
It feels like groundhog day on a weekly basis when it comes to Doug Pederson's game plan in 2019. Since week #1, fans and pundits alike have pounded their chests for the Eagles to pay more attention to the running game. We have been begging for more balance in an offense that has been inconsistent from week to week. Even though the Eagles did run the ball more against the Lions, Miles Sanders was once again the teams lead back. This all needs to end this evening. Jordan Howard has got to be the focal point of the offense moving forward and there couldn't be a better time to start. Playing for the Chicago Bears the past three seasons, Howard has had tons of success against the rival Packers and he could be the answer to what has ailed the Eagles thus far. Jordan Howard is a volume back that thrives with more carries. Pederson needs to put aside his ego and dial up a steady dose of Howard. Stop trying to showcase Carson Wentz and do the right thing Doug. Howard needs to get a minimum of 20 carries and the Eagles will have a great shot for the win.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
Last week the Eagles turned the ball over twice while failing to create a turnover on defense. Of course, the Eagles ended up loosing the game. Turnovers continue to be one of the most important deciding factors of a game and tonight is no different. Aaron Rodgers does not throw a ton of interceptions and if the defense cannot force pressure it will be near impossible. With that being said, the team needs to be physical on every play and there has to be focus from beginning to end. On offense, the running backs and wide receivers need to hold on to the ball. Two fumbles and seven dropped passes is just not going to get it done against any team. On defense, the players have to finish every tackle and make sure they hawk the ball. Where are the playmakers on this defense? Will Fletcher Cox finally be able to wreak havoc? Can Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett get home? If these key players can make plays and force turnovers it will go along way towards helping the Eagles win. Moral of the story...Hold onto the ball and force turnovers. If you can win this battle then you can definitely win the game.
5. Element of Surprise
Lambeau Field is one of the most legendary venues in the history of sports. The mystique of the stadium and the intangibles that this creates gives the Green Bay Packers an added bonus to its home field advantage. With the Eagles facing the possibility of going 1-3 and facing a hostile crowd this evening, Doug Pederson needs to pull out all the stops. Pederson has shown some major cojones as far as being aggressive and keeping his pedal to the medal. Just go back and watch the Super Bowl for multiple examples of this hyper aggressive play calling. If the Eagles are going to beat the Packers, they need to come out with flawless execution of the game plan. But one key could be some trickery and some surprise plays. If Doug can dial up some key surprises at the right time, he just may be able to catch the Packers off guard. How about a reverse or two? Maybe a flea flicker? Or a wide receiver pass. Whatever it may be, Doug needs to come up with something outside of the box to turn the tide. A successful trick play could inspire the team to victory.
Last week I predicted a 27-23 Eagles victory. I was very close with the score but the outcome was the opposite as the Eagles lost 27-24. As we look to tonight's showdown at Lambeau on national television; here are some predictions:
FINAL SCORE- Eagles 23 Green Bay 17
Carson Wentz- 21/37, 247 Yards, 1TD-1INT
Jordan Howard- 13 Carries, 75 Yards, TD
Alshon Jeffery- 5 Catches, 94 Yards, TD
Zach Ertz- 6 Catches, 43 Yards
Aaron Rodgers- 21/28, 315 Yards, 2TD-2INT
Devante Adams- 7 Catches, 134 Yards
Aaron Jones- 15 Carries, 49 Yards, 2TD
Brandon Graham- 2 Sacks, FF
Fletcher Cox- 4 Tackles, Fumble Recovery