Scott Shapiro's Thursday Night Football preview: Eagles at Packers
After an unimpressive Week 2 with my selections at BetAmerica, I bounced back with a 5-2 record against the number in Week 3. Hopefully I can keep the good times rolling starting Thursday night, when the undefeated Packers host Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Over 45 (-110)
Green Bay Packers
Under 45 (-110)
Packers have leaned on defense
The Packers have yet to get things going on offense in 2019, but their defense has been among the league’s best to start the year. The group led by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and a few key offseason acquisitions has allowed just 42 points through its first three games. The Packers have not faced a murderers’ row of opposing quarterbacks—Mitchell Trubisky, Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco—but they are playing great football.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers is off to a slow start under new head coach Matt LaFleur. The Green Bay offense has started games well, but has slowed down considerably as games have gone on, which puts pressure squarely on the Packers’ defense. That group has come through thus far, especially by creating turnovers to set up Rodgers with a short field, but that is most likely not sustainable moving forward.
Philly's issues extend past injuries
While the Packers have found ways to win games to begin the season, the Eagles have lost a couple tough ones over the last two weeks, which makes this Week 4 affair an extremely important contest if they want to avoid a 1-3 start. Philadelphia is as banged up as any team in the NFL and that is definitely a reason for the Eagles' lack of early season success, but they also have had other issues.
Philly’s offensive line is widely considered one of the league’s best, but it has not protected Wentz well and has been unable to get the running game going. Rookie running back Miles Sanders ran the ball better in the Eagles' Week 3 loss to Detroit, but they need to be more consistent and avoid putting the ball on the turf if they want to be the team I thought they would be in 2019.
The Eagles also have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback with their front four. They have just two sacks through the first three games and one was on a safety blitz by Andrew Sendejo. It was not a secret coming into the year that the Eagles secondary was not their strength, but in years past Jim Schwartz’s defense relied on getting pressure on the quarterback to combat this issue. If opposing quarterbacks have all day in the pocket, it is unlikely to end well for this Eagles’ defense.
The Eagles have also made a lot of mistakes they are not accustomed to making. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor dropped what would have been an easy go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter in their Week 2 24-20 loss in Atlanta. Then in Week 3 Eagles dropped seven balls, gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game and committed three offensive pass interference penalties in their 27-24 defeat to the Lions. With the injuries they have incurred, these kinds of errors make winning that much tougher.
The Eagles easily could be 3-0 and have been at their best under head coach Doug Pederson when their backs are against the wall. On Thursday night I expect them to run the ball effectively against a Packers defense that has played extremely well but has been beatable on the ground. Philadelphia’s wide receivers are likely to struggle to get open on the outside, even with Alshon Jeffrey likely to return to the lineup, but they should be able to rely on tight end Zach Ertz, as well as Darren Sproles and Miles Sanders out of the backfield, to make enough plays to keep them in this one to the end.
I respect any team that plays good defense and finds ways to win tight games, but I am not willing to lay five points in this spot with the Pack.