It's about time NFL fans get a Thursday night game worth watching, at least that is what Eagles fans are hoping for. It's never an easy task heading into Lambo Field and coming out with a win. On a short week, against a revamped Packers defense, makes things a bit tougher. Here is the good news - there are a handful of things the Birds can do to steal a game on the road against a tough Packers team Thursday night.
This may seem elementary, and something that your old high school coach may have preached before. The Eagles have shown a lack of focus over the past two games, especially at home against the Lions. While both games could have been won, bad mistakes and a lack of focus really did this team in. Allowing a wide out to become wide open while two defenders cover a crosser, 3 fumbles (2 lost), special teams blunders and of course - the dropsies. The Eagles must come out and focus for four total quarters, and then they can get ice cream, Doug.
2. Offensive Line Play
The O-Line did not get much gel time in the preseason together, and it seems to be showing. It also does not help that the group has not seemed to be fully healthy. Carson has been getting butchered in the pocket and has had to make plays with his legs outside of the pocket. That is a well known recipe for disaster long term. The Packers defense no longer flaunts talented pass rusher Clay Matthews, but in somewhat of an upgrade they have added Preston and Zadarius Smith. Coming off a short week, the offensive line needs to flex their muscle and help establish a run game to not only get the run game going for the pass, but to also keep Rodgers on the sideline.
3. Defensive Line Play
Another group that was thought of as a strength on this team has become somewhat of a weakness, due to injuries and lack of performance. The Eagles have a whopping two combined sacks this season, and have not been setting up the secondary well. Schwartz has been known to only rush four, but in recent weeks has been sending extra rushers in an attempt to get to the QB. This week is a different animal when facing Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has made a living picking apart defenses, and when you blitz a vet like Rodgers, he is going to make you pay a few times. Rodgers releases the ball within 3 seconds usually, however he is actually more accurate and has better statistics when his line gives him more than 3 seconds. In the NFL, 3 seconds is an eternity, and the Eagles will need to get home at least twice in this game in order to leave with a win.
4. Special Teams
Cameron Johnston has actually been booting the ball quite well for the Eagles. Of course on kick off returns, last week the Lions returned a kick for a touchdown. The Birds need to lock up on these returns and generate some big returns of their own. Sproles has been averaging a hair over 9 yards per return, about a yard more than the Eagles opponents have over the past 3 games. Setting up the offense with great field position needs to continue, especially if the receiving core is depleted.
5. RB Snap Splits
Eagles fans have restlessly clamored as to why Howard was brought in, and has been sparingly used. This has been a good question, as it seems that Howard has been running well. He is averaging a pedestrian 4.0 ypc, and does not have the home run play ability that the team believes Sanders brings. BUT - Howard needs to run the ball 15-20 times this week, with Sanders seeing around 10-15. This team needs to protect Carson, and the banged up receiving core. Most importantly, this offensive line needs to get going, and that is what the run game can do. As a consolation prize with running the ball 30 times - controlling the clock, controlling the crowd, and keeping Rodgers on the side lines.