Monday Night Football Preview: Will the Packers' Losing Streak Continue?
The Packers (4-6) are in need of a win to remain within shouting distance of the division leading Detroit Lions (7-4) while the Eagles (5-5) come into this matchup as losers of three of their last four. Although they're in the midst of a downswing, the Eagles are 4-0 at home with wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns.
According to numberFire's nERD metric, which measures just how good a team really is based upon their expected point differential against a league average team, the Eagles (4.29) enter this matchup ranked as the league's sixth-best squad. The Packers (-0.48) check in at 18th on our rankings.
On one side of the ball, this matchup pits strength against strength, as the Packers own the league's ninth-best offense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, and will be squaring off with the Eagles' second-ranked defense.
With kickoff approaching, here are four storylines to watch on Monday Night Football.
Will Aaron Rodgers Keep Rolling?
Over the past five games, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions while putting the Packers' offense on his back absent a reliable running game. Rodgers is averaging 318.2 passing yards per game over that span, while the Packers, as a team, are averaging 96 rushing yards per game.
This week, Rodgers faces a stiff test in the Eagles' pass defense that ranks second-best in the league, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. The Eagles have also registered 26 sacks on the year, 10th-most in the league.
The Eagles' defense has been especially stingy at home, allowing no more than 15 points over four games. While the Eagles have given up little at home, the passing defense has been exploited in recent weeks. In two of their past four games -- both on the road -- Dak Prescott and Eli Manning have thrown for multiple touchdowns.
While Rodgers has been on fire recently, the Packers' passing attack only ranks 14th on the season, according to our metrics.
Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric measures how many points a player adds to his team total relative to expectation. Rodgers (80.35) ranks ninth in Passing NEP out of 35 quarterbacks to throw at least 100 passes on the year.
If Rodgers is to stay hot, he'll be overcoming a tough matchup.
Can Jared Cook Stay Relevant?
Last week against the Washington Redskins, Jared Cook led the Packers with 11 targets, nearly twice as many as Rodgers' next-most targeted pass-catchers: James Starks and Davante Adams (6). Cook turned those 11 looks into 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Coming into the season, Cook was expected to give Rodgers a playmaking tight end who could stretch the field, but Cook had a lackluster start, totaling only six catches through the first three games of the year. Then, he suffered a high ankle sprain, which caused him to miss the next six games.
But in Week 11, Cook stepped right back in as the primary tight end, out-snapping Richard Rodgers (43 to 21) against the Redskins. It wasn't all pretty for Cook, as he did drop a touchdown pass and lost a costly fumble late in the game.
Now, Cook matches up against an Eagles defense that has been tough on tight ends this season. We've seen Cook flash with big games previously before fading off into obscurity. Will that happen again?
The Wendell Smallwood Show?
On the season, Smallwood is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 57 attempts. The rookie out of West Virginia has flashed when given the opportunity in Philadelphia's backfield rotation. In Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Smallwood rushed 17 times for 79 yards and a touchdown, and in Week 10, Smallwood had 13 carries for 70 yards against the Atlanta Falcons.
But according to our metrics, Smallwood has actually been the least effective Eagles running back, scoring lower than even Kenjon Barner.
|Player||Rushes||Rushing NEP||NEP per Rush||Success Rate|
Smallwood's -0.03 Rushing NEP per rush ranks last among Eagles backs, as does his 40.35% Success Rate, which measures how often a player produces a run with positive NEP. Smallwood is still performing at roughly the league-average rate in both stats, but he's well behind his teammates in this offense.
Smallwood's inefficiency may not matter much in this matchup, as the Packers run defense has been gashed in recent weeks. Over the past three weeks, Rob Kelley (24 carries, 137 yards, 3 touchdowns), DeMarco Murray (17 carries, 123 yards, 1 touchdown), and Frank Gore (19 carries, 60 yards, 2 touchdowns) have all had successful outings against the Packers.
Meanwhile, the Eagles' rushing attack ranks 15th in the league, according to our metrics. The Eagles average more than 27 rushing attempts per game, making them the ninth-most run heavy team in the league.
This week, Smallwood may become the fourth straight running back to run over the Packers defense.
Can the Eagles Exploit Green Bay's Secondary?
The Packers' run defense has been shredded recently, but so has their secondary.
Over the past four weeks, the Packers have allowed 12 touchdown passes. The real question is whether or not the Eagles will be able to take advantage of a reeling pass defense.
On the season, the Eagles' passing game ranks 18th, according to our metrics. Their primary pass catchers are Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Matthews has seen 10 or more targets in four straight games while Ertz has seen no fewer than 7 targets over the past three.
But there's not much behind those two.
Nelson Agholor is following up a dreadful rookie season with an equally painful sophomore year. He recently saw a sports psychologist and may not even be active on Monday night. Dorial Green-Beckham would figure to draw the start if Agholor doesn't play.
Carson Wentz has had an up-and-down rookie season. After going two games without a score, Wentz threw two touchdowns to go along with two picks in the Eagles' 26-15 Week 11 loss in Seattle. On the year, Wentz is averaging 233.9 yards per game, and he's thrown for only 11 touchdowns to 7 interceptions.
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