Ditka: Packers-Eagle to be physical contest


“As some point, we can’t expect our defense to shut everybody down.  They have been.  But at some point the offense is going to have to wake up and start making some plays.” – Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers are 3-0, but the Packers quarterback and the NFL’s 28th-ranked offense are far from satisfied.  And making some big plays may be needed tonight as the Packers host the 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles, who have lost their last two games by a combined total of seven points.

Philadelphia is eager to get back on the winning track at Lambeau Field tonight after experiencing offensive issues of their own:  specifically dropped passes.

Eagle receivers dropped eight last week in a 27-24 loss to Detroit at home, including a deep contested pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside inside the 5-yard-line in the final minute.  The week before, Nelson Agholor dropped a potential game-winner in the final two minutes of a 24-20 loss at Atlanta.

“We’re 1-2, yeah,” said quarterback Carson Wentz.  “But you know, we have a lot of the season left.  Little things here and there in each game that we know we’re going to get corrected. . .  we’re excited Thursday night to go show what we can do and get going back in the win column.”

Former Bears head coach Mike Ditka forecasts a physical contest.

“That’s a good match-up,” Ditka said.  “The Eagles have had too many dropped passes, but that’s fixable.  You have to control the things you can control:  catching the football is one of them.  And limiting your turnovers—they will kill you.  That Packers defense is aggressive and has been creating turnovers.  I expect Philadelphia to be a very focused team on Thursday night—Green Bay had better be prepared for a physical and hard-fought game.”

Ditka said Rodgers is one of the NFL’s top three quarterbacks in his book.

“From a Green Bay perspective, that’s the best news they can get is that Aaron Rodgers is not happy with his play or his offense’s,” Ditka said.  “Hey, the Packers are undefeated after three games, against three pretty tough defenses, and the offense can get better.  Wins are too hard to come by in this league and you take them any way you can get them.  All I can say is, their defense is playing great and if they keep that up, look out when Aaron Rodgers and that Packer offense start clicking.”

The standard is high in Green Bay, new offensive system notwithstanding.

“We’ve never wanted to just manage the football game around here,” Rodgers said.  “We got to play a lot better on offense.  We’ve played some good defenses, no doubt about it, but the standards and expectations are very high here and we haven’t met them on offense.”

The Green Bay defense, ranked 13th overall, is No. 5 against the pass and 25th against the run.  Philadelphia will test the pass defense with the return of former Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery, who returns to full-time duty after playing only six snaps in the past two weeks due to a calf injury.

An improved secondary of Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage have jelled into one of the NFL’s best units, and is complemented by a pass rush generated by the Smiths (Preston and Za’Darius), who combined for five sacks, six quarterback hits, and a forced fumble against Denver Sunday.

Philadelphia has struggled in the pressure department in the past two games, recording only two sacks.  The Eagles are 5-5 versus the Packers in their last 10 regular-season games, including 1-2 in Green Bay.  The Packers lead the overall regular-season series with Philadelphia, which dates back to 1933, by a 26-14 margin and are 1-2 in postseason play.

An emphasis on creating a loud atmosphere for opponents at Lambeau Field has paid off so far during the team’s 2-0 start.  Last season, Green Bay finished 5-2-1 at home and a disappointing 4-4 in 2017.

Hendricks’ Week 4 Predictions

  • Texans
  • Ravens
  • Giants
  • Chargers
  • Colts
  • Chiefs
  • Patriots
  • Falcons
  • Rams
  • Seahawks
  • Vikings
  • Broncos
  • Cowboys
  • Steelers

Short week always favors home team.  Mistake-prone Eagles (1-2) are reeling from home loss to Lions.  Both teams could open up the offensive playbook, but defense and turnovers determined the outcome.

Packers 30, Eagles 24

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