November 28, 2016
The Eagles play host to Aaron Rodgers and the slumping Packers on Monday night in a must-win game for first-year head coach Doug Pederson.
Here's a look at five numbers to keep an eye on in the form of our weekly over/unders:
That's the current total being offered over at topbet.eu and it seems like a pretty good number to me. That being said, the Eagles defense has been holding opponents to an average of 9.5 points per game at home, and its average point total in games at the Linc this season is just 36.5 – that number jumps to 46.9 points/game on the road. It's why the Falcons game, seemingly destined for a shootout, produced just 39 total points. If these two teams met under slightly different conditions – perhaps without injuries to starting running backs or while having key offensive lineman active – there might be some more scoring.
So far this season, Nelson Agholor has played 589 snaps or 84.75 percent of the Eagles offensive plays. And he's been targeted on 51 of those plays, less than ten percent (8.7 percent) of the time. Worse yet, he's hauled in just 27 of those passes, meaning he's only catching a pass on 4.6 percent of the plays he's on the field for – or, to put it another way, he's good for a catch once every 22 offense plays run by the Eagles.
That brings us to tonight, and the report that Agholor's snap count could be limited -- or nonexistent -- as the team tries to fix whatever neurological disease is preventing his brain from telling his hands to catch the ball.
#Eagles plan limit snaps for or even deactivate WR Nelson Agholor tonight: Will use Jordan Matthews outside more, Paul Turner in the slot— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 28, 2016
The Packers horrendous pass defense should make for a nice matchup for any receiver, but given the costly penalty and wide-open drop we saw last week in Seattle, it likely doesn't matter at this point which defenders are (or aren't) around Agholor when the ball arrives. The issue he must fix is within, and he can only do so much from the bench. He needs to be out on the field to play himself out of this funk, assuming that's all this is. But with your team fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt, is fixing him so important that it's worth potentially hurting your offense? That's the decision Doug Pederson will have to make against his old team.
And even if he does play, are you confident he'll make a catch?
This question is more about how many targets you think Turner will get in his first NFL game. If Wentz throws the ball in his general direction, it's going to be caught.
In his four preseason games, Turner had 17 receptions ... on 21 targets. Twenty. One. That's an 81 percent catch rate. Now compare that to the rest of the Eagles receivers (including tight ends).
Only Ertz is anywhere close to what Turner was able to do in the preseason. Against a decimated Packers secondary, he'll likely be facing similar competition to what he saw in the summer. All Wentz likely has to do in order to get the rookie out of Louisiana Tech his first NFL reception is put the ball within his reach.
The Packers are going to be without starting right guard T.J. Lang and starting center J.C. Tretter – who sound like a pair of characters from a 70s buddy cop movie – and could be missing backup guard Don Barclay, Lang's replacement. So that's what Aaron Rodgers is going to have standing between him and Fletcher Cox. The Packers quarterback likes to roll out and is plenty capable of throwing on the run, so it will be imperative that the Eagles wide-nine defensive ends keep him contained. If they're able to do that, it could be a big day for Jim Schwartz's front seven.
I had to consult with our Jimmy Kempski for this, so he's the one who set the line at 45.5 yards for Smallwood. I originally wanted to go a little higher, but he persuaded me with his belief that Duce Staley won't hesitate to use Sproles, who broke a rib in last week's loss to the Seahawks. We know there won't be any Ryan Mathews (knee), so Smallwood's workload is definitely going to increase some, we just won't be sure how much until we see how Sproles bounces back after his big hit to the chest.
As this game progresses, however, I think you could see more Smallwood than Sproles, especially if the game plays out the way we're thinking. If, say, it's a two-score game in the fourth quarter, it'll likely be more Smallwood, as the Eagles would be wise to limit Sproles action when they can; they're going to need him the rest of the way. Or Pederson could be messing with us all again and Kenjon Barner actually finds himself receiving the bulk of those Mathews' carries.
When they've needed Smallwood, the fifth-round rookie out of West Virginia, he's answered the call. And as long as he can hold on to the football against Green Bay, it's safe to assume he picks up where he left off the last two weeks – 26 combined carries for 118 yards (4.54 YPA) and four catches for 31 yards.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin