With the Eagles and Packers scheduled to face off on Sunday, I reached out to SB Nation Packers site Acme Packing Company. Jason Hirschhorn kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Aaron Rodgers won't be playing due to a collarbone injury he suffered against the Bears on Monday Night Football. How big of a loss is Rodgers not only from a talent perspective but in terms of leadership? Is the loss too big to overcome?
It's no revelation that quarterbacks hold more value to their teams than any other individual player. Any team losing its starter is going to see a decline in performance. Yet, this doesn't adequately describe the loss the Packers have endured. There is in my estimation no greater drop off in play from starter to backup than that of Aaron Rodgers to Seneca Wallace. While it's worth noting that Wallace should perform better with a fully week of starter's reps than he did this past Monday, the vertical attack that Rodgers piloted will still be reduced to a more conservative, shorter pass offense. Without question, this is a tremendous loss for Green Bay.
The second part of your question, the loss will only be too much for the Packers if Rodgers misses more than four games. Even with Wallace's deficiencies, his experience and demeanor command the respect of his teammates and the Packers possess one of the league's best rushing attacks. Because there aren't any ringers over the next four weeks, the Packers could win a game or two and stay alive for the NFC North division crown.
2) I previewed Packers backup quarterback Seneca Wallace this week on BGN. What is the Packers best plan of attack with Wallace at the reigns?
With Rodgers out, opposing defenses are going to stack the box to slow down Eddie Lacy and James Starks. As a counter, Mike McCarthy will likely call more play action in order to give Wallace bigger windows to throw into. If the Packers can keep opponents from overloading to stop the run, they can be effective enough to win games.
3) It seems like Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews is set to return this week. He's been limited in practice. How close is he to 100% and how effective can he be?
Clay Matthews is more of a finesse pass rusher, and his handwork is integral to his game. It only follows that playing with a club on his right arm is going to impede his production rushing the passer. Matthews will also have trouble wrapping up on tackles, which could lead to some big gains after contact for Eagle runners.
However, even a disadvantaged Clay Matthews is a vast improvement over rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer. One of the main reasons for the Bears' nine minute drive at the end of last Monday's game to seal the victory was the Packers' inability to get to the quarterback. Returning Matthews (along with Nick Perry) should help the Packers in this regard.
4) What can the Packers defense do to limit the Eagles offense?
While Nick Foles played as well as a quarterback can last week, he's still a young player that can be induced into making mistakes. It's important that the Packers consistently apply pressure and force him into bad decisions. If the Packers can force a turnover -- something they've struggled with without Matthews in the lineup -- then the game will come down to holding LeSean McCoy in check. That's no easy task, but the Packers have shut down a lot of great running backs this year.
5) Prediction time. Who wins and why?
While the game is at Lambeau Field and the coaches have a full week to prepare and adjust for Wallace at quarterback, I don't see the injury-depleted Packers holding off Philadelphia: Eagles 24 - Packers 17.