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Five Questions for the Foes: Previewing the Packers

Can the Eagles really knock off an Aaron Rodgers-led squad?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers are normally very good. This season, they are not. We emailed Jason B. Hirschhorn over at Acme Packing Co. to see what the deal was.

1. It's weird to see the Packers, who have been so consistently good for the past half-decade, struggle like they have this season. Are there one or two problems you can point to as culprits for the 4-6 record? Or is it deeper?

The issues plaguing the Packers go beyond the simple explanation. In addition to the more-than-usual amount of injuries, the offense has not played up to its reputation consistently in over a calendar year. Meanwhile, the defense -- a strength for the team early in the season -- has folded over the last four weeks, yielding no fewer than 31 points in each game.

And the concerns go deeper than just this season. For the first time in a decade, the Packers appear as though they will at least consider a coaching change. Granted, any decision shouldn't come before the end of the season, but pressure has mounted on Mike McCarthy in a way he has not previously dealt with during his time in Green Bay.

Likewise, two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers has shown the first real signs of regression since becoming the starting quarterback in 2008. Physically, he looks the same, but he has regularly missed throws he used to complete in his sleep while making decisions one might associate with a rookie signal-caller.

2. Save for a three-game stretch after the bye week, opposing quarterbacks have been able to get what they want against the Packers' defense. What should Carson Wentz expect from the Green Bay pass rush and secondary?

With Clay Matthews back in the lineup, the Packers can bring pressure off the edge. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels also creates any number of problems from his three-technique position. Wentz must navigate these issues throughout Monday's game.

At the same time, should Wentz receive ample time in the pocket, he can expect to pick apart a secondary that has not performed at anything approaching an acceptable level since the first few weeks of the season. Top corner Sam Shields hasn't appeared in a game since the season opener and starter Damarious Randall has missed the last five games with a groin injury. Likewise, inside linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez have suffered injuries of their own over the past two weeks.

With so many key players sidelined, Wentz could have a field day if his O-line properly protects him.

3. Aaron Rodgers is normally very safe when throwing the ball. Just a couple years ago he only threw five interceptions in an entire season. This year he's on pace for his most in six years. What's going on with him?

While that projection is technically accurate, 11 interceptions would hardly represent a poor showing on the part of Aaron Rodgers considering he also projects to have 40 touchdowns at present. More accurately, the Packers have asked Rodgers to pass so often that all of his volume stats could reach higher totals than those usually associated with him.

That doesn't mean everything with Rodgers appears normal, however. Besides the aforementioned ball placement issues, he doesn't appear to trust his receivers as completely as he did during his zenith between 2011 and '14. That has led to Rodgers forcing the ball into his more veteran targets when he otherwise shouldn't as well as holding onto the ball longer than desired.

Rodgers has played better in recent weeks, but some of those issues remain.

4. Packers also has the second-most rushing yards on the team, and 101 fewer yards than Packers Lacy. What's the state of the Packers' run game? Is it a by-committee thing?

Over the last month, the Packers have barely tried to run the ball. James Starks, the team's long-time backup, only returned from the injured list two weeks ago. His presence has not filled the void left by Eddie Lacy, however.

That could change this week with Christine Michael expected to receive his first playing time with Green Bay. The team claimed Michael off waivers during the lead-up to last Sunday's tilt with Washington. With just a few days to practice with his new squad, Michael did not know enough of the offense to contribute.

If Michael shows that he can take over the mantle vacated by Lacy, perhaps he could become a feature back with the Packers. Until then, it looks like a committee approach.s

5. Who are one or two Packers players that Eagles fans might not consider big-name guys, but could have a big-time impact on Sunday's game?

With right guard T.J. Lang expected to miss another game and Don Barclay either injured or "injured," rookie Jason Spriggs should get his first start in Philly this Monday. A second-round pick in this past April's draft, Spriggs possesses elite athleticism but lacks the strength generally expected of an NFL lineman. During the half of football he played at guard last week, he didn't appear out of place in pass protection. However, his lack of power could prove problematic in the ground game.

BONUS: Who wins, and what's the score?

I don't predict scores, but I think the Eagles -- especially with home-field advantage -- securing their sixth win of the season. Maybe Wentz has a rookie moment and loses the game for Philly, but the Packers simply do not have the manpower at present to overpower them otherwise.

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