- It’s time for Thursday Night Football, and Philadelphia is heading up to Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur are still perfecting that offensive system.
It’s Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season, and this week on Thursday Night Football we have the Eagles visiting the Packers in a matchup of two NFC heavyweights (four people predicted the Eagles to win the Super Bowl in our 2019 season predictions, while several others picked the Packers to reach the playoffs). Here are three quick things to watch.
1. When studying Packers film, one gets the sense that Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur are still figuring each other out. They entered this season with very different offensive backgrounds—Rodgers has always been a loose, off-schedule quarterback, while LaFleur is known for his diligent attention to timing and detail. We’re seeing glimmers of LaFleur’s system coming to life, but it’s still in the early stages. As the offensive coordinator last year in Tennessee, LaFleur employed more Sean McVay tactics; so far in Green Bay, with his emphasis on two-back and two-tight end sets, there’s more of a Kyle Shanahan influence.
What we haven’t seen yet are the full-fledged rhythmic play-action concepts that make the scheme shine. Rodgers, for his part, has made a handful of spectacular throws, but just like in Green Bay’s old scheme, there are still instances when he leaves open receivers on the field. He’ll have to tighten that up eventually, but LaFleur will also have to be receptive to some of Rodgers’s unique playmaking tendencies. Facing a defense like Philadelphia can offer a good jumpstart. An offense should know the Eagles will be in mostly single-high coverage, and you know with their still-potent (but hurting) defensive line, the ball must come out promptly.
2. Let’s not let Carson Wentz’s playmaking abilities be overshadowed by Rodgers’s. The fourth-year quarterback, who has one of the NFL’s strongest arms, is lethal on throws from outside the pocket, particularly when moving to his left. Even better, Wentz can extend plays from within the pocket. This will be fun to watch against a Packers defense that brings a lot of aggressive pressure concepts in obvious passing situations.
3. The Packers are predominantly a match-coverage-based defense, and last week against Denver, they matched their young star corners to receivers according to body type: Kevin King took Denver’s big X-receiver Courtland Sutton, while budding superstar Jaire Alexander had the smaller, quicker Emmanuel Sanders. Based on that, expect King to travel with Alshon Jeffery Thursday night, leaving Alexander to take Nelson Agholor.
Bold Prediction: Wentz and Rodgers will each be sacked at least three times.
Score Prediction: Packers 22, Eagles 17
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