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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (4-5) at Green Bay (5-3)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - If there's a silver lining to the temporary loss of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it would be the possible return of star linebacker Clay Matthews.
With Rodgers expected to miss a few weeks with a fractured clavicle, the Packers are hoping Matthews can return Sunday versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Matthews had pins removed from his surgically repaired thumb on Monday and is expected to practice with his hand wrapped in a club.
According to head coach Mike McCarthy, the doctors "feel very good about where Clay is right now."
But more importantly, the health of Rodgers has been the hot topic this week after he went down in Monday night's 27-20 loss to the rival Chicago Bears. Now the Bears, Packers and Detroit Lions are jammed at the top of the NFC North with identical 5-3 records.
Rodgers completed 1-of-2 passes for 27 yards and was replaced by Seneca Wallace, who threw for 114 yards with an interception on 11-of-19 passing. Wallace has made 21 career starts in the NFL.
"I'm preparing Seneca to be the starter, that's the way our game planning has gone," McCarthy said. "But let's not kid ourselves. If he (Rodgers) walked into your office and asked for the ball on Saturday, what would you do? So we'll just see what happens."
Wallace doesn't have the arm strength like Rodgers and will have a week to get more acclimated with his receivers. Right guard T.J. Lang is questionable Sunday and missed the second half of the Bears game with a concussion. Don Barclay moved from right tackle to right guard and Marshall Newhouse was called off the bench to play the vacant tackle spot.
Expect that to happen again if Lang misses the game.
Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy carried the load and ran for a season- high 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
"Eddie definitely carried the torch," McCarthy said. "I liked the way he ran. I thought he took a step forward as a runner. I thought he was more physical than he's been in the past, if you can believe that, and I think he has more to give."
Lacy will try to pound an Eagles run defense that is yielding 111.8 rushing yards per contest and has two 100-yard games this season and more than 22 carries in each of the past five games. His 545 rushing yards since Oct. 1 leads the NFL.
The Packers had a four-game winning streak come to an end and were unbeaten in 11 straight games at Lambeau Field, including the playoffs.
Philadelphia ended a two-game slide and won for the third time in five weeks by dismantling the Oakland Raiders 49-20 last Sunday. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will most likely get the nod again with Michael Vick still nursing a bum hamstring.
Foles earned his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week award this season by shredding the Raiders for a career-high 406 yards on 22-of-28 passing with seven TD passes an no interceptions. The seven touchdown passes tied an NFL single-game record for Foles, as he joined Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and Peyton Manning as the only players to throw for seven scores without a pick. Manning did it in Week 1 this season.
For his effort, Foles' jersey and shoes were sent to the Hall of Fame to be on display. He has 13 touchdown passes to no interceptions this season.
"It's very humbling to know that the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be displaying memorabilia from the game we played this past weekend against Oakland," Foles said. "I've visited the Hall of Fame in Canton before and have a great appreciation for the history of this game. As I've said all week, it was a great team win for us."
Riley Cooper was on the receiving end of three of Foles' TD passes and finished with 139 yards on just five catches. DeSean Jackson had a touchdown and 150 yards receiving on five receptions for the Eagles, who have won three straight away from Lincoln Financial Field.
Philly's defense has vastly improved over the past few weeks and intercepted Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor twice and sacked him three times. Pryor is a mobile QB, just like Wallace, and ran for 94 yards on 10 scrambles. Raiders running back Rashad Jennings had 102 yards and a score on 15 carries, so the Eagles will have to improve in that area against Green Bay's Lacy and James Starks.
"They made a concerted effort even before Aaron got hurt to run the ball," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. "They had been running the ball pretty effectively. I think it's a real concern of ours because they're two big backs, two physical backs. It's a tough task when you have physical guys like that because you may have one unblocked guy at the point of attack, but you might need to have two or three. It's about getting 11 guys to the ball and gang-tackling."
The Packers lead the all-time series with the Eagles by a 26-15 margin and have won each of the last three meetings. Philadelphia is only 4-16 as the visitor against Green Bay, going 4-8 at Lambeau Field.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Don't expect Foles to cough up another seven-TD performance and in fact he may even throw an interception this week. Foles, though, seems to have a solid grasp on the offense and was able to hit all targets with pin-point accuracy.
It will be interesting to see if the Packers can slow down Philly's quick offense, most notably Jackson, who leads the NFC with 823 receiving yards. Running the football has been an issue for Eagles back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't hit the 100-yard mark in each of the past three games (147 total). McCoy had 44 yards on 12 carries in Oakland, but did catch one of Foles' touchdown passes.
McCoy hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since Oct. 6 against the Giants.
"I'm not frustrated," McCoy said. "I'm just (thinking about) from the last game and we won the game. We didn't run the ball much, but we were scoring and striking every time that we had the ball. I wasn't frustrated with the carries or the yardage. You can't really worry about that type of stuff. I think the individual yards will come out at the end, but the biggest thing is winning. I'd rather be winning than having a ton of yards. Plus, I still lead the NFL in rushing so I can't be that (upset)."
McCoy has 777 rushing yards and leads the NFC with 1,097 yards from scrimmage.
Green Bay is one of the best at stopping the run, allowing just 94.5 rushing yards per game. If Matthews is healthy enough to return, he will make the Packers' defense that much better.
Look for Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji to play a role up front.
Wallace, meanwhile, has big shoes to fill under center and will try to attack the Eagles' defense early and often. He has the ability to escape and could be a threat if he gets to the defensive backfield with his feet.
The Packers made a move this week by signing QB Scott Tolzien to the active roster.
There should be no shortage of offense this Sunday at historic Lambeau Field, where opposing teams generally go to die. The Eagles' hopes of winning will perish just one week after blowing out the Raiders. The Eagles have a talented roster, especially on offense, but will come back to earth and possibly lose ground in the NFC East.
Green Bay is in the hunt for a division title as well and doesn't appear to be in trouble even with Rodgers sidelined with a broken clavicle. It will be the Lacy show Sunday, as the Packers cruise to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 24, Eagles 16
11/07 16:50:41 ET