It’s easy to look at the Eagles’ 3-7-1 overall record and three-game losing streak and expect Sunday’s matchup to be a pushover for the Packers. And it probably should be, with the Packers favored by 10 points. But don’t tell Aaron Rodgers that this should be easy, especially against an underrated Eagles defense.
“Definitely not underrated by us at all. I mean, they’re a top-10 defense,” the Packers veteran quarterback pointed out at midweek before praising two members of the defense he’s well-acquainted with: Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (above), both of whom Rodgers faced while they were with the Detroit Lions. “It’s a good defense. I played against Jim Schwartz a number of times in Detroit and Philly last year. He’s a really good defensive coordinator. He’s a really smart guy. They stress you with defenses you don’t see a whole lot, they stress you with empty pressures, and it’s a really good defense. They’ve turned the ball over on offense a decent amount, which has I think taken more of the headlines, but their defense is really, really solid.”
Statistically, the Eagles are ninth in the NFL in total defense (338.9 yards per game) and a respectable 16th in scoring defense (25.2 points per game). As Rodgers points out, having turned the ball over 21 times (only Denver and Dallas have given it away more) and being minus-10 on turnover differential has been an issue, which is why Packers coach Matt LaFleur called the Eagles “a team that’s had a lot of adversity” between injuries and uneven performance.
“Defense has been our bright spot the last couple weeks,” admitted Eagles coach Doug Pederson, a former Packers backup quarterback. “Last week we really came out, played hard, played aggressive, kept Seattle's offense — other than the two touchdowns — at bay and shut them down in the red zone a couple times. I talk a lot about complementary football, and now it's the offense that has to kind of pick it up and really play that complementary piece to the defense.”
The most interesting individual matchup should be Slay against Packers star wide receiver Davante Adams because Slay has historically shadowed opponents’ best receivers — including Adams — throughout his career.
“He’s one of those guys you have so much respect for because not every great corner is going to do ‘star’ coverage. And for years and years and years he’s traveled both sides of the field or in the slot with the best receiver on the other team,” Rodgers said. “For me, that’s the ultimate respect I can give a guy when I see a guy doing that, because I love that confidence. I have a lot of respect for him and the way he’s played in his career.”