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Packers Eagles preview

by Mark Daniels

It's the 64 million dollar question.....Can the Packers win with a backup quarterback?

It's a ridiculous proposition considering this is only the third time that question has been asked in 22 years and 2 months in Green Bay.  On September 20, 1992, incumbent Don Majkowski rolled an ankle against the Cincinnati Bengals and a kid named Brett Favre finished the game in spectacular fashion.  He would make his first pro start the following week, a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.   Favre wouldn't miss another start until his Packer career ended after the 2007 season.   Enter Aaron Rodgers.  His run of starts lasted until December 12, 2010 when he suffered a concussion against the Detroit Lions.  The following week, Matt Flynn got the call and played bravely but the Packers lost to the Patriots in New England.  Here we are in November of 2013 and Rodgers is down once more with a fractured collarbone and 11 year veteran Seneca Wallace will start Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Philadelphia Eagles.   Just ponder that for a moment....22 seasons plus.  How many NFL teams have turned to backups, even third stringers just this season?  Remarkable.

Now that question has to be answered.  The 5-3 Packers meet the 4-5 Eagles knowing Rodgers will not only miss this game, but perhaps 3 or four more.  I'm pretty sure Wallace won't be able to win this game on his own, considering he hasn't started since 2010 and only joined the Packers the week before the regular season began.  Thrown into the fire Monday night against the Bears, Wallace struggled to put it mildly.  Mike McCarthy has to devise a game plan that will take advantage of Seneca's skills, mobility, smarts and veteran experience.  Wallace will be asked to carry out that plan but the true reliance will fall to those around him.  Yes, rookie Eddie Lacy and James Starks will have to produce yards on the ground to allow Wallace to work off a play action or rollout passing game.   The receivers need to be precise on routes to lesson the chance a lack of timing will become problematic.  The offensive line must be even more diligent in protection for a quarterback that might need a split second or two more to finish route progression and coverage reads than an accomplished star like Rodgers in this system.   The special teams needs to contribute, as they did against the Bears with a couple of momentum swinging plays.  The defense needs to rebound from a sub-par effort with a more dedicated performance, limiting points so Wallace doesn't have to get involved in a scoring shootout.

Wallace may not be the only new starter on offense.  T.J. Lang probably won't be cleared to play after suffering a concussion Monday night so Don Barclay would step inside from tackle to right guard and Marshall Newhouse will open where he finished at right tackle last week.

The defense will welcome the return of Clay Matthews from his broken thumb against Detroit back on October 6.  He will have the hand protected with a bulging club that he learned to play with at practice this week.  His energy could be enough to lift the unit to a better showing.

The Eagles arrive after demolishing the Raiders in Oakland 49-20 as backup Nick Foles tied an NFL record with 7 touchdown passes.  Under first year head coach Chip Kelly, Philadelphia has taken the no huddle offense from the good ol album speed of 33 1/3 rpm's to 78.  Run the play, get to the line in the same personnel group and run another, snap after snap.  It's produced to the tune of 413 yards per game with explosive players all over the field.  LeSean McCoy leads the league in rushing with 777 yards.  DeSean Jackson has 50 receptions, averaging nearly 17 yards a catch with 6 touchdowns.  Riley Cooper has 5 TD grabs.  Since taking over for the oft-injured Michael Vick, Foles has thrown 13 touchdown passes without an interception.  The Eagles have more 20 yard gains than any team in the league.  When they get in rythym, look out.  When they aren't, you'll see games like the 17-3 loss to the Cowboys and 15-7 loss to the Giants in the weeks before the Oakland rampage.

The Philly defense is slowly coming around but they've been gashed at times.  They give up almost 420 yards a game.   There's not nearly as much star power over here.  Trent Cole is the most familiar name at linebacker, joined by DeMeco Ryans and Connor  Barwin.  Fletcher Cox, a former number one, can muck up the middle on the defensive line.  The secondary wins some (10 interceptions) and lose some (14 TD passes allowed).

What do the guys have to say about the matchup and the keys to the game? Let's take a trip over to 1265 Lombardi Avenue:

Audio:  Packers Eagles preview quotes.

I'm hedging my bet on winning that 64 million dollars but in a close game throughout, I'm guessing the Packers defense will play a more spirited game and the offensive supporting cast will lift Wallace just enough along with the home field advantage to deliver a 23-20 Green Bay victory.   We know it will be interesting but