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Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers: Packers defence can be the difference

Za'Darius Smith
Za'Darius Smith has impressed in his first games as Packer
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Dave Gray believes that the Packers D will be the advantage in what should be a tight match-up on Thursday night.

"I believe that both these teams will be in the playoffs in January, but for me the Packers just have more talent."

Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers
Friday, 01:20 BST
Live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event

It might not be as one-sided as it looks

The Green Bay Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night at Lambeau Field hoping to move to 4-0 for the first time since 2015.

The records may indicate that this should be an easy victory for the home team, but the Eagles' 1-2 start doesn't tell the whole story. They went into the game with a number of injuries - particularly at receiver. Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson missing out meant Mack Hollins played 75 of the teams 76 offensive snaps. If those two miss this game, then Hollins is likely to see a similar workload.

They went down 24-27 to the Lions on Sunday but things could have been very different with some slightly better execution. They had numerous chances that were thrown away with dropped passes or ill-timed turnovers.

Those are things that can be fixed, but it might not be as simple as that against what has turned into a fearsome Packers defence. They have given up fewer points per game than any team but the New England Patriots, rank first in forced fumbles - the Eagles gave up two fumbles to the Lions - and third in sacks.

Two new stars in Green Bay

Green Bay aren't known for their free agent spending, but two big offseason signings have had a huge impact. Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith both got big contracts and have certainly shown they are worth it just three games into their Packers' careers. They combined for five sacks in week three. The Eagles rank in the bottom half for sacks allowed and the Smiths will be looking to add to their tally - particularly if left tackle Jason Peters isn't at 100%.

Carson Wentz has largely been a success since being taken second overall in 2016, but he has had a problem with fumbling in that time. He has 32 fumbles and 30 interceptions in 43 career games in the NFL. The Packers forced three turnovers last week and if they can force some mistakes from the Eagles QB, they could add to that in week four. It could well be the difference in a tight match-up.
Carson Wentz

Rodgers admits he needs to step up

The Packers are unbeaten, but it hasn't all been plain sailing. The offence hasn't quite lived up to expectations. It has been fine overall. Aaron Rodgers is yet to throw an interception, Aaron Jones has three touchdowns in his last two games and the young group of receivers have done just about enough, but they are yet to reach the high standards that they have set for themselves in the past.

Rodgers has completed just 61.3% of his passes in 2019 and is yet to go over 250 yards passing in a game. Something that the 35-year-old knows he must improve on.

"At some point, we can't expect our defence to shut everybody down. They have been but, at some point, the offence is going to have to wake up and start making some plays," Rodgers said ahead of this week's game.

This visit of the Eagles is followed by games against unbeaten opponents in the Cowboys and Lions. Wins in these games would put the Packers in prime position to take one of the two byes in the NFC.

The Eagles run defence has been one of the best in the league. The 2.9 yards per rushing attempt allowed is bettered only by the Patriots. It could be a tough day for Jones and the rest of the Packers' running game, making Rodgers even more of a key player in this game.

Packers just have a little too much

I believe that both these teams will be in the playoffs in January, but for me the Packers just have more talent. I really like Green Bay -3.5 points (20/23). The defence should be the difference maker and could well take advantage of Wentz's struggles to hold onto the ball. The defence/special teams to score a touchdown anytime is a very intriguing 7/2.

With both offences having their struggles, we could well see a bit of a defensive battle and under 46 total points (10/11) is the pick here.

If Jeffery and Jackson do miss out again then Mack Hollins will be on the field a lot for the Eagles offence. 11/2 to score a touchdown could well be worth a small bet, or for a real longshot combine it with Packers D/ST in a same game multi (36.82).

Dave Gray,

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