Eagles' nest daunting test for Packers

Eric Goska
View Comments

There exists an NFL standings in which the Philadelphia Eagles are in first place in the NFC East. In that particular array, the Eagles rank among the power elites.

A fan holds up a sign during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia.

This configuration does not reside in fantasy land. It is not found in some alternate reality.

These standings — with the Eagles on top — underscore why the Packers face an uphill battle at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia is a force at home.

NFL.com contains league standings dating to 1920. For the first 50 years, two splits are available: preseason and regular season.

The fun begins the year the NFL and AFL merged. Beginning in 1970, choices include how teams fared overall, at home, on the road, indoors, outdoors, against the division, against the AFC or NFC, on grass, on turf or in overtime.

The Eagles are 5-5 and trail the Cowboys (10-1), Giants (8-3) and Redskins (6-4-1) in the overall standings that appear daily in newspapers or on the web. But they are 4-0 and ahead of Dallas (5-1), New York (5-1) and Washington (4-2) when only home games are counted.

Only two NFL teams remain unbeaten at home — Philadelphia and Seattle (5-0) — after Houston's home loss Sunday to San Diego.

The Eagles have defeated Cleveland (29-10), Pittsburgh (34-3), Minnesota (21-10) and Atlanta (24-15) at home. The points scored by the Steelers, Falcons and Vikings (tie) were season lows.

Philadelphia has outscored the competition 108-38 at Lincoln Financial Field. Its net of 70 is a league high, about two touchdowns better than the 55 of second-place Arizona.

In addition to points, the Eagles have outgained their opponent in yards (1,473-1,124) and first downs (88-58). They own an average time of possession that’s just over 35 minutes.

There have been games in which they never trailed (Cleveland; Pittsburgh), and there have been games in which they rallied: Atlanta (down two ) and Minnesota (down three). The Eagles have outscored their visitors 64-19 in the second half.

Philadelphia has won in spite of four turnovers, in part by forcing the Vikings into four of their own. It has weathered performances by Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (12 catches for 140 yards) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (10-135).

For the Eagles, defense appears to be key. The unit has kept opposing passer ratings under control, and it has clamped down on offenses once they reached midfield.

The defense of Philadelphia is the only one not to have given up a passer rating of 80 or more at home this season. Robert Griffin III (55.0), Ben Roethlisberger (62.4), Sam Bradford (71.6) and Matt Ryan (78.7) all were prevented from breaking out.

Because of this, the Eagles have fashioned a defensive passer rating of 67.4. It was the lowest number by any defense in its first four home games this season, better than the 68.6 of the more-publicized unit that resides in Minnesota.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s charges have been particularly adept at preventing touchdown passes in their backyard. They have given up just two, one to Bradford and Cordarrelle Patterson of the Vikings, and one to Ryan and Taylor Gabriel of the Falcons.

Opposing quarterbacks have been treated even more rudely once they cross the 50-yard line. There Griffin, Roethlisberger, Bradford and Ryan completed but 22 of 51 throws for 115 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That equates to a puny passer rating of 40.7.

When on their side of the field, the Browns, Steelers, Vikings and Falcons gained 947 yards on 154 plays (6.1 yards per play). On plays initiated beyond the 50, their output tumbled to 177 yards on 76 plays (2.3).

Inside the red zone, those four teams apparently accepted the mannequin challenge that’s sweeping the internet. On 23 snaps from inside the Eagles’ 20, they gained just three yards.

That meager total consists of nine rushing yards on 12 attempts, 16 passing yards on eight attempts and minus-22 on three sacks. Patterson and the Browns’ Isaiah Crowder have been the only players to register a first down that close to the Eagles’ end zone.

Welcome, Green Bay, to the City of Brotherly Love. Attempting to outwit this defense is the challenge that awaits.

The Packers have struggled mightily in Philadelphia over the last 50 years. After demolishing the Eagles 49-0 in 1962, Green Bay lost eight straight there before finally winning in 2010.

That victory, a 27-20 squeaker to open the season, occurred in Mike McCarthy’s fifth year as Packers head coach. It was McCarthy’s 19th regular-season victory on the road.

Under McCarthy, Green Bay has endured just two seasons with losing records away from Lambeau Field: 2008 (2-6) and 2010 (3-5). Make that three should the Packers (1-4) come up short in Philadelphia.

nflgsis.com and nfl.com served as references for this article.

Regular-season series

Overall: Green Bay leads 25-14

At Lincoln Financial Field: Philadelphia leads 3-1

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (84-45 overall; 2-0 vs. Philadelphia)

Eagles: Carson Wentz (5-5; 0-0 vs. Green Bay)

Extra point

Philadelphia’s point differential at home through four games (+70) is its greatest since 2002 (+73) when it also opened 4-0.

Home schooling the competition

Teams with the greatest point differentials in home games.

Diff.    Team            Record

+70      Eagles          4-0

+55      Cardinals     3-2-1

+43      Cowboys      5-1

+40      Seahawks     5-0

+39      Steelers        3-2

+36      Chiefs          4-1

+35      Vikings        4-1

View Comments