COMMENTARY | What a different a play can make.
One moment, the Green Bay Packers are one of the hottest teams in football, led by a quarterback and running attack clicking on all cylinders, and a defense doing its best to overcome a rash of injuries.
The next moment, Aaron Rodgers has a broken collarbone, the defense falls apart and the Packers are questioning whether or not they can even reach the postseason.
For the second straight week, Green Bay will play in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field. It will host a Philadelphia Eagles team fresh off a 49-20 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders behind the NFL record-seven touchdown passes by Nick Foles.
Can the Packers handle the high-octane attack of Chip Kelly and the Eagles and remain in a tie for first place in the NFC North? Here are the five most important things to watch during the Week 10 matchup between Philadelphia and Green Bay.
Can Seneca lead the Pack?
Aaron Rodgers still hasn't been ruled out for Sunday, but anyone with half a brain knows that No. 12 will be missing his first game since 2010 due to his fractured clavicle. That means it will be the 33-year old Seneca Wallace guiding the reigns of the Green Bay offense against the Eagles.
Wallace was thrown into the fire against the Chicago Bears and it was clear he wasn't up to the challenge, completing 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards to go along with an interception. If it hadn't been for special teams and a couple of lengthy runs by Eddie Lacy and James Starks, Wallace probably doesn't lead the Green Bay offense to a single score.
But with a week of practice as the No. 1 quarterback under his belt, Wallace will have grown more comfortable with his receivers and the offense in general, as Mike McCarthy plans to tailor the offense to Wallace's strengths. Remember -- Wallace wasn't even in training camp with the Packers.
James Jones should be getting back to full strength, and there is also Jordy Nelson, Andrew Quarless and Jarrett Boykin to turn to in the passing game. With the performance of Green Bay's running attack this season, all Wallace needs to do is be a game manager, and he will put the Packers in a position to win.
Should he fail to do so, keep an eye out for a potential Matt Flynn signing next week (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
Who sees the most time at nickel corner?
The Green Bay defense didn't exactly put on a tackling clinic on Monday night, nor did it have much success in coverage. One of the culprits of both was nickel corner Casey Hayward in his second week back from a hamstring injury.
The amount Hayward was used against the Bears was peculiar for a few reasons. For one, the Packers had been having more success with either Davon House or Micah Hyde as the No. 3 corner, and yet those two didn't even combine to see as much time as Hayward. And to put it nicely, Hayward wasn't having one of his better games against Chicago.
Hayward is still shaking off the rust, as he has been a reliable player in the past, but look for House and Hyde to see more snaps against the Eagles.
Look for Green Bay to exploit Eagles through the air
Considering how the Packers have the No. 2 running game in the NFL and Aaron Rodgers on the sideline, this might not appear to be the best plan of attack. But no team in the league allows more passing yards per game than the Philadelphia Eagles.
Green Bay would like nothing more than to not only establish the running game, and with Wallace under center, Philadelphia will likely commit more men to the run. That should make it easier for the Packers to take advantage of a porous Eagles secondary.
The return of Clay Matthews
And the debut of his club.
It's no guarantee that Matthews will make his first appearance since Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions, but he has been practicing sparingly with a protective club on his right hand. On Monday, Matthews had the pins removed from his surgically repaired right thumb and he believes he can give it a go on Sunday.
Just how effective can Matthews be with a club? It could prevent him from being as aggressive as he is accustomed to being while rushing the passer, but then again, his presence is far better than the alternative.
How Packers handle up-tempo Eagles offense
The transition for Chip Kelly from the college level to the pros hasn't been anywhere near flawless, but there's no question that there isn't anyone that plays at a faster tempo than the Eagles.
That being said, Philadelphia runs 66.7 plays per game, good for No. 9 in the NFL. That's not the number Kelly would like to be at, although his style will still offer the Green Bay defense with a unique challenge.
For how promising the Packers defense had looked leading up to their game against a team with a second-string quarterback, their performance against the Bears was a significant letdown. Dom Capers has another challenge on his plate with the Eagles, as only two teams run the football better than Philadelphia, and it also cracks the Top 10 in passing offense.
Getting off the field quickly to avoid fatigue will be the most important aspect for the Green Bay defense to conquer. Prior to their thrashing of Oakland, the Eagles didn't score an offensive touchdown in two straight games, so it's entirely possible for the Packers to bounce back and shutdown this high-octane offense.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe.
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- Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Aaron Rodgers
- Seneca Wallace
- the Eagles