Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Week 13

LaFleur undefeated in December, more records for Rodgers, and what's going wrong for Wentz in this week's six pack. 

It’s not often a 3-7-1 team finds itself still in the playoff race, but the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles are very much alive in an abysmal NFC East. Meanwhile, the 8-3 Packers hold a three-game lead in the division and look to distance themselves further on Sunday. Here are six things to look for heading into the 3:25 p.m. kickoff: 

1. Fulgham Speed Ahead 

While Packers fans might remember Travis Fulgham’s name from his incredibly brief stint with Green Bay during training camp, he emerged as a primary receiver for the Eagles during the month of October. Fulgham hauled in a touchdown in each of his first three games with Philadelphia, securing the attention of NFL fans league-wide after his 10 reception, 152-yard performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5. 

He’s made seven starts for the Eagles and has amassed 467 yards on 33 receptions with four touchdowns. Both his 467 yards and four touchdowns lead the team. Philly’s receiving core has been hit hard by injuries this season with Alshon Jeffrey, Desean Jackson (on injured reserve), and rookie first-round pick Jalen Reagor all missing significant time due to injury. The tight end unit wasn’t much better with Zach Ertz just elevated off injured reserve this week and Dallas Goedert missing four games. (I would be remiss here to not mention Richard Rodgers and the fact that he’s second on the team in yards with 345 and that he hauled in the second hail mary of his career on Monday Night Football against Seattle). 

Ertz will likely garner the most attention should he return to action on Sunday, but Fulgham remains a reliable option for Wentz and is a starting wide receiver on the depth chart. 

2. Carson’s Productivity Came and Wentz

Carson Wentz hasn’t lived up to his billing so far in 2020, despite the Eagles still being very much alive in the NFC East. He’s been sacked 46 times through 11 games, which is the most in the NFL. He’s thrown 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions (also most in the NFL), and his 10 fumbles rank second in the league. 

Now, part of that could be due to the patchwork offensive line Wentz is playing behind, but the challenge won’t get any easier on Sunday. Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith fifth in the NFL with nine sacks, and he’s already forced three fumbles this season. He also leads the Packers by a wide margin with 20 quarterback hits. His counterpart Preston Smith emerged against Chicago where he returned a forced fumble for a touchdown and tallied a sack of his own, bringing his total to 2.5. 

Beyond the Super Smith Bros, Kenny Clark puts up some of his best numbers in December, as last season he notched 4.5 of his six sacks in the final month. There’s also second-year edge rusher Rashan Gary, who’s tied for second on the team with Preston in total pressures with 11.

Wentz is completing only 58.1% of his passes in 2020, so if the front seven isn’t forcing turnovers, Green Bay’s secondary should have their opportunities, too. 

3. It Runyans in the Family

These titles are so bad this week I’m so sorry. Corey Linsley’s MCL injury is expected to keep him sidelined for three to six weeks, which means we can expect second-year superhero Elgton Jenkins to fill in at center for the foreseeable future. If Jenkins slides over one spot, all signs seem to indicate that sixth-round draft pick Jon Runyan Jr. will get his first NFL start at left guard on Sunday.

Runyan Jr.’s dad, Jon Runyan, was a fourth-round draft pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. While he was drafted by the Houston Oilers, he played nine seasons with the Eagles, starting all 144 games and making a Pro Bowl in 2002. It will be a special moment for the Runyan family should Jon Jr. get to make his first career start against his dad’s former team.  

4. LaFleur Boasts Spotless December Record

The Packers went 5-0 in December last season winning three games on the road and two at home. Green Bay also scored 20-plus points in each contest. 

This Sunday’s game at Lambeau will be the first of three home games for the Packers in December, with their final road games against two division rivals. Green Bay ranks first in the NFL in points for with an average of 31.7 points per game, and they’re coming off a 41-point outing against the Chicago Bears. 

On the flip side, the Eagles are 16th in points against giving up an average 25.2 points per game. Dominant defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has yet to practice this week and if he’s unable to play Sunday, that would be a significant blow to the Eagles defense, similar to the loss of Akiem Hicks for Chicago last week.  

5. 400 TDs for Rodgers

It seems like every week this season the now-37 year old is on the cusp of some personal record. We saw Rodgers eclipse 50,000 career yards in style on Sunday Night Football throwing his fourth touchdown of the night to Robert Tonyan, and he might reach another milestone against Philadelphia. 

Rodgers currently sits at 397 touchdowns and 88 interceptions. If he throws three TDs on Sunday, something he’s already done eight times this season, he’ll be the seventh quarterback to reach 400 touchdowns, and the first in NFL history to do so before throwing 100 interceptions. 

6. Austin’s Opportunity for Immediate Impact 

Whether or not he suits up on Sunday (which seems likely with Tyler Ervin still on the injury report as a limited participant in practice), newly-acquired Tavon Austin is a dynamic playmaker that’s well-suited for Matt LaFleur’s offense. The former eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent time with Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, and LaFleur himself during the 2017 Rams season when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator. 

In his introductory presser, Austin called himself both a wide receiver and a running back, but more so an athlete above all else, joking that if he no longer runs a 4.2 40-yard dash he can still run a 4.3. 

He was a member of the 2013 All-Rookie Team and should make an immediate impact on special teams, even if he doesn’t contribute much on offense. In his career, Austin has 5,263 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns, returning 185 punts for 1,466 yards and three touchdowns. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (15)

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porupack's picture

December 04, 2020 at 06:40 am

Nice Maggie; definitely liked your Carson Went(z). He look terrible last week, so if he suits up, he'll get abused more than just his name joked.

Thanks for the intel on Fulgam and RRodgers.

I can see HC Pedersen throwing a lot of unexpected stuff this week, so I wouldn't underestimate any team, especially after getting embarrassed like Eagles have been doing to themselves. Jacksonville was supposed to be at the near bottom.

But....you have me believing this week we'll see TD's 401, and maybe 403 and sacks 10 and 11 for Z, and maybe a couple for P and Rashan.

Runyans the family! Glad we have Jr., and good luck with a long career young man.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 04, 2020 at 07:07 am

1. While I wish we could/would have kept Fulgham, I'm really curious where he would line up in our depth chart right now. I'd have to think he would be 4th behind Adams, Lazard and MVS.

3. It is interesting that Runyan will likely be getting his first start against the team his dad is best known playing for. I really like Jr. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Depending on Linsley this could very well be the beginning for something really good for Jr.

6. I think Austin will play Sunday. But will be mostly a return specialist. They maybe will have him in for a package on offense, but I would think they will likely come in the future. I like Austin's fit for the offense. He can play that Ervin role as the guy who can do jet sweeps and do a lot of motion and whatnot. What I would like to see in the future though is a package having both guys on the field together. They could do a lot of trickery type of stuff with both of them on the field. It doesn't have to be a main part of the offense but it could be added when the offense needs a boost in someway. If Austin can provide a spark on special teams, he will already be an upgrade.

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mnbadger's picture

December 04, 2020 at 07:11 am

Maggie, no need to apologize for "bad" titles. A little levity is good for me, probably all of us. Great point about Pederson digging into his bag of tricks. eagles are a dangerous team with nothing to lose. We need a fast start or it may be closer than we'd all like. Pack 26 - 16. GPG

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Spock's picture

December 04, 2020 at 08:28 am

Agreed, mnbadger. Never apologize for a bad pun. Even a bad pun is still "punny". :)
Speaking of puns: damn, I miss the puns from TK. His exit from CHTV was so abrupt no one had time to wish him well (Sigh).

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Bure9620's picture

December 04, 2020 at 07:51 am

The only aspect of this game that worries me where Philly may likely have an advantage is their defensive front....We could not run the ball a lick last year against them and that is the first game I really saw MLF abandon the run game. I think the key is to stick to pounding the ball, some power, some off tackle, trap scheme, now seeing more of this with Lefleur and using Big dog on these plays.....in addition with Lazard back as a blocker....It may be slow going with minimal gains early but they need to stick to it

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Jonathan Spader's picture

December 04, 2020 at 10:09 am

Slay got abused by Metcaff. Expect Adams to do the same. We don't need to run the ball to win against the Eagles. Their secondary has to show they can stop Adams, Lazard, and Tonyan. Sprinkle in some MVS and ESB and that's a tall order.

If we can score enough fast enough we can take away Sanders in the run game and force Wentz to lose by throwing the football. Eagles have their best chance of winning by running up the middle and towards Preston.

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Minniman's picture

December 04, 2020 at 01:19 pm

I was able to watch the Philly vs Seattle game and noted a couple of things for this weeks matchup:

1) Wentz is in a confidence slump and is clearly playing injured. Like with Trubisky last week, keep the pressure on him and make him throw under pressure or on the run. DO NOT give him a clean pocket to operate in all afternoon.

2) Philly got beat up for most of the match but when they found their groove and Richard Rodgers scored that alley-oop esque Hail Mary touchdown they showed signs of coming roaring back. There’s enough experience on that team that knows how to win.

3) they were in a similar position last year, inconsistent form but in the hunt. In the lead up to that game (and I’m not sure if this is just hubris on his part) Doug Pederson said he felt confident about coming in to lambeau and getting the win - and they did. Don’t think that internally they not will be dining out on that to prep the team. Packers, expect an ambush.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:38 pm

It will be difficult to challenge Cox and company in the middle. Seattle gave away points trying to attack them head -on when they failed to convert the 4th downs, Monday night. Could be a game to pick them apart with 70% passing a' la Belichick/Brady. Hit' em where it hurts.

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Minniman's picture

December 04, 2020 at 05:09 pm

Great point JB. I don’t think that Rodgers will have nearly as much pocket time as he enjoyed in the Bears game.

It will be a good test of GB’s offensive line and scheming.

Best scenario is that MLF does his usual and starts hot with a td (or 2) which then puts the heat on Wentz and Peterson.

Packers want a shootout.

Philly wants an arm-wrestle.

MLF don’t get sucked into a trench war with Philly.

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NickPerry's picture

December 04, 2020 at 07:54 am

Fun read Maggie thanks... Davante Adams went OFF against the Eagles last year before suffering his Turf Toe injury. I have no doubt had he been able to finish that game the Packers beat the Eagles...Pay Back time for Davante. I think he'll get back on track a bit and have one of his 10 reception, 150 yard, 2 TD games.

Last week I thought Jones and Williams in the running game would be a huge part of the offense. It was and the offense had one it's best games of the season against a very good defense. Against the Eagles last season Jamal Williams was hit in the head with a scary cheap shot by Derek Barnett and suffered a concussion...Pay back time for Williams. I think he has a good game with over 100 yards from scrimmage and a TD.

Lazard's will hopefully play and it will be his 3rd game back since his core surgery. This isn't pay back time, it's get back on track time for Lazard. He'll catch at least 6 balls for 80 yards and a TD. I LOVE this kid and since the Eagles CB's are all 5'11" or shorter (except for Slay who will follow Adams around). Rodgers and Lazard get that slat pattern working again and those CB's won't be able to do a damn thing about it.

On Defense?? STOP MILES SANDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Packers 43-17 and they allow ONLY one garbage time TD... Progress

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Lphill's picture

December 04, 2020 at 08:30 am

The Eagles defense is very physical , this game is no sure thing, I expect Mike Pettine and his soft defense to make Carson Wentz look like Joe Montana, the Packers will win but not the blowout everyone expects.

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stockholder's picture

December 04, 2020 at 10:42 am

I agree LP. The packers are a lazy team. That Bear win went to their head. This game is No sure thing.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

December 04, 2020 at 08:38 am

I’d really hate for Rodgers to throw for 3 TDs and 12 INTs this week. That would suck.

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wildbill's picture

December 04, 2020 at 11:11 am

The Eagles will have plenty of trickery for the game and their defensive front seven is very good. We cannot overlook this team because of their record, it’s time we quit playing down to a team’s level and start hitting people and flying to the ball. ITS COLD WEATHER FOOTBALL TIME! GPG!!

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PeteK's picture

December 04, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Loney days ahead for you after those puns. hahaha I actually thought them to be very clever.
We're done playing down to inferior competition , especially at this time of the year. I'm looking forward to watching this O line and am crossing my fingers that they perform well because it could be our line of the future.

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