- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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This 23-year-old is playing great football right now. Over the past five games, Lacy has averaged nearly 24 carries per game and 109 yards rushing. He is starting to truly prove himself as a workhorse running back, something that is uncommon in today’s NFL. He has vision, patience, a great knack for following his blockers as well as very good size and power to wear down a defense and punish tacklers while also showing a surprising ability to make tacklers miss in tight quarters or in space.
Only two offenses average more rushing yards per game than the Packers right now and only the Washington Redskins average more yards per rushing attempt. However, the Packers are now without Aaron Rodgers. With the Eagles coming to town Sunday, can Lacy put this team on his back? With the addition of Clay Matthews to a defense that is allowing only 4.0 yards per rush, which I discussed earlier in the week, I think Lacy can do enough for Green Bay to emerge victorious on Sunday. But first, let’s examine Lacy’s supporting cast.
Seneca Wallace was far from impressive coming off the bench on Monday night against the Bears. Let’s not look too much into that though.
Wallace has barely seen the field during the regular season over the past few years and surely didn’t receive many first-team reps last week in practice. He is far from great, but Wallace has been in the league a long time and knows what it takes to survive at the position. And head coach Mike McCarthy is an exceptional offensive mind that will get Wallace much more acclimated for this upcoming game than he was for the Bears on extremely short notice.
Wallace also has Jordy Nelson, who is having one of the best seasons in the league amongst all NFL wide receivers, and James Jones, who returned Monday night from a knee injury, to throw to. That isn’t too shabby and should be enough to keep the Eagles’ defense honest and to not totally sell out to stop Lacy. Play-action could be a key component to the Packers’ passing game this week.
While the Packers’ passing game might be trending upward from Week 9 to Week 10, which really shouldn’t be hard to accomplish considering how much it struggled last week without Rodgers, the offensive line is more of a concern now than then, although T.J. Lang will play today after suffering a concussion. The left side of Green Bay’s offensive line is quite solid with the ever-reliable Josh Sitton at guard and David Bakhtiari at tackle, where he has been a very pleasant surprise as a rookie.
However, while many think the Eagles’ defense, as it has transitioned from a 4-3 to a more multiple 3-4, is a pushover (and it was early in the season), this group is playing much better collectively of late, especially on the defensive line. Cedric Thornton is not a household name, but he has been simply superb stuffing the run from his 3-4 defensive end position.
Fletcher Cox has not been as stout as Thornton against the run, but remains formidable in that department. But Cox, a high first-round pick in 2012, is quickly establishing himself as one of the best penetrating and pass-rushing 3-4 defensive ends in the entire league. Thornton and Cox will cause the Packers’ offensive line plenty of problems.
But in the end, I expect the Packers’ defense to slow the Eagles’ running game while Matthews disrupts Philadelphia’s passing game. That should keep the game close enough for the Packers to rely on Lacy and James Starks with Wallace hopefully making a few key throws to score enough for Green Bay to win a close, hard-fought game to remain in the thick of the NFC North.
7hEric D. Williams