GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — As improbable as it sounds, the best quarterback on the field in Sunday’s game between the Packers and Philadelphia Eagles likely won’t be Aaron Rodgers. Or Michael Vick.
Try Nick Foles.
Yeah, that guy, who tied a single-game record with seven touchdown passes last week as Philadelphia pounded the Oakland Raiders 49-20.
“He had an amazing game,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “He can do it all, especially with how their offense is rolling right now.”
Any other week, and the quarterback matchup would be decidedly in Green Bay’s favor. But Rodgers, the 2011 NFL MVP, fractured his collarbone in Monday night’s 27-20 loss to the Bears.
The good news in Titletown is that Rodgers isn’t out for the year. But Sunday, against the Eagles, the offense presumably belongs to career understudy Seneca Wallace.
“Obviously I’m not going to be Aaron Rodgers,” Wallace said. “My job is to try go in and maintain things at a good level and win some ballgames until he gets back good and healthy.”
Five things to know ahead of the teams’ first meeting since the Packers’ 27-20 win on Sept. 12, 2010:
SENECA’S SHOW: As of midweek, Rodgers wasn’t officially ruled out, though all indications pointed to Wallace making his first start at quarterback since Jan. 1, 2012, when he was with the Browns. Coach Mike McCarthy’s task was to cater a game plan around Wallace’s skill set. He’s considered someone who plays with more mobility.
Wallace was “raised in a West Coast offense, so is Mike McCarthy,” noted Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, who was in Cleveland with Wallace. “It’s a high-efficiency offense that’s really built for a quarterback to quickly distribute the ball … and I think they’ll stay with that type of plan with Seneca.”
QB CONUNDRUM: Foles’ record-setting performance likely would have earned him another automatic start on most teams. Not so with the Eagles, at least officially as of midweek.
It appeared unlikely that Vick would return from a hamstring injury that’s bothered him much of the year. Vick was listed as limited midweek in practice. Eagles coach Chip Kelly stuck with his plan to not reveal too much midweek, proclaiming that Foles “was starting in practice today.” Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur liked Foles’ touch on deep passes last week against the Raiders. And the Eagles especially like how he’s thrown 13 touchdown passes but no interceptions in six games.
“Nick has a great respect for the football, he understands how protecting the football is important to winning football games,” Shurmur said.
CLUB CLAY: Packers star linebacker Clay Matthews appears close to returning. The pass-rushing specialist sported a club protecting his right hand while talking to an assistant coach during a portion of practice midweek open to reporters. He’s missed four games with an injured thumb. It might be a good time to give the defense a boost. After compiling 11 sacks in the first three games without Matthews, the Packers managed just one last week against Chicago.
“With Clay on the field, he’s going to create attention,” McCarthy said. “History tells you that.”
SHADY SIDE: LeSean McCoy, the league’s leading rusher, has slowed down to a relative jog. He’s been held to under 60 yards for three straight games, and four out of the last five weeks. The matchup doesn’t get any better this week in Green Bay, with the league’s fifth-best run defense (94.5 yards per game) looking to atone for having allowed 125 yards and a touchdown last week to Chicago’s Matt Forte. McCoy’s 777 yards put him 51 ahead of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch for the NFL lead.
RUNNING MEN: Lost in the hoopla over Rodgers’ injury was another stellar effort by the Packers’ rushing attack. It’s a bruising one-two punch with rookie Eddie Lacy, who has a league-best 545 yards since Oct. 1, and James Starks, the only NFL player this season with three touchdown runs of 25 yards or more.
“They’re downhill runners and they’re physical,” Kelly said. “It’s going to take a lot of guys to get them down.”
The Eagles are worst in the league in total defense (419.3 yards per game) but 15th against the run (111.8 yards).
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