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Packers vs. Eagles: Five key matchups's Wes Hodkiewicz identifies five key matchups in Monday’s Packers-Eagles game



1. Aaron Rodgers vs. Carson Wentz

Rodgers made an emphatic statement earlier this week in saying he believes the Packers have what it takes to "run the table" during their final six games. They'll look to start the turnaround against a Philadelphia team that has yet to taste defeat at home with No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz under center. Wentz has cooled off since the Eagles' 3-0 start, but the rookie quarterback has demonstrated poise and maturity well beyond his years. Rodgers has played well during the Packers' four-game losing streak (101.9 passer rating), but admits the offense needs to start faster. Green Bay is averaging 5.8 points per game in the first quarter this season. Philadelphia has had similar issues this season with only 26 first-quarter points in 10 games. On Monday night, both quarterbacks will look to hit the ground running, which could go a long way in which team prevails.


2. Jared Cook vs. Malcolm Jenkins

Cook burst back onto the scene last week in Washington with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown to lead the Packers' passing game. While Cook's day ended with a lost fumble, his performance gave the coaches and locker room a small sampling of what impact he could have on the offense. Like Washington, Philadelphia has some question marks in its back end. The Eagles mainly use Jenkins, a Pro Bowler in 2015, as a safety in the base defense and a slot cornerback in the nickel and dime sub-packages. Philadelphia's defense will certainly consider what Cook did a week ago against Washington, garnering attention that could potentially free up the Packers' receiving trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.


3. Wendell Smallwood vs. Mason Crosby

The rookie fifth-round pick out of West Virginia hasn't had many chances to return kickoffs this year, but he's made the most of the opportunities he's been given. Smallwood is averaging 31.6 yards on seven kickoff returns, including an 86-yard touchdown return last month against Washington. The Eagles' other kickoff returner, Kenjon Barner, is equally dangerous on a return unit that's produced two TDs. Crosby will have to be mindful of Smallwood's explosiveness, especially with the temperatures hovering in the 40s. He has 31 touchbacks on 54 kickoffs. Green Bay is allowing 30.5 yards per kickoff return, a number inflated by Jordan Todman's 99-yard touchdown return earlier this month.


4. Nick Perry vs. Allen Barbre

Perry bulldozed his way toward his team-high seventh sack of the season to end Washington's first offensive series last Sunday. The Packers need more of that kind of production from their pass rush and feel they'll get it with Clay Matthews another week removed from his hamstring injury. Barbre, a former fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2007, has found a home as a guard on Philadelphia's offensive line. However, he'll likely be called upon to make his first start at right tackle in two years with Halapouilvaati Vaitai sidelined with a knee injury. Green Bay is tied for 10th in the NFL with 24 sacks.


5. Joe Thomas vs. Darren Sproles

Now in his 12th NFL season, the 33-year-old Sproles has shown no signs of slowing down with 854 all-purpose yards this season (319 rushing, 304 receiving and 212 punt returns). Sproles exited Sunday's loss in Seattle with a rib injury, but the 5-foot-6, 190-pound running back is expected to play after being a full participant in practice this week. Thomas likely will be counted on to play every down with Blake Martinez's knee injury, but his specialty has been tracking running backs in third-down situations. Ryan Mathews also left with a knee injury against the Seahawks, so Thomas may also have to be mindful of Smallwood, who recorded 79 yards on 17 touches in place of Mathews and Sproles last week.'s Wes Hodkiewicz identifies five key matchups in Monday's Packers-Eagles game.

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