As they embark on a journey they hope will end with a victory in Dallas and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the Green Bay Packers open the 2010 season on the road staring at what looks like a mirror image of themselves just two short seasons ago.
A franchise quarterback traded despite deep divisions in the fan base.
A new starting quarterback that remains largely untested.
A core of young receivers that have shown great promise yet haven’t truly had that breakout season.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers no doubt look at the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles the same way the looked at themselves in 2008.
Playing the role of Brett Favre is Donovan McNabb, who was traded to the Redskins this past offseason. The part of Aaron Rodgers would be played by new starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, drafted in the second round in 2007 out of Houston.
Both teams enter their first game, as the other 30 teams in the NFL do, with Super Bowl aspirations. That said, the Packers are widely regarded as one of the favorites (if not the favorite) to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV, while the Eagles are expected to finish second or third in an always-difficult NFC East.
A loss by either team in this game is not the end of the world.
For the Packers, however, starting off another season slowly would severely jeopardize any hopes of getting home field advantage in the playoffs. Getting off to a fast start was a strong point of emphasis for Mike McCarthy this offseason. For the Eagles, they have rallied from holes in the standings before, so a loss would not cripple their hopes either.
Breaking down the Eagles
Obviously, all eyes are on Kolb and how he performs. He has drawn many comparisons to Rodgers. He is entering his first season as “the guy” and will no doubt be learning as he goes along. Teams will bring the pressure early and often against Kolb, and the Packers will be no different. Is Kolb a strength or a hindrance to this team? It’s too soon to tell. Check back in November.
The biggest strength of the Eagles is their receiving corps. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are one the best young receiving duos in the league. Both are incredibly agile and very fast with good hands and should pose a difficult challenge for the Packers’ aging secondary.
On defense, the Eagles' secondary should be a primary concern for the Packers. Asante Samuel, despite recent struggles, remains a pick-six threat every time he gets near the ball, and Ellis Hobbs remains an underrated threat as well. The Packers also should not look past the Eagles' linebacking corps either, with Ernie Sims playing on the outside.
The biggest weakness for the Eagles on offense would have to be their running game. While getting rid of the oft-injured Brian Westbrook was overall a good move, the Eagles now move forward with an unknown quantity in LeSean McCoy. Westbrook could provide instant points when he was healthy, and while McCoy has shown flashes, it remains to be seen what he can do over the course of a 16-game season.
On defense, the Eagles have a fairly weak defensive line. Upon viewing their depth chart, I read the names of the four lineman and my first thought was “Who?!” With rookie Brandon Graham starting on the left end, the Eagles certainly set themselves up for some growing pains on the D-line.
When the Packers have the ball….
Look for a heavy dose of Ryan Grant early. It will give everyone the chance to see if the Packers offensive line can hold up, albeit against a weak defensive line. Of course, Rodgers and the receiving corps are a threat to score at any given moment, so look for McCarthy to take advantage of the other side of the Eagles' secondary.
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles are blitz-heavy in the beginning, either. Everyone knows the offensive line was the Packers' Achilles' heel a year ago, and Andy Reid will no doubt be only too happy to test it in the season opener.
When the Eagles have the ball….
With a brand new starter under center, look for Dom Capers to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Kolb. Most of the defensive starters that missed camp are back in the lineup, so look for the linebackers to give Kolb fits all day.
Also, the Eagles will no doubt target wherever Charles Woodson is NOT. They will try to take advantage of rookie Morgan Burnett and corner Tramon Williams with quick slant routes and the occasional deep ball.
Three Keys to the Game
Will the Packers O-line hold up?
This will be the key question for the Packers throughout the season. If they can withstand crazy blitz packages from the Eagles LBs, there could be good reason for optimism.
Will Kevin Kolb be Aaron Rodgers…or Jay Fiedler?
This is the key to the Eagles for 2010. If the Packers can force Kolb to make some mistakes, rush his throws, and create some turnovers, the Packers should win this game.
Who will win the coaching battle?
McCarthy and Reid are two of the best offensive minds in the game today. Both have had to deal with distractions involving their previous starting quarterbacks and young receiving corps, yet their offenses keep scoring points. This will be a fun chess game to watch.
Packers 38, Eagles 27
This game should provide an awesome display of offensive fireworks. A weak Eagles defensive line and Packers linebackers who are still getting their sea legs should guarantee no shortage of highlight-reel plays in this game.
The Packers get off to a strong start to the season and the march to Super Bowl XLV has begun.
HERE’S TO FOOTBALL BEING BACK!
Kris Burke's work is also featured on Jersey Al's Green Bay Packers Blog at www.jerseyal.com as well as Andy Benoit's NFL Touchdown at www.nfltouchdown.com
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