Can Packers Win In Philly For First Time In 48 Years?
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Aaron Rodgers leads the high flying Packers offensive machine into Lincoln Field in Philadelphia for an exciting week one matchup !
This game offers a lot of intrigue as Kevin Kolb replaces long time Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb who was dealt to the Eagles arch rival the Washington Redskins this past offseason.
The Packers have new starters at nine different positions as opposed to the starting lineup from last season's opener.
Many prognosticators are predicting Aaron Rodgers to capture the MVP award this season. Many of the same are predicting the Packers to reach or even win the Super Bowl.
This should be an exciting contest and give us an early idea of what to expect from these two teams as the season gets underway.
5 Keys To a Packer Victory
Coach Mike McCarthy leads Packers into hostile territory
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Quick trivia. Can you name the last time the Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia? Here is a hint, John F. Kennedy was the President.
The answer is November 11, 1962 !
After opening the season at the friendly tundra of Lambeau Field for three straight seasons, the Packers travel to Philadelphia for their first contest of the new season. The team carries with them sky high expectations and Super Bowl aspirations.
However, if the team is to emerge with the win there are several questions that must get answered when the teams kick off at 4:15 est on Sunday in the marquis television contest.
There are five areas that will be the difference between a win and a tough opening game loss.
Can Linebacker Brad Jones Rush The Passer?
Packer left outside linebacker Brad Jones
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One year ago Brad Jones was an unheralded seventh round draft pick who was just hoping to make the final roster. When perennial pass rusher Aaron Kampman went down with a season ending injury around mid season, Jones was thrust into a starting role at left outside linebacker.
The rookie responded with solid play as the Packers raced to a 7-1 record in their last eight games. His pass rushing was decent but certainly not spectacular.
As we begin the 2010 campaign, Jones is the starter, albeit on the other side of the field. He will be manning the right outside linebacker position opposite fellow second year starter Clay Matthews III.
Whereas Matthews is the unquestioned leading pass rusher on the squad, it is critical that Jones bring pressure from the right side to keep the opposing offenses honest with their blocking schemes.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will certainly bring many blitzes from many different spots in an effort to pressure young Eagle quarterback Kevin Kolb. And for the Packers to stop the Eagles, Jones must get some hits on Kolb.
For if he does not, Kolb will have time to aggressively target two rookies in the Packers secondary, safety Morgan Burnett and undrafted rookie nickle back Sam Shields.
Undrafted Sam Shields Starts at Nickle Cornerback
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The most surprising story of Packer training camp was the ascent of unheralded and undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields.
Shields played only one year at cornerback at Miami University after playing three seasons at wide receiver. Though his rise has been fast, his skills are very raw.
Possessor of blazing 4.2 speed in the 40 yard dash, Shield showed a knack for making big plays in camp and during the preseason. However, with little experience, he also gave up some big plays as well.
He is still learning angles to receivers and where he needs to be on the field. The Eagles will definitely target Shield with the big play receiver Desean Jackson among others.
Shields ability to keep receivers in front of him and make plays on the ball will be a critical element of this game.
Tim Masthay Is The Latest Packer Punter
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One year ago new Packer Punter Tim Masthay was working as a tutor at his alma mater University of Kentucky after failing to land an NFL job. This Sunday he will be counted on to help impact field position for the team in a hostile road game.
The punter position has been a revolving door in Green Bay in recent seasons. Since 2003 there has been over six different starters in six seasons. As a result, the position has been a liability and has cost the Packers some wins. Some important games were lost when opposing teams were given good field position late in games and were able to march for winning scores.
After a six month battle against former Australian Rules star Chris Bryan, Masthay finished camp strong and won the right to be the starter.
Masthay will have a huge challenge in his first regular season NFL game as it comes at Lincoln Field in Philadelphia. Masthay will need to produce good hang time and give Packer coverage units time to get downfield and avoid giving up long returns to explosive Eagle return man Desean Jackson.
Field position will be a a vital component of this game and if the first year punter falters, it could be the difference in the game.
Nose Tackle BJ Raji Must Stuff The Middle
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After being drafted ninth overall in the first round of the 2009 draft, BJ Raji had a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. First he staged a hold out that shortened his training camp. Then, lingering ankle injuries sidelined him at various times of the season.
Veteran Ryan Picket easily won the starting nose tackle position in the Packers 3-4 allignment. Raji was then shuffled to defensive end and seemed out of place. Overall he was not much of a factor for the NFL's top rated defense.
This season Raji was given the starting nose tackle job from day one. Pickett was moved to defensive end. Raji has been healthy throughout the offseason and training camp. He will be counted on to tie up multiple blockers and stuff the running game of opposing offenses.
The biggest hope is that Raji will also be able to generate a pass rush from the middle. Or, at least get a push into the backfield and force opposing quarterbacks to abandon the pocket.
If Raji can cause disruption in the backfield and force young Eagle quarterback Kevin Kolb out of the pocket, this plays right into the hands of pass rushing linebackers Clay Matthews III and Brad Jones and could create sacks.
The truly great 3-4 defenses all had great nose tackles. Can Raji add his name to that list?
Ryan Grant Must Keep The Chains Moving
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A quarterback's best friend is a running back who can consistently gain yardage and create first downs.
Aaron Rodgers needs Ryan Grant to be his best friend this Sunday.
The Eagles will most definitely send numerous blitzes at Packer star quarterback Aaron Rodgers this Sunday. And the best way to neutralize those blitzes would be for halfback Ryan Grant to have a big game running the football.
If Grant can consistently log good runs on first and second downs, it will keep the Packers from facing many third downs with long yardage to go. And if that happens it puts Aaron Rodgers in situations where he flourishes.
When the Packers running game is in high gear there are then simply too many weapons for opposing defenses to cover. And at that point, the offense becomes unstoppable.
Grant had a few uncharacteristic fumbles in preseason. Let's hope that doesn't carry into the regular season. If Grant gets over 20 carries and averages over four yards per carry, the Packers will be tough to keep out of the end zone.
A Stern Test For This Young Packer Team
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The 2010 Packers seem to be the popular pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in Dallas. If they can secure a victory in Philadelphia for the first time in 48 years it would be an emphatic statement that the expectations are legitimate.
However, Andy Reid's Eagles will be a stiff test for this young team. For the fourth straight season, the Packers are among the youngest teams in the league.
The Packers must get solid play from defense and special teams in order to win. If the keys to victory that I have described are met this Sunday, the Packers should post a win and have great momentum as they head back to the tundra at Lambeau for a week two meeting versus a weak Buffalo team.