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Philadelphia Eagles' Vs. Green Bay Packers: Preview and Predictions

Bob CunninghamSenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2010

Other than perhaps 2000, this is Andy Reid's most unpredictable team. Kevin Kolb is stepping to replace Donovan McNabb, LeSean McCoy is replacing Brian Westbrook, Brandon Graham is replacing Juqua Parker, and so on and so forth.

What I'm saying is there's a whole lot of new faces. That, of course, translates into a ton of questions marks that even the team is noticing.

"We don’t know what we have yet," said cornerback Asante Samuel. "We think we know, but we just have to go out there and put it all together and see what we really do have."

It's not what a lot of fans want to hear, but it's the truth. The list of questions marks truly is enough to make your head spin.

How will Graham and Nate Allen handle their first game? How will Jamaal Jackson play after returning from knee surgery? What about Stewart Bradley? What can we expect from newcomer Ernie Sims? Can Kolb be "the guy" at quarterback? How will Ellis Hobbs look attempting to replace Sheldon Brown?

The questions come fast and furious, and those are only the painfully obvious ones.

It also goes without saying that trying to answer those questions against a team like the Green Bay Packers is not exactly the best situation for anyone. Even the Packers come in not fully knowing what to expect out of Philadelphia's new, youthful team. Things could get very sloppy early on.


Key Matchups

Eagles' Pass Blocking Vs. Packers' Pass Rush

Without Jackson in at center to make the line calls, this would be a much bigger issue. A big portion of this battle is going to be how well the line is able to read the blitzes of the four linebackers and react to them.

With Mike McGlynn calling the shots, there was likely to be a lot of confusion due to his inexperience in dissecting an NFL defense. Jackson, on the other hand, should be able to immediately understand what he's seeing and set his line up in the best possible situation.

Even still, the Eagles' running backs—mostly McCoy and Leonard Weaver—are going to have to be very good in pass protection. The offensive tackles will likely be tangled up with the Packers' defensive ends from time to time, leaving the backs as the last line of defense.

And even if the guard are able to kick out and take the defensive tackles and leave Jason Peters and Winston Justice to block the blitzing outside linebackers, there will still be heavily-exposed "A" gaps that will need addressed.

If McCoy or Weaver are even a bit lax in their pass protection, it could lead to some big hits on Kolb or, even worse, a costly fumble or interception.


Eagles Defensive Line Vs. Packers Offensive Line

Aaron Rodgers was sacked a putrid 50 times last season. Believe it or not, the Eagles were actually tied for third in the league last year with 44 sacks on defense. On the surface, that should mean the Eagles should be able to get to Rodgers on a consistent basis.

That could wind up being the case, but I'm doubting it.

Last year, the Packers line was not very good. However, Rodgers was holding onto the ball for way too long and being a bit too indecisive at times. This year he looks to have more confidence in his throws and his reads, which will likely mean a decrease in sacks.

The run game could be a different story. Ryan Grant is a good runner, but I don't think the Packers offensive line is physical enough to move Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson out of the way and get to the second level.

If Bunkley and Patterson can just eat up space, it should create a lot of time for Bradley and Sims, especially to be able to flow to the ball and make a lot of big plays. If the Eagles are lucky and get things to work the way they want them to, the Packers will then abandon the run and Sean McDermott can start dialing up the blitz from there.

It all begins with Bunkley and Patterson, and they've shown time and again stopping the run isn't exactly an area in which they need too much improvement.


Special Teams Vs. Special Teams

This might not seem like a key matchup, but in Week 1, field position is everything. If Bobby April's squad allows the Pack to start from their own 35 every drive because the coverage team can't do their jobs, it makes the defense's job much more difficult.

The obvious flipside to that is the Eagles offense will be struggling enough to find an actual rhythm, so good field position could go a long way in boosting their confidence and getting them on a roll early.

April's special teams did not look so special in the preseason, and if that carries over into Week 1 it could be the difference between an upset win and a big loss.


Predictions (key player stats and score)

Aaron Rodgers (GB): 24-35, 289 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Kevin Kolb (PHI): 29-46, 267 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Ryan Grant (GB): 13 carries, 58 yards
LeSean McCoy (PHI): 9 carries, 40 yards

I expect the Packers to win this game. They're too talented and the Eagles have far too many question marks to go round-for-round with the guys from Green Bay.

For the score, I'm thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 33-21.

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