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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers: Position-by-Position Matchup Preview

Darren GrossmanCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2011

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers: Position-by-Position Matchup Preview

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Well, since it's playoff time I thought I would bring back my popular position-by-position matchup preview piece. 

    As always, I will try to be as unbiased as possible, and give my honest opinion of each position and what team has the advantage.  I did about five of these in the regular season and I was able to predict the correct winner all five times after doing the analysis. 

    So let's get started. 

Quarterbacks

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers

    The Packers boast a great offense and it starts with QB Aaron Rodgers, who is one of the league's best.  Rodgers will definitely be ready to play this game as he played great in his only playoff appearance last season.  Despite a loss to the Cardinals, Rodgers really shined.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Michael Vick was a legitimate MVP candidate this season until Tom Brady pulled away with it, but Vick will likely finish second.  Vick is so dangerous because of his ability to create with his legs along with improved passing.  As a member of the Falcons, Vick beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in the playoffs.  Vick also almost led the Eagles back from a 17-point deficit in the second half to beat Green Bay in Week 1.  Although the Eagles came up short, the Packers did not seem to have an answer for Mike Vick.

     

    Advantage: Rodgers is great, but I think there is a slight advantage here to Philadelphia

Running Backs

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    Green Bay

    The Packers don't run the ball all that well.  After losing Ryan Grant against our Eagles in Week 1, the Packers use a platoon of backs led by former second-round pick Brandon Jackson and FB John Kuhn.  They will also sprinkle in either Dimitri Nance or James Starks.  None of them are real effective.

     

    Philadelphia

    LeSean McCoy is better than anyone on Green Bay and, honestly, Jerome Harrison probably is, too.  This is the easiest call of all the positions.  I think it is important for the Eagles to try to establish the running game early, which could open up the deep pass, which is the bread and butter of their offense.

     

    Advantage: Philadelphia

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Green Bay

    In my opinion, the Packers have one of the most talented WR corps in the NFL.  Greg Jennings is a stud and Donald Driver is a crafty veteran that has been elite for years.  Even at an older age, Driver can still get open and make plays. 

    They also boast one of the most underrated WRs in the NFL in James Jones, who can be very dangerous.  Jordy Nelson has emerged as a solid fourth WR as well for this team. 

    On the tight end front, they lost their starting TE early in the season when Jermichael Finley went down, but Andrew Quarless has done an okay job filling in.  The Eagles have trouble defending tight ends, so I wonder if Quarless will get extended touches here. 

    The Packers boast four WRs who have more than 500 receiving yards, which I doubt you will find on most teams in the NFL.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    If this was just a comparison of starting WRs, I would say the Eagles would have the advantage, as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are one of the best duos in the NFL.  However, if you compare the entire position, there is a significant fall-off after those two. 

    Jason Avant has good hands but is not overly fast and struggles to get open.  Chad Hall and Riley Cooper have both shown promise at times but have been largely inconsistent.  Brent Celek could be a dark horse threat at tight end to have a big game, but he has had a down season. 

    It's close, but the Packers' depth is what decides it for me here.

     

    Advantage: Green Bay

Offensive Line

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers

    This one is tough to pick as neither unit really impresses me.  On one hand, the Packers' Chad Clifton made the Pro Bowl, but his season was much like Jason Peters.  He struggled early and came on strong late in the year. 

    Scott Wells is an underrated center and rookie Brian Bulaga did a decent job at right tackle.  Sutton and Collins man the guard positions.  This line does an okay job because Rodgers is fairly agile and normally gets rid of the ball quickly. 

    The Eagles don't have a great defensive line, so this unit should be able to do a decent job.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Well, Jason Peters has cut down his penalties in the second half of the season and made the Pro Bowl.  Todd Herremans is one of the most underrated lineman in the league, and perhaps the Eagles' best lineman. 

    However, the rest of the line is a train wreck with Mike McGlynn, Nick Cole, Jean-Giles and Winston Justice/King Dunlap.  I'm not sure the Eagles OL could be rated better than many lines in the NFL.

     

    Advantage: Green Bay

Defensive Line

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers

    Admittedly, it is hard to compare a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 when it comes to DL.  The Packers have the underrated Ryan Pickett, who is solid against the run but is not a great pass rusher. The nose tackle appears to be B.J. Raji, and injuries on the DL have hurt this team a bit, but the other end is Cullen Jenkins, who has been injured but may play this week. 

    This group does a decent job getting pressure, as Jenkins had seven sacks and Raji 6.5. Considering that Jenkins has missed time, those numbers aren't bad.  Still, the Packers lack a premier name, and the 3-4's strength is in the LBs and not the line.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    I continue to be baffled by Trent Cole getting snubbed from the Pro Bowl seemingly every year, as he registered another double-digit sack season despite seeing constant double teams.  Juqua Parker also had a very nice season for the Eagles. 

    Perhaps the most surprising story is Anthony Dixon, who has emerged out of nowhere to be one of the Eagles' best tackles.  The Eagles' four-deep tackle rotation of Dixon, Trevor Laws, Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley is better than what most teams have, as all four of those guys are decent tackles. 

     

    Advantage: Philadelphia

Linebackers

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    Green Bay Packers

    This category is the most lopsided in the Packers' favor.  Clay Matthews has battled some minor injuries that have slowed him down some, but he still made the Pro Bowl and was third in the league in sacks.  A.J. Hawk was in the doghouse early in the season for Green Bay but fought his way back to relevance and had 111 tackles this season. 

    Losing Nick Barnett for the season hurt this group as Barnett is a very good player, as well.  They also lost Brandon Chiller for the year, who was solid in pass coverage.  Still, this unit is far better than the Eagles LBs.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Ernie Sims is a solid OLB but other than him, this unit has to be the worst in the NFL.  If you are a smart Eagles fan like me, you have to be praying Stewart Bradley can't play Sunday, as Jamar Chaney, despite making some rookie mistakes, is far more agile, athletic and explosive than Bradley.  Chaney gives the Eagles a much better battle at MLB. 

    On the other side, Moises Foku and Akeem Jordan seem to rotate, but neither guy is very good.  It's kind of like picking between poison ivy and poison oak.

     

    Advantage: Green Bay

Secondary

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Green Bay

    Charles Woodson is still one of the elite CBs in the NFL.  What he may have lost in speed he makes up for in positioning and smarts, as Woodson can cover almost anyone.  On the other side, Tramon Williams has emerged as a very good CB and many people thought he was snubbed for a Pro Bowl selection.  Williams had 57 tackles, six INTs and three fumble recoveries this season.  If that is not a Pro Bowler, I am not sure what is at the cornerback spot.  By comparison, Charles Woodson had two INTs.

    Losing Atari Bigby hurt Green Bay at the safety spot but they still have Nick Collins.  Charlie Peprah is the weak link of this defensive backfield, but he is filling in for Bigby.

     

    Philadelphia

    Everyone knows how highly I regard Asante Samuel, but the problem is after him there is a huge drop-off to Dimitri Patterson or Joselio Hanson.  It's so bad I actually think the Eagles should start Trevard Lindley. 

    At safety, Quintin Mikell has had a nice second half of the season, but losing Nate Allen hurts.  Kurt Coleman, a seventh-round pick, has done an admirable job filling in.

     

    Advantage: Green Bay

Special Teams

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    Green Bay Packers

    Mason Crosby was 22 of 28 in FGs this season, but Crosby is a solid kicker with a good leg.  Punting-wise, Tim Masthay does not impress me all that much. 

    In the return game, the Packers will use Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Jordy Nelson and perhaps once in a great while, Greg Jennings.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    David Akers continues to be one of the best kickers in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl again this season. 

    Sav Rocca has had an up-and-down season but has not really been noticeable most of the year, which is all I look for in a punter. Rocca does have a huge leg and can often really nail punts.

    In the return game, the Eagles will use DeSean Jackson if they fall behind and Jackson is extremely dangerous.  He's the only player in the last decade to make the Pro Bowl in two positions, which he did in 2009.

     

    Advantage: Philadelphia

Coaching

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers

    Mike McCarthy has done a nice job dealing with a lot of injuries this season.  I've been a big fan of McCarthy since he took over in Green Bay a few years ago.  McCarthy is 1-2 in the postseason overall as a head coach.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Andy Reid is one of the league's longest-tenured coaches and has a very good track record in early postseason rounds.  Reid is 10-8 in the postseason and has a lot more experience.  Reid's teams have made the playoffs nine times in the last 11 years, going to one Super Bowl and five NFC Championship Games. 

    The Eagles have not lost three straight games under Andy Reid since 2007.

     

    Advantage: Philadelphia

Intangibles and Prediction

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    Intangibles

    The Packers did beat the Eagles already this season in Philadelphia, which gives them somewhat of a mental edge.

    However, that was the first time that Green Bay won in Philadelphia since 1962, as the Eagles had won nine straight games in Philadelphia before the Week 1 loss.

    The Eagles also have the home crowd, and the Packers struggled to a 3-5 road record this season. 

    The Packers do lead the all-time series with a 25-13 record, but that is largely due to a 19-2 record vs. the Eagles in the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s.  Since 1970, the Eagles actually lead the series 11-6.

    The Eagles are also 2-0 all-time in the playoffs vs. the Packers.  The Eagles are 5-1 at home vs. Green Bay under Andy Reid.

    Advantage: Philadelphia


    Prediction

    I am very nervous about this game, the Packers are a very talented team that can score and I think they are better than the Eagles in a lot of areas.  I would not be surprised to see the Packers come here and win, but considering they have only done that once since 1962, I will play the trend and take the Eagles.

    Pick: Eagles 30, Packers 27

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