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Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: NFC Wild Card Preview and Prediction

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2011

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: NFC Wild Card Preview and Prediction

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    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Two of the most explosive offenses in the National Football League will be pinned up against each other Sunday at 3:30 Central in the NFC's Wild Card Round.

    The Green Bay Packers come into the playoffs at 10-6 as the No. 6 seed, and they earned the playoff berth by beating the Chicago Bears last Sunday by a score of 10-3. They must win three road games, starting in Philly, in order to get to Dallas for the Super Bowl.

    The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, come in cold with two consecutive losses to the Vikings and the Cowboys. They also ended the season with a 10-6 record, but are the No. 3 seed by virtue of winning the NFC East Division.

    It's a rematch of Week 1, where we saw Green Bay go out top early before a certain someone for the Eagles entered the game. He scrambled his way into the game and made it close before the Packers ultimately won 27-20, a game played on this same Lincoln Financial Field soil that will see action on Sunday.

    Michael Vick and the Eagles stumbled at the end of the season—how will they rebound against the powerful offense run by Aaron Rodgers?

    How do these two teams match up against each other?

    Who will emerge victorious on Sunday?

    Read ahead and find out who I think will advance to the Divisional Round of the postseason.

    I hope you enjoy and give me some feedback. Thank you.

When the Eagles Pass the Ball

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Michael Vick has put together a nice career season in 2010, throwing for more than 3000 yards, 21 touchdowns and a 100.2 quarterback rating, all career highs for the reborn leader of the Eagles.

    The 30-year-old has cooled off recently though, throwing for six picks in the last five games after throwing zero in his first six games.

    If it weren't for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Vick would be a shoe-in for the MVP award.

    He has potent options at wideout in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, as well as team reception leader LeSean McCoy, with 78 to his name. Jackson, who has 21 catches of more than 20 yards this year, is a dangerous deep threat who can change the game in a flash—just ask the Giants about their Week 15 defeat.

    However, the Packers sport one of the (if not the) best secondaries in all of football, headlined by Pro Bowlers cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins.

    Opposite Woodson is Tramon Williams, a 27-year-old who very well could've made it to Hawaii for the first time.

     

    Advantage: Even

    This one is too close to call, with multiple Pro Bowlers anchoring each side of both units.

When the Eagles Run the Ball

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Eagles have one of the most dangerous running attacks in all of the NFL, averaging well over 150 yards per contest during the regular season.

    Part one of the attack is LeSean McCoy, a dangerous and speedy back, who ran for 1080 yards while averaging 5.2 yards a touch. Throw in seven touchdowns and three games with 100 or more yards and you've got an impressive resume.

    Then you have Vick, who averaged nearly 6.8 yards per rush, only attempting 100 on the season. He has career highs in both yards (676) and touchdowns (nine).

    The Packers are still very strong in this department, with linebackers Clay Matthews, Desmond Bishop, and A.J. Hawk regularly taking care of business on the rushing side.

    You may see B.J. Raji and the defensive line exploit the Eagles' weak offensive line throughout this battle.

     

    Advantage: Eagles (barely)

    While I mentioned the Packers' unit is strong, the word itself doesn't even begin to describe the Eagles' hungry rushing game.

    Both units are undoubtedly spectacular, but the Eagles will prevail in this category.

    Sorry, Clay Matthews. Don't sack me, please.

When the Packers Pass the Ball

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Aaron Rodgers is having what most quarterbacks in the NFL would call a great season, but by Rodgers' standards it has been mediocre.

    After topping 4000 yards in his first two campaigns, the NFL's all-time leader in quarterback rating had one mess of a season, missing one entire contest and three quarters of another one. He has still thrown for 3922 yards and 28 scores and has bested Vick's outstanding rating with a 101.2 himself, good for second in the NFL.

    In my opinion, Green Bay might have the best receiving corps in all of football, headlined by Greg Jennings, who leads the club with 1265 yards in '10. There is Donald Driver, the gritty veteran who leads the Pack in all-time receptions and yards. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are also great complimentary ball catchers.

    The Eagles have, well uh, Asante Samuel to stop them. His seven interceptions seem gaudy when you compare it to the fact that Rodgers has thrown 11 all year, and just two in the last eight contests.

     

    Advantage: Packers

    You know it's a large advantage when the answer is nearly given out before the bold "advantage" sign pops up. The Packers will steamroll Philly in the passing game.

When the Packers Run the Ball

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    When it comes to running backs, the Packers use many.

    John Kuhn is a fan favorite, goal-line beast who will eat up carries inside the red zone.

    Dmitri Nance and James Starks will both get a few carries in limited playing time, but will make the best of them.

    Brandon Jackson gets the bulk of the carries though, and he has rushed for over 700 yards this season to lead the club.

    However, Green Bay's second option is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. 

    Trent Cole has 10 sacks for the Eagles' defensive line, but I expect the Packers' offensive line to keep anyone from getting to Rodgers. This will be a tight battle up front. Pro Bowler Chad Clifton will be expected to be at the top of his game for this one.

     

    Advantage: Packers

    What it comes down to is the fact that the men protecting Rodgers and Jackson are slightly better than the opposing. The Packers will run for more than 125 yards and get this job done, but not easily at all.

    Call me crazy, but I think the Pack have a slighty better than average attack, and they will prove this come Sunday.

Special Teams

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    In what might be the last game in the midnight green and white for David Akers, the Eagles clearly need to establish the advantage in the special teams department.

    In order to do so, Akers and punter Sav Rocca need to be accurate and put the ball where it is necessary.

    DeSean Jackson is a machine that cannot be turned off, and I fully am anticipating Packers punter Tim Masthay to keep the ball away from him in the majority of the game.

    Sam Shields is an up-and-coming kick returner who can bust one loose if you let him.

     

    Advantage: Eagles

    Jackson, Rocca and Akers make up the nucleus of the clearly better unit, which has been the easiest of all for me to select thus far.

Coaching

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Two excellent head coaches, Mike McCarthy and Andy Reid, bring in powerful offensive and stingy defensive styles.

    McCarthy, who has a .600 career record as head coach, has only one postseason win, and that came at the hands of Seattle three years ago. He has put together (with the help of defensive coordinator Dom Capers) a Packers defense that isn't messing around anymore and are ready to pounce on the Eagles.

    Think about what McCarthy has done, despite all the injuries this year. Amazing, isn't it? Don't be surprised to see him get some Coach of the Year votes for his team overcoming the hurt and winning 10 games.

    Andy Reid has had five NFC Championship appearances in 11 years, to McCarthy's one. He has a better winning percentage at .617, but has recently seen a change in his team. They have lost two games in a row at home to teams who finished at a combined 12-20 and are looking to rebound on the shoulders of Reid.

     

    Advantage: Even

    This one is too close to call, with McCarthy and Reid equally having successful seasons on the sidelines.


The Prediction

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    Jim Prisching/Getty Images

    This one will be a close one. I almost feel bad chosing against either team based on how well they have performed this year.

    Both teams went 10-6 and are trying to avenge road losses in the Wild Card round last January. The Eagles got stomped by the Cowboys, while the Packers suffered a heartbreaking defeat courtesy of Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.

    One thing it will come to is the fact that the Eagles are a mediocre 4-4 playing at Lincoln Financial, and one of those losses came at the hands of these same Packers, who are not necessarily a good road team, but can win away from home if necessary. They shut out the Jets 9-0 on Halloween and beat the Vikings in the now-deceased Metrodome by a score of 31 to 3 three weeks later.

    The Packers will dominate on the offensive side, and I have no idea how to guess how Andy Reid's defense will try to stop them.

    Then again, stopping the Eagles' offense is quite the task too.

    Oh boy, confusion.

    Anyway, the Eagles have won five out of their last seven meetings with the Packers, but I see too many positives for the green and gold to fall out and lose in the first round.

     

    Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31, Philadelphia Eagles 27

    A win for the Packers sends them happily and pumped to face Atlanta to avenge their Week 13 loss. 

    Another devastating playoff loss for the Eagles sends them into the 2011 offseason with questions about Michael Vick's tenure, the defense and the coaching.

    Philly fans won't know what to do with themselves, and the Packers will bear the crown of this battle.

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