Reporting Matt Leon
Lincoln Financial Field – Sunday 1/9/2011 – 4:30 p.m.
Previous Meeting – 9/12/2010 – Green Bay beats the Eagles 27-20 in the regular season opener for both teams at the Linc.
Things to Watch:
Michael Vick — The Eagles quarterback first showed he was going to be much more than just a novelty this season in that first game against the Packers. Taking over for the injured Kevin Kolb, Vick jump started a listless Eagles offense by going 16 of 24 for 175 yards and a touchdown while rushing for an additional 103 yards. However, he was also stuffed on a late 4th and 1 play that allowed the Packers to hold on for the 27-20 win. Vick was incredibly effective against Green Bay, but it would also be safe to assume that the Packers had dedicated most of their preparation for that one on the much less mobile Kolb. It will be interesting to see how Vick performs this time around against a Packer defense spending all its time gameplanning for his special skill set.
Injuries — Both these teams have been hit hard by injuries this season and both teams started losing key players in that first match-up which kicked off the regular season. Packers saw RB Ryan Grant go down with an ankle injury in that game, he spent the rest of the season on IR. The Eagles lost center Jamaal Jackson to a torn triceps, and FB Leonard Weaver to a knee injury in that one – both would also be placed on IR. Both teams have seen multiple more players end up on the injured reserve list throughout the season including TE Jermichael Finley for Green Bay and CB Ellis Hobbs for the Eagles. As for an injury to keep an eye on Sunday, Eagles MLB Stewart Bradley has been battling a dislocated elbow – he has seemed optimistic about his chances to play against Green Bay, Head Coach Andy Reid has not. Without Bradley, the Eagles would most likely stick with rookie Jamar Chaney at the MLB position.
Eagles Secondary — This is an area that the injury bug has really been felt. Eagles have lost two of their four starters from the beginning of the season in rookie safety Nate Allen and cornerback Hobbs. While veterans Quinton Mikell and Asante Samuel have played well, the cornerback spot opposite Samuel has been a serious concern since Hobbs got hurt. Dimitri Patterson played well at first, but as the season went on, opposing teams began to really exploit the 5th year veteran — to the point that he was replaced by Joselio Hanson. Andy Reid has said that Patterson will start on Sunday. No matter who starts, the secondary will have its hands full with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. All he’s done this season is throw for 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 66% of his passes.
Running Backs — Ironically when talking about an Andy Reid coached team, this may be where the Eagles have the biggest advantage. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy has had a phenomenal season, rushing for 1,080 yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He also has caught more passes (78) than any other running back in the NFL this season. Packers aren’t great against the run, allowing 4.7 yards per carry – so if Reid decides to buck his own history/philosophy and focus on the ground game — it could be a big spot for McCoy. We mentioned earlier how the Packers lost their top back in Ryan Grant in Week #1, well they haven’t really replaced him that effectively. Brandon Jackson is their leading ground gainer with 703 yards, but he averages just 3.7 yards per carry. Eagles allow about 110 yards a game on the ground and 4.2 yards a carry, and the Eagles performance against the run has improved since the first month or so of the season.
Turnovers — A big reason why the Eagles are still playing football is their turnover ratio. Birds finished the regular season +9. Throw out that meaningless finale against the Cowboys and that key statistic jumps up to +12. Green Bay also takes good care of the football, they finished the season at +10 in takeaway/giveaway. As is usually the case, the team that wins the turnover battle on Sunday, will most likely win the game.
With a Win . . . — The Eagles would advance to the divisional playoffs to visit the #2 seed in the NFC, the Chicago Bears, on Sunday, January 16th. The Bears beat the Eagles during the regular season 31-26 back on November 28th. The Packers would advance to visit the top seed the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.