Posted by Holly Phelps on January 6, 2011 Jump To Comments
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East behind the most explosive offense in the league. Quarterback Michael Vick has come off the bench to have an MVP-caliber season. Not only does he lead the league by a wide margin in rushing yards, he’s also developed an eye-popping chemistry with speedsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. More than ever before, the Eagles are a big-play threat at any point of the game.
Yet, it’s the Packers who have gotten all the press coming into this matchup. Everyone is saying that the Packers will waltz from Philadelphia all the way to Dallas.
Let me tell you, folks. It’s beginning to rub the Eagles the wrong way.
Many of the players, especially on defense, are frustrated with the popular opinion that they will simply roll over for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing offense. Cornerback Asante Samuel is a savvy veteran and saves his best games in the postseason. He leads a secondary that has picked off opposing quarterbacks 23 times. Sure, the Eagles are struggling to overcome key injuries at safety and corner. Sure, their defense has given up a miserable 31 passing touchdowns. But they’re counting on their front four, led by Trent Cole and Juqua Parker’s combined 16 sacks, to make life miserable for tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga. It’s not as though the Packers have a running game. If Rodgers is running for his life, he can’t very well take advantage of underachieving corner Dimitri Patterson, now can he?
Now, if I’m Andy Reid in this matchup, I’ll be bringing a whole lot of tight end Brent Celek and running-back LeSean McCoy. Knowing Reid, he’ll likely chuck it deep for DeSean Jackson every now and again, but it would be foolish not to take advantage of the weaknesses in the Packers defense. Celek is great making plays over the middle, and McCoy can bounce runs outside, elude tackles on screens with the type of speed that makes defenders look silly, and is an underrated runner up the middle. Given the explosiveness of the Packers offense, it seems likely that Reid may try to pound the ball with McCoy and backup Jerome Harrison to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.
Many of the Eagles starters are rested, and have been studying Green Bay for two weeks. That’s a lot of time to discover mismatches and areas of opportunity. Is it enough time to shore up the obvious flaws in the Eagles game? Will Vick suddenly be able to identify blitzes and elude pressure? Will he flip a switch and start getting the ball out of his hands on one-step drops? Will rookie linebacker Jamar Chaney be able to handle the defensive calls against a Packers offense with more line changes than are, frankly, necessary?
All other things being equal, this should be a great game. But if the Eagles make the most of their extra preparation, along with an intense feeling of under-appreciation, God help the Packers.
It’s the playoffs, baby. Let the best team –and by that, I mean the Packers – win.
Still can’t get enough of the write-up on this game? Head over to my full Opposition Research post for more about the Eagles, including detailed breakdowns of players, strategy, and a discussion about whether Barack Obama is allowed to be a sports fan.