Here are five things we'll be keeping our eyes on during Sunday's wild-card playoff game:
1. Vick and the blitz. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent 5 or more rushers after Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on nearly 47 percent of his dropbacks last week, and figures to up that percentage dramatically on Sunday against Michael Vick. Vick has completed just 55 percent of his passes against the blitz and has been sacked 19 times when teams have sent extra rushers. Only Cutler has been decked more.
2. A little give, a lot of take. The good news is the Eagles are 8-1 this season when they win the turnover battle. The bad news is they’ve won just one turnover battle in the last 6 games. After turning the ball over just 9 times in the first 9 games, they’ve given it up 16 times in the last 7 games. The defense has 23 interceptions, but just 4 in the last 6 games.
3. Putting the squeeze on Rodgers. The Eagles, who have just 15 sacks in the last 8 games, have to find a way to get pressure on the Packers quarterback, who has a 122.0 passer rating in his last 7 starts. But their front four is running on empty and Rodgers is the top-rated passer in the league against the blitz. What’s left? Well, they could put something in his pre-game meal.
4. Run, LeSean, run. The most effective way to neutralize Rodgers is to keep the ball out of his hands. And the best way to do that is to run the ball and control the clock. The Packers won the time-of-possession battle 8 times this season. They were 6-2 and averaged 32.5 points in those 8 games. In the 8 games they lost the TOP: 4-4 and 16.0 points per game. LeSean McCoy has averaged 6.1 yards per carry and has 11 runs of 10 yards or more in his last 3 starts.
5. As the red zone turns. The Eagles defense has been pathetic in the red zone this season. Their 76.7 failure rate inside the 20 is the worst in the NFL in 22 years. They don’t know how to say no in goal line situations, giving up TDs on 23 of 28 goal-to-go situations. Opposing QBs have a 64.9 completion percentage and have thrown 22 touchdown passes in the red zone. Now, here comes Rodgers and the Packers, who own the NFL’s sixth best red-zone offense.
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