Much is unknown about Sunday's Eagles-Packers wild-card game. Why not? All of the season was unknown and wildly unpredictable. To fans picking the Eagles to go 10-6, congratulations. It worked out just as you thought.
On Sunday, will we see the high-flying Eagles of 2010? Will we see the overconfident, flat Eagles who lost to the Vikings on that bizarre Tuesday night?
The truth lies somewhere in between. It usually does.
Here are five reasons why the Eagles will beat the Packers:
1. Michael Vick. If he plays like an MVP, with necessary mad dashes for first downs and pinpoint passing accuracy, the Eagles will win. If he plays from the pocket, throws the long ball and picks apart the Green Bay secondary, the Eagles will win.
2. DeSean Jackson. If he is at full speed after a foot injury, if he gets open and is a viable target, he will lead the Eagles to victory.
3. Special teams. The Packers have to worry about Jackson's punt returns and David Akers has been great. Special teams nearly always have a say in playoff games.
4. Offensive line. The Eagles need to tighten this up. The Packers will charge after Vick from every angle. Should the offensive line protect Vick and open some lanes for LeSean McCoy, the Eagles will win.
5. The bye week. Well, it was all but a bye week, that exhibition mess against the Cowboys. This week is the payoff: The Eagles are rested, their injuries healing. The Packers had to play 60 minutes of intense football to beat the Bears. In football, go with the rested team. And, Andy Reid is 12-0 after the bye week.
Here are five reasons why the Packers will win:
1. Aaron Rodgers. He's one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league. He's going against a leaky Eagles' defense that is the league's worst in the red zone.
2. Clay Matthews. The outside linebacker had 13.5 sacks during the season, three against the Eagles in the opener. He also chased down and planted Kevin Kolb into the Linc greenery, causing a concussion. Matthews is a disruptive force, someone who could cause Vick all kinds of trouble.
3. Mike McCarthy. No one knows this low-profile coach of the Packers. But when half of his team disappeared onto the injured reserve list this season, he held what was left together.
4. Charles Woodson. He's old (34), he has been around forever (13th season) but that means he's experienced. Having raw speed at cornerback is one thing; having guile, smarts and attitude might mean more.
5. The defense. The Packers' defense is ranked second in points allowed (15.0), fifth in yards allowed (309.1) and fifth in passing yards allowed (194.2). It ranks 18th in rushing yards allowed (114.9). This is a defense set up to stop the pass and, as luck would have it, they play the pass-happiest team in the NFL on Sunday. *
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