Eagles-Packers: Staff leaning toward Green Bay
I am always uncomfortable when I get the feeling that I'm underrating Andy Reid. So I'm uncomfortable here. But I look at the Eagles' defense and I look at what Aaron Rodgers has done lately, and it doesn't add up to forecasting an Eagles victory.
Sure, there are ways the Eagles can win. Get a lead, run the ball, get the crowd whipped up, Asante Samuel picks a pass. Definitely could happen. Will it happen?
It's easier for me to envision Rodgers throwing bombs and Clay Matthews stripping a fumble from Michael Vick, with Vick down a couple of touchdowns and trying to do too much on his own.
If I'm wrong, then the time is Andy's, and probably, Sean McDermott's, which would be good, because he's a decent guy who hasn't been able to prove definitively that he's up to running the defense. Beating Rodgers, unless it's 42-40, might do that for him.
But they'll all have to show me.
Packers 28, Eagles 27
If the Eagles were playing any of the other four NFC playoff teams Sunday at the Linc - the Falcons, the Bears, the Saints or the Seahawks - I probably would pick them to win. But they're not. They're playing the Packers, who, despite their No. 6 seeding, probably are the best team in the conference right now and most certainly are the worst possible matchup right now for the Eagles.
I think Michael Vick and the Eagles' offense will have their hands full dealing with Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson and the Packers blitz.
And I think the Eagles defense, with all of its injuries, with all of its inexperience, will get sliced and diced by Aaron Rodgers and his deep, talented stable of wide receivers.
The Eagles can win Sunday. But it would take a lot of things going right. Finding a way to pressure Rodgers. Getting a game-of-his-life performance from much-maligned cornerback Dimitri Patterson.
Ending their incredible generosity in the red zone. Winning the turnover battle. Big games from DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. A bigger game from Vick.
It's been a good season, but I think it ends Sunday.
Packers 31, Eagles 23
The Eagles did themselves no favors by coming up small against the Vikings. And now they have to pay for it.
Instead of being able to put their cleats up this weekend, they get Aaron Rodgers and a dangerous Packers receiving corps.
Michael Vick's running ability garners plenty of deserved attention, but Rodgers has some deceptive mobility, too.
But forget the quarterbacks for a second. It's January and the Packers defense is playing much better. A bonus prediction: Whichever team wins this game will be in the NFC Championship Game.
Packers 20, Eagles 17
It was the Packers' third exhibition. They were playing the lordly Colts. I don't put a lot of stock in NFL exhibitions. By the third game, the veterans are in survival mode and just want to get off the field in one piece. Most of the rookies and free agents who play in the second half soon will be gone, no matter how well they play.
But this exhibition had a different look and feel because the Pack's starters pounded the Colts to jelly. Aaron Rodgers threw for three TDs and the back end of the roster guys and just about everybody else who played continued the 59-24 mauling. I picked the Packers to win the NFC title and I'm sticking with that prediction.
The Packers beat the Eagles, 27-20, in the season opener, despite a brilliant relief effort by Michael Vick after starter Kevin Kolb was concussed before halftime. Green Bay lost running back Ryan Grant for the season in that game and injuries decimated the roster to the point that the Pack came minutes from not making the playoffs at all.
But some of the luster was rattled off the injured Vick by the Vikings, who exposed the Eagles' o-line with a dizzying array of blitzes. Clay Matthews, the baddest linebacker on the planet, is salivating.
Packers 27, Eagles 24.
The Packers have been lethal in the red zone this year. The Eagles defense has been suicidal. This alone is reason enough to like Green Bay in this game.
Yes, both teams have been slowed by injuries, but the Packers have found better answers in their replacements, especially defensively. And, yes, Green Bay is 3-5 on the road this season, but of those losses, three came against teams seeded first or second in the playoffs.
Besides, the Linc has been nothing special for the Birds this season.
Packers 31, Eagles 21
The thing is, Michael Vick is right. If he played the entire opener, instead of replacing concussed Kevin Kolb, the Eagles would have beaten Green Bay.
So, why not this time? Yes, the Pack's defense is stingy and ballhawking and murder on quarterbacks.
So were the Giants. The Birds are home, rested and ready.
Eagles 27, Packers 20
The Eagles have Michael Vick, and they have Andy Reid/Marty Mornhinweg with extra time to come up with a game plan - and those are two significant advantages. What they don't have is momentum. What they also don't have is a defense that has been able to hold a high-caliber opponent below 24 points very often.
For the Eagles to have a chance, they will need to build a significant early lead and play the game from ahead. Las Vegas likes Vick and the Eagles, but even if he starts the game completely healed from his bruised quadriceps, I'm just not sure he has enough left in the tank.
Packers 30, Eagles 24
I'm with Michael Vick. I wonder whether the Eagles would have won the season-opening game against the Green Bay Packers had he played the entire way.
Both of these teams have been through a lot of upheaval since that Sunday in September, but they make for an interesting rematch in the NFC playoffs. I think Vick will be the difference.
His ability to be mobile and break containment will counter the Packers' pass rush. He'll extend a few plays and create somethings out of some nothings. It won't be a stellar day for either defense, and Vick has one more big-play in him than Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Eagles 28, Packers 24