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Explosive Eagles aim to halt Packers' momentum


A breakdown of Sunday's NFC Wild Card Game between the Packers and Eagles:

Aaron Rodgers bears the Scarlet Letter of never having won a playoff game. He's one of the best passers and leaders in the NFL. He's no Miichael Vick, but he can run too. In the two must-win games since returning from a concussion: Five TDs, 731 yards, one pick.

This is the weakness of the team. Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, Dmitri Nance, and James Starks provide enough to help the play-action passing game. Kuhn is good in short yardage. They could hit some timely runs against a suspect run defense.

This group delivers in droves and is impossible to cover. Greg Jennings is one of the NFL's best (76 catches, 12 TDs); Donald Driver is old faithful. James Jones and Jordy Nelson also are major threats. Green Bay is so pass heavy, this is the lifeblood of the offense.

Left tackle Chad Clifton has played well this season. He'll have his hands full with the Eagles' Trent Cole, but he's had tough matchups each week. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has grown as the season has progressed. As a whole, this group is much better than in '09. Rodgers has been sacked 38 times.

Chad Clifton

B.J. Raji (6.5 sacks) arguably should have made the Pro Bowl. Defensive end Ryan Pickett has been steady. If underrated defensive end Cullen Jenkins (seven sacks) bounces back from a calf injury, this front -- with its rotational depth -- can create some problems.

Stud outside linebacker Clay Matthews will be moved around to find matchup issues against the Eagles' suspect offensive line. Inside linebacker A.J. Hawk has quietly had an excellent season, but could be put in bad coverage situations. Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop is a major masher.

Cornerback Tramon Williams is one of the best in the NFC, and can run with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Charles Woodson will blitz and be used more out of the slot in nickel sets. The Pack rank second in the NFL with 24 interceptions.

Tramon Williams is a steady punt returner, but he's not a game-breaker like Philly's DeSean Jackson. Jordy Nelson is a threat on kickoff returns, as is Sam Shields. Kicker Mason Crosby has been steady. Punter Tim Masthay could be very important in this game.

Mike McCarthy runs the offense, but the Packers are here because of their defense. Dom Capers has arguably the best staff in the NFL. With 12 defensive players on IR, Capers' group still ranks in the top five in nearly every category in the league.

Green Bay is one of the few teams that feels it matches up well with the Eagles. The Packers beat them in the season opener in Philly. The Packers have forced 24 interceptions, and if they can generate a turnover or two, they could win.

Michael Vick has won playoff games, and he is having a special season. If the thigh injury that sidelined him last week slows him, it could disrupt how he plays. He will face one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. He rushed for 103 yards in first meeting with Green Bay.

LeSean McCoy is the top rusher and receiver for the Eagles. He has a combined 1,672 yards and nine touchdowns. He's a big-time threat. The Packers' pressure could force him into more protection than normal.

Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson (1,056 yards) have combined for 16 touchdowns and are among the most explosive players in the league. Jason Avant is steady in the slot, and tight end Brent Celek has become a complete tight end. McCoy is the leading receiver, though.

This group has yielded 50 sacks, even with the most elusive QB in the NFL. Though it isn't the best run-blocking line, it is better than what some people think. Center Mike McGlynn has a lot to deal with in the Packers' B.J. Raji and will need help.

Trent Cole and fellow defensive end Juqua Parker have combined for 16 sacks with Cole posting 10. The Eagles generate most of their sacks from the D-line. They have a pretty deep rotation to keep people fresh, which will be key against the pass-oriented Packers.

Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley could return from an elbow injury, but with Green Bay spreading out formations, he wouldn't play much because Philly will play a lot of nickel sets. Outside linebackers Moise Fokou and Ernie Sims will be stressed a lot in coverage.

Cornerback Asante Samuel's ability to stick with any WR will allow the defensive front to be more aggressive, but Rodgers won't be afraid to throw his way. CB Dimitri Patterson also is solid, but uneven play at safety isn't ideal against this team.

Surprisingly, the Eagles' return teams aren't anything special. It's hard to imagine in a game of this magnitude that DeSean Jackson wouldn't be a factor, though. Pro Bowler David Akers is 32 of 38 in field goals, but a high number of attempts signals failure to score TDs in the red zone.

Andy Reid has almost always won in the first round, but lost last season. Offensive coordinator Marty Morninweg has been brilliant in designing schemes for his bevy of playmakers, which is why he could be headed to Cleveland as head coach.

Philadelphia's 4-4 home record is the worst of any playoff team, and the Eagles were 3-3 down the stretch, 0-2 to end the season. Vick also is coming off a thigh injury. The signs don't look great, but the Eagles are so explosive on offense.



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