- Michael C. Wright, ESPN.com Spurs Reporter
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The Philadelphia Eagles-Green Bay Packers game on Sunday in Philadelphia will determine whether the Bears face the Eagles or Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 16 at Soldier Field. Five things to look for Sunday's first-round matchup:
1. Blitzes on Vick: The Minnesota Vikings scored a Week 16 upset of the Eagles by bringing cornerback Antoine Winfield off the slot on blitzes that produced six sacks, seven quarterback hits and constant pressure on Michael Vick.
Look for Green Bay to try a similar approach with seven-time Pro Bowler Charles Woodson.
The Packers brought Woodson off the edge for 12 of 16 second-half blitzes against the Bears in the regular-season finale, resulting in the corner posting a sack, and eight tackles. Although Vick possesses much more athleticism than Jay Cutler, he’s shown a tendency to struggle against constant pressure. The key for Green Bay will be to keep rush-lane integrity to prevent Vick from getting out of the pocket.
2. Coverage-oriented approach on Rodgers: The Packers tied for fourth in the league in passing touchdowns, and Aaron Rodgers posted the NFL’s best passer rating against the blitz, meaning it’s probably not a good idea to try to manufacture pressure against the quarterback.
Philadelphia likely won’t attack the Packers with the same scheme it utilized in the opener, but the Eagles’ best shot would be to stay close to that approach while mixing in a little pressure to keep Rodgers guessing.
3. McCoy taking pressure off Vick: The Eagles can’t win this game if they can’t take pressure off Vick by getting the rushing attack going with LeSean McCoy, who was seemingly an afterthought in the offense during a Week 16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The best way to counteract the pressure the Packers are likely to see is to deploy McCoy on screen passes. McCoy finished the season ranked 14th with 1,080 yards, but tallied the fewest attempts of any of the league’s top 15 rushers. So the Eagles need to ramp up McCoy’s attempts in this game, which would go a long way toward selling the play fakes they’ll use on occasion to get Vick on the move in the passing game.
4. Early involvement from Jackson: DeSean Jackson seems to produce explosive outings when the team involves him early on in a game. But when he’s not involved early, Jackson can easily disappear, which would give the Packers a significant edge.
The Packers shut down Jackson in the first meeting between the teams, and he hasn’t shown good chemistry lately with Vick. The quarterback even admitted during the week the difficulty of keeping Jackson involved while avoiding trying to force the ball to the receiver.
In addition to his duties on offense, Jackson returns punts, which is another explosive facet of his game. The Packers demonstrated the ability to shut down a top return man in the season finale when they limited the production of Devin Hester with strong punt coverage and pinpoint directional punting.
5. Matthews' impact: Clay Matthews started his season with three sacks against the Eagles, including one on Kevin Kolb that caused a concussion and paved the way for Vick’s resurgent season. Can the Eagles handle Matthews in protection? More than likely, the answer is no.
Pay attention to how Packers' defensive coordinator Dom Capers tries to deploy Matthews, who could easily dominate left tackle Jason Peters or right tackle Winston Justice in one-on-one situations. There’s a good chance the Packers try to keep Matthews lined up on Peters’ side to try to force Vick to scramble and throw to the right. Justice has struggled recently with a sprained knee, and both he and Peters have shown to be susceptible to bull rushes.
Here are five things to look for in Sunday's Packers-Eagles contest.