Friday, January 7, 2011
Final Word: Packers-Eagles
By Kevin Seifert
Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Packers-Eagles wild-card game:
Legacy: We've already had plenty to say about this matchup; you can view those posts through this handy "Packers in Philly" filter. But it's worth noting that this game will be a career-changer for one of the two starting quarterbacks. Either Aaron Rodgers will get his first playoff victory for the Green Bay Packers, or, as ESPN's Sal Paolantonio notes, the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick will conquer the crossroads he finds himself in. No quarterback is defined by his performance in one wild-card playoff game or the team's result. But for different reasons, both Rodgers and Vick would start in a new direction with a victory.
Running back John Kuhn has established himself as the Packers' best option in short-yardage situations.
Short-yardage issues: Fullback-turned-cult-hero John Kuhn has been the Packers' best option in short-yardage situations, and he finished the year with 26 first downs on 84 carries. But overall, the Packers' biggest offensive weakness is their limited options in short yardage or at the goal line. In an ESPN Insider piece, Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders ranked the Packers No. 25 in the NFL in converting "power" situations, defined as "carries on third or fourth down with two yards to go or less, or carries on first or second down within two yards of the end zone." It's been a particular problem near the goal line, and sometimes the Packers' best option has been for Rodgers to scramble. Everything is magnified in a playoff game, where the falloff from a touchdown opportunity to a field goal can be severe. The Packers need to capitalize on every opportunity to score.
History: Before defeating the Eagles in Week 1 this season, the Packers had lost their previous nine games in Philadelphia. Nearly 48 years passed between victories. But coach Mike McCarthy's teams generally have not been flummoxed by difficult road environments or winter weather. Since McCarthy took over in 2006, the Packers are 21-19 on the road and 15-8 in December/January games. Lincoln Financial Field isn't the friendliest place for an unfamiliar opponent, but the Packers aren't likely to be affected much by that segment of this matchup.