NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: 2011 Quick Takes

Quick Take: Giants at 49ers

January, 15, 2012
1/15/12
8:07
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park:

1. Home sweet home. Getting the NFC title game at home is a dream scenario for the 49ers. Quarterback Alex Smith has been much, much better at home this season and never better than he was when it counted against New Orleans in the divisional round. His fourth-quarter Total QBR against the Saints was 99.7, the third-highest in a fourth quarter this season. The figure was 78.1 out of 100 for the entire game, continuing a season-long trend. Smith's regular-season QBR was 71.6 at home, up from 29.3 on the road. Smith played well during the 49ers' 27-20 victory over the Giants at Candlestick in Week 10. Frank Gore left the game with an injury, leaving Smith to carry more of the load. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, no fumbles and six rushes covering 27 yards. His confidence should be higher than ever.

2. Manning-Brady Super Bowl talk. Think the 49ers noticed their underdog status at home against the lower-seeded Saints? Yes, they did. They can also expect to hear others salivating over a potential Super Bowl rematch between the Giants and New England Patriots. A storyline pitting Tom Brady against Eli Manning will have great appeal outside the Bay Area. If only the 49ers would go quietly. Recent history could be on the 49ers' side. The last time an NFC West team reached a Super Bowl, Arizona unexpectedly got the NFC title game at home against an NFC East opponent. The Cardinals beat the Eagles to advance, heading off an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl.

3. Big plays in focus. The 49ers' defense beat up the Saints for three-plus quarters, only to collapse late in the game as both teams suddenly found the end zone repeatedly. San Francisco gave up 12 pass plays of 40-plus yards during the regular season, tied for fifth-most in the league. The Saints managed none until hitting two for touchdowns in the final minutes Saturday. Manning completed passes for 36 and 32 yards against the 49ers in Week 10, but none longer. He barely overthrew a wide-open Mario Manningham for what would have been a long touchdown in the final six minutes. That is one area for the 49ers to watch against the Giants.

Quick Take: Jets at Steelers

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
10:05
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game:

1. The Jets already have won at Heinz Field this season. The Jets rebounded from humiliating back-to-back losses (45-3 to the New England Patriots and at home against the Miami Dolphins) by going into Pittsburgh and beating the eventual AFC North champs in Week 15. But it wasn't a textbook victory. Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and Jason Taylor recorded a safety in the fourth quarter that forced the Steelers to go for a touchdown on their final drive rather than kick a field goal. The Steelers made it to the Jets' 10-yard line and had two shots at the end zone before time expired in a thriller.

2. The Jets know they can beat anybody when they come to play. The Jets not only return to a venue they've already conquered, but they also have won consecutive games against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. For the second year under Rex Ryan, the Jets won two road playoff games and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Last year, though, they knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers with the help of some missed field goals. This year's run has been more impressive. The Jets are back after slaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in two of the toughest stadiums for a visitor to escape triumphant -- in any sport. Now they'll have to knock off another championship quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.

3. That said, the Steelers didn't have safety Troy Polamalu in that game. The perennial defensive player of the year candidate didn't play particularly well in Saturday's victory over the Baltimore Ravens, but you can't count on him to miss many tackles two weeks in a row. Polamalu is a game-changer for the Steelers and may be the league's ultimate defensive force. His teammates voted him the team MVP for good reason. He had 63 tackles, a sack, seven interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a forced fumble in 14 games.

Quick Take: Jets at Steelers

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
8:46
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game:

1. The road to the Super Bowl now goes through Pittsburgh. The Steelers caught a break Sunday night with the Jets' upset win against the New England Patriots. Pittsburgh, the AFC's No. 2 seed, will play host to the conference title game for the second time in three years. The Steelers said Saturday night that they were confident regardless of the opponent. But playing at home in the postseason is always a preference, and the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady have had Pittsburgh's number in recent years.

2. Don't forget the Jets beat Pittsburgh too. While the Steelers avoided a trip to New England, the team with the best record in the regular season, they will face a Jets team that went into Heinz Field on Dec. 19 and handed Pittsburgh a 22-17 defeat. New York outplayed Pittsburgh in Week 15, particularly on special teams. The Steelers also were without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, who missed the game with a calf/Achilles injury.

3. There are tons of AFC North connections in this game. This will be a big week for Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, whom Pittsburgh traded this offseason to New York. Holmes will make his second trip to Pittsburgh this season, but this time a ticket to Super Bowl XLV is at stake. Jets coach Rex Ryan, linebacker Bart Scott and defensive lineman Trevor Pryce are among those who joined New York from the Baltimore Ravens' organization. Receiver Braylon Edwards was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and the Browns traded their No. 5 overall pick to the Jets in 2009 to allow New York to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez. Jets safety Brodney Pool also played five seasons in Cleveland.

Quick Take: Packers at Bears

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
7:58
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears NFC Championship Game:

1. The numbers are in. The Packers and Bears have made the playoffs in the same season in only four years of the rivalry's 89-year history. Next Sunday will mark the second postseason game between them; the Bears won a 33-14 Western Division playoff in 1941 at Wrigley Field. This season, the teams split the season series, with each team winning at its home stadium. Overall, the Bears own a 92-83-6 advantage in the series. One more number: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 7-3 when the game-time temperature is 30 degrees or below. He has 25 touchdowns and five interceptions in those games.

2. The game will feature two quarterbacks coming off historic performances. As we suggested Saturday night, Aaron Rodgers played one of the better playoff games of this generation, completing 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards while accounting for four touchdowns in a 48-21 victory against the Atlanta Falcons. Rodgers' 81.6 completion percentage was the fifth-best in NFL postseason history, and he became the first quarterback to throw 10 touchdown passes in his first three playoff games. Meanwhile, the Bears' Jay Cutler also accounted for four touchdowns in a 35-24 victory against the Seattle Seahawks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cutler became only the second quarterback in NFL history to both pass and run for multiple touchdowns in a playoff game. The other was Otto Graham, who did it in 1954 and 1955 for the Cleveland Browns.

3. Familiar, shamiliar. The Bears and Packers have been playing each other for nearly a century, but don't rule out a few schematic surprises. It will be especially interesting to watch the back-and-forth between a pair of notorious mad scientists, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. "With the coaches that are going against each other, coach Martz and coach Capers, there will be some new stuff out there," Bears center Olin Kreutz said. "So we'll be ready." Sunday, Martz provided a preview with three Wildcat plays -- including a pass from tailback Matt Forte -- and an early emphasis on targeting tight end Greg Olsen.

Quick Take: Packers at Falcons

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
10:06
PM ET
Three things to know about Saturday's Atlanta Falcons-Green Bay Packers divisional-round playoff game:

1. Tough draw. Of the three teams they could have drawn out of the wild-card round the Packers probably are the team the Falcons least wanted to see. Seattle, which went 7-9 in the regular season and would have had to travel across the country, would have been the top choice. There also were some people in the organization wishing the Falcons would draw their NFC South rival, the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans won in Atlanta late in the season and some Saints posed for pictures on the Falcons’ logo. The Saints said it wasn’t a sign of disrespect, but the Falcons didn’t see it that way. There would have been plenty of motivation for revenge if the Saints were coming back to the Georgia Dome. Although they are the No.6 seed, the Packers are hot right now and that makes them more dangerous than Seattle or New Orleans would have been.

2. The sequel. When the Packers came to the Georgia Dome on Nov. 28, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan took a huge step in his growth process. With the game tied, 17-17, and 49 seconds left, Ryan calmly led the Falcons on a six-play drive to set up a game-winning field goal by Matt Bryant. This game could be another huge challenge for Ryan as he tries to establish himself as an elite quarterback. He can win his first playoff game. Ryan’s only other playoff appearance came in a loss to Arizona in his rookie season.

3. Not a rookie anymore. One player I think could make a big difference in this game is Atlanta rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He started the season well and was showing signs he could make some big plays happen. But Weatherspoon got banged up and missed some time. When he came back, he was used as more of a situational player in a rotation with Stephen Nicholas. But the bye week gave Weatherspoon some time to get rested. He’s fully healthy and he should be comfortable with the defensive system by now. Don’t be surprised if he plays a bigger role in this game.

Quick Take: Seahawks at Bears

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
9:35
PM ET
Three things to know about Sunday afternoon's Seattle Seahawks-Chicago Bears divisional-round playoff game at Soldier Field:

1. It's hard to imagine the Bears overlooking the Seahawks. In Week 6, the Seahawks pulled off a 23-20 victory at Soldier Field, sacking quarterback Jay Cutler six times and limiting him to 17 completions in 39 attempts. The Bears' defense, meanwhile, never sacked Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and didn't force a turnover. The Bears are a much different (and better) team now, but surely they're aware of how well Hasselbeck played in knocking the New Orleans Saints out of the playoffs Saturday. They aren't likely to be overconfident. Just ask former Bears defensive end Alex Brown, who was on the losing end Saturday as a member of the Saints. By the way, if you're interested, the line on this game opened at 9.5 points.

2. For what it's worth, the Bears beat every team they played twice this season at least once. That make sense? They swept the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings while splitting their season series with the Green Bay Packers. So they are 5-1 in this scenario. Does that mean they're destined to beat the Seahawks on Sunday? You decide.

3. That Week 6 loss might have been the height of Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz's hubris. Martz called 39 passing plays and only 14 runs despite the pass-protection issues his team was having. The Bears have since balanced themselves out and should have a chance at some decent success on the ground Sunday. The Seahawks allowed an average of 118.9 rushing yards per game during the regular season, the second-most among playoff teams. If Cutler needs to throw 39 passes in this game, the Bears should be worried.

Quick Take: Packers at Falcons

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
9:07
PM ET
Three things to know about Saturday night's Green Bay Packers-Atlanta Falcons divisional-round playoff game at the Georgia Dome:

1. The Packers have been eagerly looking forward to a postseason rematch with the Falcons after a close and highly entertaining game in Week 12. In that Nov. 28 contest at the Georgia Dome, the Packers drove 90 yards on 16 plays for a game-tying touchdown with 56 seconds remaining. But the Falcons won on Matt Bryant's 47-yard field goal after a long kickoff return and a face-mask penalty put them about 20 yards from field goal range. "We thought we left a lot out there on the field in that game," cornerback Charles Woodson said Sunday. "There was some stops that we could have made all throughout that game defensively that we didn't make the stop on. ... We felt like we left some football out there on the field. This time that won't happen."

2. The Packers are in a groove. Green Bay will have a short week of preparation, while the Falcons will have had two weeks off by game time. But the Packers wouldn't have it any other way. The way they see it, Sunday evening's victory was their third consecutive playoff win. In truth, they went into postseason mentality in Week 16, knowing they could guarantee an actual postseason berth by victories in their final two regular-season games. Defeating the New York Giants and Chicago Bears in successive weeks seemed to have them in the appropriate mindset Sunday and moving forward. "No doubt about it," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. Said cornerback Tramon Williams: "I'm not sure if anyone wants to play us right now."

3. Two of the savviest young field generals in the NFL will square off in this game. Rodgers produced a 122.5 passer rating Sunday in winning his first playoff game. Meanwhile, the Falcons' Matt Ryan has lost only twice at the Georgia Dome in his three-year career. It could be the first of many postseason battles between these two quarterbacks.

Quick Take: Seahawks at Bears

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
8:16
PM ET
Three things to know about Sunday's Seattle Seahawks-Chicago Bears divisional-round playoff game at Soldier Field:

1. Seattle heads to Chicago with confidence. The Seahawks claimed their most impressive victory of the regular season, 23-20, at Soldier Field in Week 6. The defense sacked Jay Cutler six times and held Chicago to zero third-down conversions in 12 chances. Seattle used extra defensive backs in its blitz packages to great effect. Defensive backs had 4.5 of the six sacks. Marshawn Lynch made his Seattle debut in this game and averaged 6.7 yards per attempt. Mike Williams caught 10 passes for 123 yards in his first breakout game as a Seahawk. Rookie left tackle Russell Okung started and finished a game for the first time in his NFL career. This performance embodied coach Pete Carroll's vision for the team.

2. The Bears are a different team now. Chicago ran the ball only 14 times against Seattle, matching a season low. The Seahawks controlled the game -- Chicago scored on a punt return in the final two minutes to make it closer -- but the Bears never really tried to run. Chicago has made a more concerted effort to balance its offense as the season has progressed. The Bears averaged 29.8 carries per game over an eight-game period ending in Week 16. Matt Forte rushed for at least 91 yards in five of the Bears' final six games. Seattle lost its best run defender, Red Bryant, for the season two weeks after playing Chicago.

3. The Seahawks are 3-1 in rematches. Seattle won both its games against the Cardinals and has never been swept under Carroll. They beat the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints in rematches after losing the first time. They won the tactical battles in both victories, including when they used play-action fakes to get tight end John Carlson open for two touchdowns against New Orleans' gambling defense in the wild-card round. The Seahawks' one defeat in a rematch this season: a 40-21 blowout at San Francisco featuring four Hasselbeck interceptions.

Quick Take: Ravens at Steelers

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
6:09
PM ET
Three things to know about Saturday's Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers divisional game:

1. It's time to settle the score. With similar records, there has been plenty of debate about which AFC North team is better this season, and Steelers-Ravens III will be the deciding factor. Both teams won on the road during the regular season. But Pittsburgh won the tiebreaker with a 5-1 division record, compared to Baltimore's 4-2 mark. That was the only way to separate these teams, which resulted in the Steelers getting a first-round bye and a home playoff game. But now it's time to settle it on the field and put this debate to rest. "I’ve lost to Ben Roethlisberger seven times,’’ Baltimore's Terrell Suggs said of the Steelers' QB. "He’s definitely my biggest problem I’m facing."

2. The Steelers are as healthy and well-rested as they've been in months. Pittsburgh ended the regular season with a lot of bumps and bruises to starters but took advantage of the bye week. Pro Bowlers Troy Polamalu (Achilles) and Maurkice Pouncey (stinger) were among the key starters banged up. Polamalu has played in only one game since Dec. 12, a 41-9 victory against the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale. Pittsburgh starting defensive end Aaron Smith, who had triceps surgery in October, also has a chance to return.

3. Lately, Baltimore's defense is playing at a Super Bowl level. In the past two games, the Ravens have forced an astounding 10 turnovers and held their opponents to 14 total points. Of those 10 turnovers, Baltimore has forced five fumbles and five interceptions. The Ravens are very hard to beat when their defense is this dominant. That also takes pressure off the Ravens' offense, which has been up and down this season.

Quick Take: Jets at Patriots

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
10:30
AM ET
Three things to know about Sunday's New York Jets at New England Patriots divisional-round playoff game:

1. Getting past what happened in Week 13 won't be easy for the Jets. Their humiliating 45-3 loss will be a psychological barrier they must conquer. The Jets need to find a way to make up 43 points when they return to the scene of their wretched display in front of a "Monday Night Football" audience. It probably will be easier for the Jets' offense to close the gap than it will be for their defense to smother Tom Brady's high-performance outfit. The Patriots haven't scored fewer than 31 points since Nov. 7, lighting up the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears along the way. The 1991 Detroit Lions were the last team to lose by 40 points in the regular season and have a rematch in the playoffs. The Washington Redskins defeated them 41-0 the first time and 41-10 in the postseason.

2. New England's run defense will decide the game. Unless Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez drinks a magic efficiency potion, he's not going to be able to beat the opportunistic Patriots defense without a sound run game. The Jets were able to overcome Sanchez's shaky play and beat the Colts on Saturday night because of a forceful ground attack. The Jets rushed for 169 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry. LaDainian Tomlinson ran 16 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. New England's run defense has been up and down throughout the season. The Lions averaged 4.8 yards on Thanksgiving, the Jets averaged 4.9 yards in Week 13, and the Buffalo Bills averaged 6.0 yards in Week 16. But the Patriots held seven opponents below 4 yards a carry, including in three of their last four games.

3. The Patriots' offense has multiple ways to win. The Colts were incapable of running Saturday night even though Peyton Manning counted seven defensive backs at times. "They had [cornerback Marquice] Cole at defensive end," Manning said. The Jets then contained Manning by letting him dink and dunk -- aside from one blown play, a 57-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon in the second quarter. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis held Reggie Wayne to one catch for 1 yard. But the Patriots can bulldoze the Jets if they have to. Patriots running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead will keep Rex Ryan's defense honest. And if the Jets gear up too much to stop the run, there's that Brady fellow to contend with.

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
11:45
PM ET
Three things to know about next Saturday's New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks wild-card game:

1. Seattle will need more offense. The Saints scored at least 30 points five times in the second half of the regular season. The Seahawks reached 30 points only three times all season. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's status will be key. The Seahawks made him the No. 2 quarterback Sunday night after Hasselbeck did not practice until Friday. Backup Charlie Whitehurst appeared mostly tentative in relief as the offense stalled repeatedly. Hasselbeck played one of his best games against New Orleans on Nov. 14. He completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 366 yards and a 104.9 passer rating in the Superdome. Hasselbeck has four touchdowns and 10 interceptions since that game.

2. Venue matters. The Seahawks would have virtually no chance to win a road game against New Orleans. The dynamics change at Qwest Field. The Saints remain the favorite, of course, but Drew Brees has struggled with turnovers this season. Turning over the ball on the road in the playoffs can swing a game. It's probably Seattle's best hope. The Saints went 1-1 in games played in the West this season, losing at Arizona and needing overtime to beat San Francisco.

3. Tackling must be a point of emphasis. Brees enjoyed a strong game against Seattle last time, but running back Chris Ivory set the tone for New Orleans early. His hard running seemed to catch the Seahawks' defense off-guard. The Saints will have Reggie Bush this time, presenting additional problems (Bush missed the previous matchup). No matter which running back is on the field for the Saints, Seattle must improve upon the fundamentals. The Seahawks did manage to contain Steven Jackson on Sunday night, and Michael Turner had a hard time gaining much traction on the ground at Seattle two weeks ago. But the Saints' offensive line will hold a significant advantage against Seattle's defensive front.

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
11:34
PM ET
Three things to know about next Saturday's New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks wild-card game:

1. Is Seattle’s home-field advantage really a disadvantage for the Saints? Qwest Field can be very loud and the weather could be a factor. But this Saints team doesn't seem to know the difference between home and the road.

In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Saints have lost only four games on the road. One of those losses was at Carolina at the end of the 2009 season when the Saints were resting their starters. The Saints played perhaps their worst game of the last two years at Arizona earlier this season. But the only other road losses came this year against quality teams, Atlanta and Baltimore.

The logistics of a short week and traveling to the Pacific Northwest are a challenge. But the Saints are experienced at handling inconvenient situations. They traveled to London in 2008 (and won) and have practiced on the road several times in recent years when hurricanes were approaching New Orleans. Playing a team that was only 7-9 in the regular season isn't the biggest challenge the Saints have faced.

2. Don’t look for a repeat of the regular-season matchup in which the New Orleans defense allowed 424 yards of offense to Seattle. The Saints won that game 34-19, but the Seahawks moved the ball with ease. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 366 yards in that game.

But the Saints have been better on defense recently. They always are aggressive on defense, but they may be even more aggressive than usual against Seattle. Hasselbeck has been banged up and Charlie Whitehurst doesn’t have a lot of experience. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is likely to throw a lot of blitzes at whoever is playing quarterback for the Seahawks.

3. The running game will be a key. Chris Ivory ran for 99 yards in the regular season meeting. Seattle’s run defense has been among the weakest in the league. The Saints need to exploit that weakness to keep the Seahawks from devoting too much attention to the passing game.

But Ivory and Pierre Thomas both have been banged up and Julius Jones hasn’t done much when given playing time. The Saints have brought Reggie Bush back slowly from his broken leg. But it might be time to give Bush a little added work.

Quick take: Jets at Colts

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
9:22
PM ET
Three things to know about next Saturday's New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts wild-card game:

1. The Colts are trending upward in key categories. Over their final three games, they did excellent work stopping the run and providing a more than sufficient run attack to balance out the offense. The Jets will throw rested running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene at Indy after sitting them out of their finale and still crushing the Bills. The Jets had the league’s No. 6 rush offense before that game. The Colts have gotten a boost from running back Dominic Rhodes, who’s now working with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. There is sure to be a big game-planning discussion about how to best deploy the three against the Jets’ rush defense, No. 5 in the NFL after 15 games.

2. We’ve got some seriously contrasting coaches. The Colts' Jim Caldwell is low-key, stoic and is never in danger of saying anything remotely controversial. The Jets' Rex Ryan is a laugh-a-minute, bombastic and will say anything. Neither of them will play Saturday night, but between now and then you can expect to hear a whole lot of comparing and contrasting. Caldwell has a steady quarterback who’s used to beating blitzes in Peyton Manning, and Ryan has a defense that brings extra people as often as anyone. How that sorts out could tell the story of the game.

3. Healthy rushers make for good results. When the Colts have had defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both healthy for playoff games, they’ve fared very well. Best as I could tell, they both came out of the win over the Titans OK. If the Colts can get a lead and put more of the game on Mark Sanchez than the Jets might like, Indy will be in its ideal defensive position -- one where its two Pro Bowl pass-rushers can use their best moves and incredible quickness to smack the quarterback around, knock him down and hit his arm as he throws. The Jets have a very good defense, but Freeney and Mathis are strip sack artists who can change games in a flash.

Quick take: Packers at Eagles

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
8:35
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's Green Bay Packers-Philadelphia Eagles wild-card game:

1. The Green Bay Packers are responsible for the Michael Vick Phenomenon, circa 2010. It was the Packers, specifically linebacker Clay Matthews, who knocked out Philadelphia Eagles starter Kevin Kolb in a Week 1 game at Lincoln Financial Field. Vick rushed for 103 yards and rallied the Eagles from a 27-10 fourth-quarter deficit. Matthews stopped him on a fourth-down rushing attempt to seal a 27-20 victory, but Vick's performance while Kolb recovered from his concussion ultimately won him the Eagles' starting job. "We're going to have our hands full," Matthews said. "We know what kind of a caliber player he is. We're going to have to shut him down to have a chance."

2. Before winning in Week 1, the Packers had lost nine consecutive games in Philadelphia. (And we won't even bring up 4th-and-26.) But the only thing that matters is what this Packers team has done this season. And in 2010, the Packers were 3-5 on the road. But two of those victories came against playoff teams -- the Eagles and New York Jets -- and overall the Packers are 21-19 on the road since coach Mike McCarthy took over in 2006. This is a team that won't be unsettled by playing in a relatively unfamiliar environment.

3. Many observers will use "attacking" and "multiple" as adjectives to describe the Eagles' defense. But the same thing can be said about the Packers. In Sunday's 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears, the Packers blitzed a defensive back on 19 plays, including 16 in the second half. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is every bit as unpredictable as Eagles coordinator Sean McDermott, who has inherited and expanded the scheme created by the late Jim Johnson.

Quick Take: Packers at Eagles

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
8:13
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday’s Packers-Eagles wild-card game:

1. Can the Philadelphia Eagles recover from two consecutive losses to end the season? I don't think a season-ending loss to the Cowboys on Sunday will have a major impact because the Eagles left most of their stars on the sideline. In fact, it was pretty impressive that a bunch of backups nearly handed the full-strength Cowboys a loss. But the loss to Minnesota last Tuesday is still baffling. The Eagles actually had something to play for in that game, and they didn't show up. If Michael Vick continues to recover from his quadriceps injury and DeSean Jackson's foot heals, the Eagles should regain their devastating speed. Resting the starters against the Cowboys was the right move. Now, the Eagles will face one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers. The Chicago Bears held the Packers down for much of Sunday's game, but Rodgers was able to connect with Greg Jennings on a gorgeous throw to set up the winning touchdown.

2. Michael Vick began his remarkable season against this team. When Kevin Kolb left the Eagles' season-opener against the Packers with a concussion, Vick was sensational in relief. He threw for 175 yards and a touchdown to go along with 103 rushing yards. He famously said after the game that he thought the Eagles would've won had he been on the field the entire time. Andy Reid ended up making Vick the starter, and the rest is history. But this week, the sixth-seeded Packers will be game-planning for Vick. Cornerback Charles Woodson may be headed to the Pro Bowl, but I believe that Tramon Williams has had the better season. The Packers' defensive backs will try to be physical with Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at the line of scrimmage. The Packers held Jay Cutler and the Bears to a field goal Sunday in bailing out what is normally a prolific offense. Why did the Bears play their starters when nothing was on the line? It's probably because they desperately wanted to keep a dangerous team such as the Packers out of the playoffs. I think the Eagles would've preferred playing the Giants a third time to playing the Packers again.

3. The Eagles' secondary is about to encounter perhaps the best group of receivers in the league. The Packers' receivers do a tremendous job of running after the catch, as the Giants learned last week. If Rodgers gets in a groove early, the Eagles could be in trouble. The Eagles have given up 31 passing touchdowns this season, which ranks them right behind the Cowboys in terms of worst in the NFC. Rodgers thrives on finding his receivers on crossing routes and watching them add 20 or 30 yards to the play. The Eagles' defensive backs must do a much better job tackling against this group. The Eagles have the offensive firepower to keep up in a shootout, but Reid doesn't want it to come to that. Philadelphia's biggest flaw is its defense, and the Packers have the weapons to expose it. Fortunately for the Eagles, the Packers' offensive tackles have struggled at times. This is the type game when defensive end Trent Cole's ability to get leverage will help in a big way. And the Eagles must figure out a way to keep defensive end Juqua Parker from playing too many snaps. D-end Darryl Tapp made some nice plays against the Cowboys on Sunday and the Eagles need him to continue his strong play. But I can't imagine a better first-round matchup than this. If you can think of the last No. 6 seed that looked this scary, let me know.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider