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Eagles Packers NFL Playoff Wildcard Round Preview: Michael Vick Will Bounce Back Against Aaron Rodgers

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Eagles - Packers NFL Wildcard Game Playoff Preview

Finally the Eagles will play a game that matters. Following the controversy of "Snowgate" and the debacle on Tuesday night against the Vikings, the Eagles will take on the Packers for the second time this season on Sunday at 4:15. There's little doubt in anyone's minds that this will be the game of the weekend in the NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend.

It's also expected by most that this will turn into a shootout.  Will it be a repeat of last year's epic Packers-Cardinals playoff game last year when the Cardinals won 51-45?

That's highly unlikely, but it's not out of the question to see this turn into a 31-28 or 35-28 game. Do I necessarily agree that it will be a shootout? Read on below to see my take.

These are two completely different teams from when they first met on September 12th. The Kevin Kolb era ended abruptly following Clay Matthews' decimating hit upon him. And, the Packers lost Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley to injuries, while suffering countless other injuries. Michael Vick has become the darling of the NFL and leads the NFL's 2nd ranked offense against the Packers 5th ranked defense.

Aaron Rodgers comes into this game playing better football than anybody in the NFC. He was on a roll before the Packers ran into a wall at Detroit and was knocked out of Michael Vickthe game with a concussion. After missing a game he returned to throw 4 TDs and 400 yards against the Giants and came up with a gritty performance against the Bears last Sunday to propel the Pack into the playoffs.

The Eagles' defense is average-at-best and needs more out of Trent Cole who has gone 5 games without a sack down the stretch. Added to that, Asante Samuel must make a big play or two. Stewart Bradley's absence has received a lot of attention, but the reality is Jamar Chaney has played extremely well in place of him. Jamar Chaney had one of the greatest starting debuts ever for an Eagles linebacker with 16 tackles against the Vikings.

The Eagles' red zone defense has been one of (if not) their biggest weaknesses all season long. You don't give up 23.8 points per game by accident and they rank dead last in the NFL in red zone defense. Their passing defense has also yielded 31 touchdowns. But, on the plus side they recorded 34 interceptions, good for 3rd in the league.

Despite their obvious defensive flaws and Trent Cole's annual wear-down, they do get turnovers. And, they possess the NFL's second best offense next to the San Diego Chargers. Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek are the best core group of offensive players in the league. They are the 2010 version of the mid-2000's Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams "Greatest Show on Turf." Michael Vick has proven he can hang with the big boys especially after knocking off Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy have quickly made us forget about Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. However, this defense won't make us forget about Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Carlos Emmons, Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, or Corey Simon.

I have gone back and forth over this game many times and think the Eagles have a decent (but not great) shot at beating the Packers. In the NFL playoffs it's all about matchups. Will the Eagles' #2 overall offense match up well against the Packers' 5th ranked defense? And, will the Eagles' mediocre 12th ranked defense match up against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' 9th ranked offense?

Good defenses ultimately win in the NFL. I'll take a Top-5 defense any day over a Top-5 offense. We all used to complain about the Eagles' offensive woes in the early years of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb regime, but the bottom line is that defense always kept them in games and was able to stop teams in the red zone.

The pundits expect this game to turn into a shootout, but don't be surprised to see this one end up 21-17 in the Eagles' favor. Added to that, most of the pundits including Peter King don't think the Eagles will win, but NFL oddsmakers disagree.

The key in this game is protecting Michael Vick and making Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the pocket. Games are won and lost on the defensive and offensive lines.

It will get scary, but Michael Vick will lead the Eagles' back in the 4th quarter like he has done just a few times this season. The Eagles have proven all season long that they can win in uncoventional ways.

Expect some of that on Sunday.

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

Vick - Colts photo from chicagonow.com

Eagles - Packers photo from inc.com