Vick will have to carry Eagles

It's all about No. 7: It's likely Michael Vick will have to trigger enough scoring himself to win a shoot-out.
It's all about No. 7: It's likely Michael Vick will have to trigger enough scoring himself to win a shoot-out.
Posted: January 05, 2011

The most obvious observation about Sunday's game also happens to be true: For the Eagles, it's all about Michael Vick.

Sure, it would be great for the Eagles if the defense were to turn up as a big factor and slow Aaron Rodgers, or if Vick's pass protectors could create a reliable pocket. But 16 weeks of play provide little reason to think either of those improvements will suddenly materialize Sunday.

Instead, it will almost certainly be up to Vick to avoid the pass rush himself and trigger enough scoring to win a shoot-out.

Consider: The Packers score 24.3 points per game. The Eagles allow 23.6. Here's a wild guess that Green Bay puts up between 20 and 30 on Sunday.

The Eagles' offense allowed 50 sacks, tied for second-worst in the NFL. The Packers' defense produced 47, tied for second most. Let's go out on another limb and say the Eagles will face a lot of pressure on Sunday.

When the Eagles have overcome these problems, it has usually been because Vick has avoided the rush himself and set off scoring bursts. The Eagles' offense ranked third in the NFL with 27.4 points per game, which also happens to be just above their sweet spot for wins. When the Eagles score 26 points or more, they are 10-1. When they score fewer, they are 0-5.

It's doubtful that trend will change. There's a reason No. 7 garnered MVP buzz, and he'll be the game's biggest factor on Sunday. It's not a very original analysis, but it's realistic.

Here are some other key numbers that tell us what to look for from the Eagles and Packers:

Eagles passing game

Eagles pass offense: 243.9 yards per game (ninth in the NFL); 28 TDs (tied for eighth); 13 interceptions (tied for ninth).

Packers pass defense: 194.2 yards per game (fifth); 16 TDs (fourth); 24 interceptions (second).

Comment: Strength against strength. The Eagles love to throw the ball and have a variety of weapons: DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin deep, Jason Avant and Brent Celek on intermediate routes, LeSean McCoy on screens. With Vick hurling the ball deep, the Eagles had 15 passing plays of 40 or more yards, most in the NFL. But the Packers are stingy. They're allowing 15 points per game, second-best in the NFL. Only four teams have scored more than 20 on the Packers. All three of their Pro Bowl starters are on defense. The group can rush the quarterback (led by linebacker Clay Matthews, 131/2 sacks) and cover (including Pro Bowl starters Charles Woodson at cornerback and Nick Collins at safety). Throw away from Woodson and you go at Tramon Williams, who leads the team with six interceptions.

Packers passing game

Eagles pass defense: 216.8 yards per game (tied for 14th); 31 TDs allowed (tied for 29th); 23 interceptions (third).

Packers pass offense: 257.8 yards per game (fifth); 31 TDs (tied for fourth); 13 interceptions (tied for ninth).

Comment: At 14th in yards allowed, the Eagles' pass defense doesn't look so bad, but the touchdowns they've allowed are worrying. The right cornerback spot has been shaky since Week 7, and now rookie seventh-round pick Kurt Coleman is slated for his third start. But it's not all on the secondary. The Eagles have had two or fewer sacks in each of the last five games. That could be bad news. Rodgers has thrown 16 touchdown passes in the last six games he has started and finished. The Eagles will hope Asante Samuel can add to his interception total - if Rodgers even throws in his direction. One other positive for the Eagles: The Packers rank 20th in sacks per pass attempt. The Eagles brought Rodgers down three times Week 1.

Eagles running game

Eagles run offense: 145.4 yards per game (fifth in the NFL); 5.4 average yards per carry (first).

Packers run defense: 114.9 yards per game (18th); 4.7 per rush (tied for 28th).

Comment: LeSean McCoy and Vick are a dangerous combination facing a softer-than-you-might-expect run defense considering the Packers' overall defensive prowess. Don't expect a run-heavy game from the Eagles, but if they can strike with a few strong runs early, perhaps they can give Packers pass-rushers something else to worry about.

Packers running game

Eagles run defense: 110.4 yards per game (tied for 15th); 4.2 yards per carry (tied for 13th).

Packers run offense: 100.4 yards per game (24th); 3.8 yards per carry (25th).

Comment: Stopping the run has been one of the Eagles' defensive strengths. But the Packers hardly try to run the ball. Running back Brandon Jackson averages just 3.7 yards per carry, but Rodgers is worth keeping an eye on. He ran for 356 yards and four touchdowns this season - tied for most on the team. The Eagles' run defense has allowed 100 or more yards in seven of the last eight games, but the ground game probably won't be the focus Sunday.

Turnovers

Eagles: 34 takeaways (fifth); 25 giveaways (tied for 11th).

Packers: 32 takeaways (sixth); 22 giveaways (10th).

Comment: The Eagles' total of 23 interceptions is one of the defense's high points. But the two men who will have the ball most often are going in opposite directions. Rodgers has committed three turnovers in his last eight games. Vick has lost the ball nine times in the last six. The Eagles need to reverse both trends.

Red zone

Eagles red zone defense: Allowing TDs on 76.7 percent of opponents' possessions (32d).

Packers red zone offense: Scoring TDs on 60.4 percent of possessions (6th).

Comment: The Eagles' red-zone defense is last in the NFL, by far. The next worst, Kansas City, gives up touchdowns on 70.3 percent of opponents' red-zone possessions. Bad news against a Packers team that has been efficient inside the 20.


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com.

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