Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Eagles-Packers wild-card game:
Are Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg capable of committing to the running game? If they were ever going to do it, this would be the game. The Packers allow 4.7 rushing yards per game -- among the most generous in the league. LeSean McCoy is also a weapon in the passing game with 78 catches, and I think he needs at least 20 touches in this game. In the second half of the season, the Eagles rarely gave him more than 15 carries per game, and that needs to change against the Packers. The longer you keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, the better chance you have of winning. Rodgers' numbers over the past seven starts are pretty remarkable in terms of TD/INT ratio (16-2). The Eagles have a big-play offense, but they've shown the ability to sustain drives with the running game in the fourth quarter this season. Why not do some of that in the first half Sunday?
Can the Eagles' secondary do anything to slow down the Packers' receivers? You hear coaches talking all the time about "tackling the football." We know the Eagles are going to give up some plays against the Packers, but the defensive backs have to be fundamentally sound when it comes to wrapping up the Packers' wide receivers. Greg Jennings is about as good as it gets at running after the catch (RAC). The Eagles will concede some of the underneath passes, but they can't get caught gambling on interceptions. Asante Samuel's a Pro Bowl corner, but he's also a boom-or-bust player. He has to keep his eye on these receivers before looking back at the quarterback Sunday or he'll get beat on a double move. And the same thing goes for Dimitri Patterson on the other side. You better believe that Rodgers will be throwing to Patterson's man from the start.
The Eagles need to put points on the board early. Every team talks about setting the tone early, but the Eagles are one of the best teams in the league at making it happen. Eagles tight end Brent Celek told me last night that the Eagles have emphasized starting quickly all week. And this goes for both sides of the ball. I think Reid and Mornhinweg will try to send a message early in this game. If they can get DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin loose on a double move, it could put the Packers in a tough spot early. I realize the Packers are prolific on offense, but remember that they had to win one game this season 9-0, and they beat the Bears last Sunday by scoring only 10 points. If the Eagles can open the game with one of those patented big plays, the Packers might feel a little pressure. And yes, I'm predicting a deep ball to Jackson on the first play from scrimmage.