First Look At: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are worried about Aaron Rodgers, who they held in check when the teams collided in Week 1. They'll meet again at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Eagles head into Sunday's first-round playoff battle against the Green Bay Packers with the second highest scoring offense in the NFL.

But if they hope to get by the Packers, they're going to have to figure out a way to slow down Aaron Rodgers.

"The guy's a top-five quarterback," cornerback Joselio Hanson said of Rodgers, who will be taking aim at an Eagles defense that gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes. "We've got to do extra studying. We've got to be ready. It's going to be tough. I watched them play the Giants last week. They looked real good. Rodgers was on fire. He willed that team to win."

The Eagles have faced Rodgers once this season. They lost to the Packers at home in Week 1, 27-20. In reality, the team did a pretty good job against him that day, holding him to 188 passing yards and intercepting him twice.

But injuries have taken their toll on Sean McDermott's young defense. It has a rookie seventh-rounder at middle linebacker (Jamar Chaney), a rookie seventh-rounder at free safety (Kurt Coleman), and a twice-waived journeyman with nine career starts at one cornerback spot (Dimitri Patterson). To make matters worse, their other corner, Pro Bowler Asante Samuel, is playing on an ailing knee.

As Hanson put it, Rodgers is on fire. In his last seven starts (he missed one game with a concussion), he's been playing as well as anybody this side of Tom Brady. He has a 71.3 completion percentage, is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt and has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in his last 206 attempts. His passer rating in those seven games: 122.0.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league," said McDermott. "We've got to keep him on his toes."

By keeping him on his toes, McDermott means getting pressure on him. They sacked him three times and got a decent rush on him in Week 1. But their pass rush hasn't been nearly as effective lately as it was early on.

They've had more than two sacks in a game just once in the last eight games. McDermott finds himself between a rock and a hard place with his pass rush. Much like last year at this time, he's been having trouble getting consistent pressure with only his front four.

The alternative is to blitz a lot. But with a young defense that is feeling its way, that can be risky business against a quarterback the caliber of Rodgers.

"We've got to get pressure on him," McDermott said of Rodgers. "It's huge. But he throws well against the blitz.

"I've done some research and he's actually better against the blitz than not, which is the sign of a great quarterback. So we're going to have to mix it up."

The Eagles are second in the league in interceptions with 23. But they've got just four in the last six games. Twenty-six of the 31 touchdown passes they've given up have come in the last 12 games.

By the numbers: The Eagles, who committed just 9 turnovers in the first 9 games, have turned the ball over 16 times in the last 7 games.

Lineup watch: Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who has missed the last three games with a dislocated elbow, has a chance to be back for Sunday's playoff game against Green Bay. The only question is where he'd play. His replacement, Chaney, has played pretty well. The Eagles may leave Chaney in the middle and move Bradley to the strongside. Bradley will test the elbow at practice on Wednesday.

Personnel notes

— QB Michael Vick is expected to be able to play this week after suffering a bruised quad last week against Minnesota. He sat out Sunday's game against Dallas.

"I'm getting there," he said when asked if he's 100 percent healthy.

— While Bradley flashed a smile and talked confidently about playing, Eagles coach Andy Reid said: "If Stewart had to play today, he wouldn't be able to play. We'll take it day by day and see how he does, here. I think it will be a stretch for him to make it."

— RG Max Jean-Gilles injured his ankle in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Cowboys. His status for this week's playoff game against the Packers is uncertain.

— Samuel did not play Sunday against the Cowboys but should be able to play against the Packers.

— WR DeSean Jackson rested his sore foot Sunday but should be fine for the playoffs.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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