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Packers-Eagles matchup of the day: Thursday

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Jan. 06, 2011 @ 3:37 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the wild-card game against the Eagles in Philadelphia this coming Sunday afternoon:

Packers NT B.J. Raji vs. Eagles’ interior offensive line

One potential mismatch in favor of the Packers’ hot defense could come in the trenches up the gut, where Raji has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for well over a month (four sacks in his last five games). Displaying an excellent combination of strength and explosiveness and amazing stamina, Raji has elevated his level of play as the starting nose tackle with DE Cullen Jenkins, normally the defensive line’s top pass rusher, sitting out the past four games with a nagging calf injury.

All signs point to Jenkins returning to action Sunday, though, which could mean fewer double-teams for Raji and a lot more trouble for the Eagles' blockers across from him on the line.

Philly’s front wall has hardly been a pillar of strength this season, allowing 49 sacks, the fourth most in the league. Inside, the line’s most solid performer is OLG Todd Herremans, a Pro Bowl alternate and the Eagles’ best run blocker. But the 6-foot-6 Herremans has had some breakdowns this season, especially against more stout defenders that are built like the 6-2, 337-pound Raji.

The other two interior starters — C Mike McGlynn and ORG Max Jean-Gilles — are more suited to be backups than starters. McGlynn is a major downgrade from veteran C Jamaal Jackson, who was lost in Week One with a torn triceps injury. McGlynn tries hard, but he has major athletic limitations, which Raji should be able to expose. Jean Gilles has ankle problems (check status) and could be replaced by the undersized Nick Cole.

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