Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the wild-card game against the Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon:
Packers RBs Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, Brandon Starks and Dimitri Nance vs. Eagles' run defense
It would help the Packers a great deal Sunday afternoon if they can run as well as they did in their season-opening 27-20 victory over the Eagles. Green Bay rushed for 132 yards in Week One, with only nine of those yards coming on scrambles by Aaron Rodgers. But it’s important to note that 45 of those yards were picked up by featured back Ryan Grant on eight carries (5.6 ypc) before he limped off the field with a season-ending ankle injury.
That the Packers' ground game went on to register four more outings with at least 132 yards in the regular season — a pretty impressive figure — shows that they’ve been a lot better than they’ve been given credit for. Then again, it’s hard to overlook performances like the one they had in their playoff-clinching victory over the Bears. Packers running backs combined for only 39 yards on 16 carries. RB John Kuhn, who had a three-yard TD run against the Eagles in Week One, was particularly ineffective against the Bears, literally going nowhere with four carries for zero yards.
But as mediocre as the Packers’ ground game was against the Bears in Week 17, rookie RB James Starks, who had an impressive pro debut in Week 13 before landing in the doghouse for a couple of weeks, displayed some flashes with five carries for 20 yards and could be a player the Eagles’ slightly above-average run defense (ranked 14th in rushing yards allowed, 15th in average yards per carry) might have to account for.
The Eagles' run defender the Packers need to be most concerned with is rookie Jamar Chaney, who has stepped up and done a commendable job at middle linebacker in place of Stewart Bradley, who suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 14. Chaney, who can get to the football in a heartbeat, made an immediate splash with 16 tackles in his first start and has looked like a young Jeremiah Trotter.
Philadelphia’s defensive line, however, is just OK at stopping the run, as is the rest of the Eagles’ so-so LB corps, although WLB Ernie Sims is capable of making an occasional big play.