NFC Wild Card Preview

Contributed by: Bill Enright and Billy E
Last Updated: Jan 07, 2011 9:43 PM

Packers at Eagles

Sunday, 4:30 pm (est)

The Philadelphia Eagles (3rd seed) host the Green Bay Packers (6th seed) on Sunday at 4:30 pm (est) for the final match-up of Wild Card Weekend. These two teams played each-other during the regular season. But we'll need to jog our memories all the way  back to Week 1 when the Pack beat the Eagles 27-20. Both teams had significant injuries that day. The Packers lost Running Back Ryan Grant for the year after just eight carries. Eagles Quarterback, Kevin Kolb, started the game under center but was forced out after suffering a concussion and thus opening the door for the team's backup, Michael Vick, (and we all know how that story played out this season).

To start off, let's take a look at the Eagles Offense matched up against the Packers Defense. Philly has been explosive this season mainly because of Michael Vick's big play ability (four rushing TDs last four games, two or more TDs in 4-of-last-5 games). He's responsible for about 40% of the team's 439 total points, which is 3rd most in the NFL (and that's not including the extra points made after his TDs.)  And though he's been putting on a show all season, Vick has come up limping a lot after taking some big hits these last few weeks.  The team decided to rest him in Week 17 to help him recover from a hip injury.

Which brings us to the Packers Defense against the Quarterback. Green Bay was second in the NFL with 47 sacks this season, which is an average of about three sacks per game. Vick was sacked a total of 34 times, but was only sacked more than three times in just three games (Five in Week 2, Four in Week 12, and Six in Week 16). The last two games when he was sacked more than three times (Week 12 and 16), the Eagles lost.

From a Fantasy aspect, the Packers Defense allowed the least amount of points to opposing QBs this season. Vick rushed for a career high nine TDs but the Packers haven't allowed a Quarterback to run in for a score in 2010.  In the last five games Vick has started, he's been picked off six times. Green Bay has nine INTs in their last five match-ups.

But the list of Philly's playmakers continues. Running Back LeSean McCoy, Wide Receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Tight End Brent Celek are all younger than 25 years old. They are hands down the most talented andyoungest group of Offensive weapons in the NFL. Maclin finished with 10 TDs (only six players had more), Jackson led the NFL with an average of 22.5 yards-per-catch (excluding players with less than 15 catches) and Celek scored in two of his the last four games and gained at least 50 yards in each. Plus second year Running Back Shady McCoy can do it all. If Vick is the most versatile QB for his running and passing ability, McCoy is the most versatile RB for his rushing and receiving ability.  He led all NFL backs with 78 receptions, combined for over 1,600 yards and scored nine times.  Combine these talented and speedy players with Mick Vick at QB, and like we said earlier, the Eagles are EXPLOSIVE.

But the Packers Defense actually stacks up pretty nicely against the NFC East Champs. Green Bay's Defensive unit allowed 240 points, the second least amount in the NFL. That's an average of just 15 points. The Eagles Offense averaged about 27 points per game. Green Bay has given up just five touchdowns to RBs all season (3rd best in NFL), so McCoy will have his work cut out for him. The Pack is also ranked in the top three for allowing the least amount of passing TDs (9) to opposing Wide Receivers. Maclin and Jackson combined for 16.

While the Eagles Offense and Packers Defense is very evenly matched, it's a totally different story when matching the Packers Offense up against the Philly Defense.

Despite their dominant ranks on the Defensive side of the ball, which we listed in the earlier paragraphs, and a Top 10 Offense in both total points (388) and yards-per game (358), the Packers barely made the Post-Season with 10 wins on the year, which earned them the NFC's final playoff spot.

Like the Eagles, Green Bay's Quarterback was the driving force behind their Offensive success (especially without their back-to-back 1,200 yard rusher). Aaron Rodgers finished the year with 28 passing TDs (and four rushing). He threw multiple TD passes in 8-out-of-15 games this season (he missed one due to a concussion). The Packers won all eight of those games, meaning their six losses all occurred when Rodgers failed to get two or more scores. The other two victories when Rodgers didn't get two TDs, were in Week 17 (10-3 over the Bears) and Week 8 (9-0 over the Jets). It's amazing the Packers were able to come out on top in those two games, considering it was also two of the lowest scores the team posted all season (the lowest was a 7-3 loss to the Lions in Week 14 when Rodgers was knocked out in the 1st Quarter). 

Good news for the Packers is the Eagles have allowed 31 passing TDs this season, the third highest among any team, which boils down to about two scoring strikes each game. Yes two touchdowns-per-game, that same magical number Rodgers has to throw in order for the Packers to win.

Green Bay has employed a committee approach in their backfield all season. After Ryan Grant went down, Brandon Jackson, James Starks, and John Kuhn all had their shining moments, but none ran away with the role as a featured back. Add in the fact that GB lost Tight End Jermichael Finley, and it explains why the team's receivers have been so productive.

Greg Jennings was second in the NFL with 12 receiving TDs and 4th with 1,265 yards. Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones combined for another 12 TDs. It's pretty clear all of the Packers WRs are threats to score in the Red Zone or long distance, which is why the team will use three, four, and sometimes even five Wide Receiver sets.  But in the Eagles last five games, they've held opposing WRs to just four TDs. So if Rodgers wants to toss a few TDs, he may be forced to look at other options like TE Andrew Quarless or one of his RBs.

Rodgers and his Offensive arsenal put up points in bunches. Since the team's bye in Week 10, Green Bay has posted final scores of  31, 17, 34, 27, and 45, which is an average of 30 points (not including Week 14 and 17 which were mentioned above as two of their lowest all season). We are shedding light on this trend because the Eagles Defense has allowed opponents to score 24, 28, 17, 31, 27, 31, and 24 points in seven of their last nine games or an average of about 27 points per game.

Now that we've examined both teams on each side of the ball, here's how the players breakdown for fantasy purposes:

GOOD START: Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, LeSean McCoy, Greg Jennings

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Donald Driver, James Jones, Brent Celek, Brandon Jackson

RISKY START: John Kuhn, James Starks, Jordy Nelson, Andrew Quarless, Jason Avant


New Orleans at Seattle

Saturday, 4:30 pm (est)

The defending NFL champions were not quite as dominant in 2010, as the Saints finished second in the NFC South with an 11-5 mark. Quarterback Drew Brees chucked a career-worst 22 interceptions, but was still great for fantasy owners with 4,620 yards and 33 touchdown passes. He shouldn't disappoint this weekend, and notably gunned down the Seahawks to the tune of 382 yards and four scoring strikes back in Week 11. Reggie Bush is expected to handle the bulk of the workload at running back with both Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory out of service. Bush isn't built to be a No. 1 back, but he should be able to hold up fine with just 36 carries of punishment on his body in the regular season (he also caught 34 passes). He is a quality fantasy start with Seattle ranked 21st in run defense. Marques Colston is probable, which is great news as he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. The star receiver should be a safe fantasy play, namely when you consider that Seattle surrendered 31 touchdowns through the air so far. He hauled in eight catches for 113 yards and two scores in the aforementioned meeting in Week 11 as well. Lance Moore and Robert Meachem are quality options as well. Rookie Jimmy Graham is on the shelf with his ankle injury, so Jeremy Shockey should see more targets at tight end in his absence.

The Seahawks could be considered the weakest team in the playoffs at 7-9, but you can't underestimate them as they always play better at Qwest Field and did show nice determination by snatching the NFC West crown from the Rams in the final week of the regular season. Matt Hasselbeck has been dealing with a hip injury and Charlie Whitehurst did lead the team to the decisive victory last week, but coach Pete Carroll named the 35-year-old vet his starting quarterback for Saturday, namely as he has more experience with blitz pick-ups and the Saints notably field an aggressive defense directed by Gregg Williams. We don't like Hasselbeck's fantasy prospects though, as New Orleans finished the regular season ranked fourth in pass defense and will take no prisoners in their bid to return to the Super Bowl. Marshawn Lynch isn't a hot fantasy option either, as he averaged just 62 rushing yards over the final three games of the regular season. The best bet for fantasy production on Seattle would be Big Mike Williams, as he reeled in six passes for 109 yards in the previous meeting with New Orleans back in Week 11. Lastly, tight end John Carlsonis not a recommended fantasy play, as he averaged just 20 yards over the final three games of the regular season, with no touchdowns over the span. New Orleans only allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends on the season as well.

GOOD START: Drew Brees, Marques Colston

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: Reggie Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Lance Moore, Mike Williams, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey  

RISKY START: Matt Hasselbeck, Justin Forsett, Devery Henderson, Ben Obomanu, John Carlson

Follow Bill Enright on Twitter: @BillEnright

Follow @FFChamps on Twitter