Playoff Prognosis: Packers at Eagles

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Playoff Prognosis: Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
11:00 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears have seen both of these teams and beaten both, plus losing in game 16 to the Packers. This is the best game of the wild-card weekend in either conference.

This is a game between two of the NFLs top four passers: Aaron Rodgers (No. 3, 101.2 rating) and Michael Vick (No. 4, 100.2 rating). Vick has the East Coast hysteria reaction behind him; Rodgers is simply the better quarterback. More on that shortly.

Obviously Rodgers and Vick dont go head-to-head. No, the real matchup is the defensive scheming of Green Bay coordinator Dom Capers, along with Pittsburghs Dick LeBeau, one of the two best practitioners of 3-4 schemes and blitzes, against Andy Reid, arguably the leading branch still operating from the Bill Walsh tree of West Coast offenses.

The game is decided by players but the key from Capers and Reid is their abilities to put those players in the best positions to succeed. The Eagles have the NFLs best core of young skill players in receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and running back LeSean McCoy, all less than 26 years old. Reid is the best thing that could have happened to that cluster, and to Vick.

Its been great to be considered one of the best in the league right now, Vick said. Its an amazing accomplishment, not only to myself, but to all the people who helped me get here. Ive got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, because without them, I wouldnt be in this position.

But the Packers can break Vick down. They allow just 15 points a game; only the Pittsburgh Steelers (14.5) are more difficult to score against. They allow 194.2 passing yards per game; among playoff teams, only New Orleans is more difficult to pass against. They have sacked quarterbacks 47 times in the 2010 season; only Pittsburgh (48) has more.

Only the New England Patriots have more (25) than the Packers 24 interceptions. The six teams with the more interceptions all are in the playoffs.

The point is, this as much as any playoff game will come down to play by two very, very good quarterbacks. None of the other games have this level of quarterback on both sides. And for all of the fireworks and fanfare of Vicks first half of 2010, Rodgers is better.

In the past seven games Rodgers has thrown 16 TD passes and just 2 interceptions. Vick was sacked six times by the Minnesota Vikings in a must-win game for the Eagles and Philadelphia has given up 50 sacks this season.

Vick threw zero interceptions in his seven games; he has thrown 6 in his last five games. His passer ratings were high but the Eagles were a pedestrian 3-2 over those games.

Capers demonstrated again how exceptional his blitzing approaches are when his scheming produced 6 sacks of Jay Cutler and held the Bears to exactly 3 points in last Sundays game in Green Bay. Capers has the luxury of being sack master Clay Matthews being able to work from either side and placing Matthews on the right side would put him rushing in Vicks vision field and also from Vicks left, which is Vicks preferred side to run.

One thing you cannot let him do, is that you cannot let him run left, said Herman Edwards, ESPN analyst and former NFL player and coach. Once you let him out of pocket, youre in trouble.

Philadelphia has one of the NFLs elite defenses year after year. But the Eagles are a young defense, with a number of players who are experiencing playoffs for the first time. And while Sean McDermott has taken the concepts of the late Jim Johnson and Philadelphia has not missed a beat defensively, Rodgers has proved the equal of one top defense after another.
Packers 24 Eagles 20

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

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Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.

Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.

They were at 8-under 202.

Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.

His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

"I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in," Chappell said.

Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.

"I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that," Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is "completely out of my control."

And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.

Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.

The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.

Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.

The 17th hole changed everything.

"I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that," Johnson said. "But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position."

And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.

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