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.

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

After the Bulls got off to a 3-0 start, it looked like this would be a team that might be able to give LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls proceeded to lose their next three, tempering those optimistic expectations. What those first six games proved is that they're an inconsistent bunch, and it's been a microcosm of their season past the halfway mark.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Entering Thursday, the Bulls were slotted in as the No. 8 seed in the East with a 21-22 record through 43 games.

Former Bulls forward/center Horace Grant, who was named a special advisor to president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf last year, joined SportsTalk Live on Thursday to talk about the team's current state, and why Bulls fans shouldn't panic just yet.

Check out his comments in the video above.

See what else he had to say during his SportsTalk Live appearance and on In The Loop below:

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

ATLANTA — Jimmy Butler insisted being a starter in the All-Star Game means next to nothing, but it seems to go against his never-ending battle for credibility and validation as a legit superstar.

Moments after it was revealed he would be an All-Star starter for the first time and make his third overall trip to All-Star weekend, he sang the same nonchalant tune.

"It hasn't changed at all," Butler said on a conference call Thursday evening. "Obviously, it's a huge accomplishment and honor to be named a starter. But it's All-Star weekend. There are going to be a lot of good players there. I guess it's just another name thrown in with some decent players."

The NBA's format for selecting the All-Star starters changed this season, with fans no longer being the sole group that gets to vote for starters. If it was still a fans-only vote, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid would've started in Butler's place.

But with the new formula that allows the media and the players to take part in the vote, the fan vote accounts for just 50 percent of the formula. So Butler joined Cleveland's LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Milwaukee's Giannis Antekounmpo and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan in the starting five for the Eastern Conference.

Butler's is averaging 24.8 points with 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, career-highs across the board, and had he not been selected as a starter, the Bulls' 20-21 record would not have prevented coaches from selecting him as a reserve as they had the last two seasons.

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Jimmy Butler jersey right here]

He won't be joined in the starting lineup by Dwyane Wade, who finished second in backcourt voting behind Irving, but cast his vote for his teammate anyway and hopes Wade will be selected as a reserve.

"Of course. He's been a huge part of what we're doing here, and I think he has played extremely well the first part of the season," Butler said. "He got my vote. I will tell you that."

Golden State's Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will start for the West, along with Houston's James Harden, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis, a Chicago native.

The fun-filled and busy weekend in New Orleans begins Feb. 17, from the league events to the parties to the festivities and then finally the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

Butler likely views it as more of an accomplishment for his team of trainers and confidants then himself.

"It's fun, man. You get to know the other really good players in the league, and you get to know a little bit about them," Butler said. "And the experience that you get to be a part of, whether it be the Jordan party or taking your guys with you everywhere. That's the most fun part for me, my trainers, my brothers, everybody that's behind the scenes helping me gets to experience it too."