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.

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

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USA TODAY

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

Adam Engel is making the most of his second opportunity with the White Sox.

Engel had his best game of the season in Thursday’s finale against the Minnesota Twins, where he went 4-for-5 with three singles, a double, and two RBIs in the White Sox 9-0 win. He became the first White Sox outfielder with a four-hit game within their first 11 career MLB games since Harold Baines (10th game) on April 20, 1980, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

"Some days you hit it, some days you don’t," Engel said. "Yesterday was the day that I hit it.”

After nearly a five-hour rain delay, the White Sox came out hot right from the get-go on Thursday. In fact, by the time Engel was ready to bat for the first time, the White Sox were already leading 4-0 and Twins starter Nik Turley had been yanked from the game.

“It was awesome,” Engel. “(The) team is winning, getting some hits. It’s a great feeling. Obviously the goal is to try and help the team win.”

[Vivid Seats: Buy your White Sox tickets here]

Engel made his major league debut on May 27 and then was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte on June 9. His wife Jaime had a child on June 12, and almost a week later, he was recalled again by the White Sox to replace an injured Leury Garcia.

Engel, who's hitting .344/.382/.406 entering Friday's game, will look to keep his hot streak going with his wife and newborn in attendance.

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks.