With his arm, his feet or his creativity, Michael Vick has embarrassed defenders all season. Unless they can limit Vick and his big-play teammates, Sunday could be a long day for Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers.
Vick wasn’t the starter in the Eagles’ season-opening 27-20 loss to Green Bay. But the Packers knocked out Kevin Kolb with a concussion, Vick came on and played well in the second half. Except for his own injuries, Vick has been the starter ever since — and more spectacular than ever.
So Woodson, last season’s AP Defensive Player of the Year, and Matthews, one of the favorites for this season’s award, are squarely in the spotlight for the game that caps the wild-card weekend.
“We know what we’re up against,” Woodson said. “We know the dynamic that Vick is, so he’s a very big part of what they’re doing right now, and he makes a lot of big plays with his feet. We’ve got to make sure we stay aggressive and make sure we do our job on the back end. Aggressiveness, that’s the way we like to play.”
It’s the way Eagles coach Andy Reid expects the Packers to play, particularly cornerback Woodson and linebacker Matthews, who Philadelphia’s blockers must locate on every play — not an easy chore.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s a great player and he has a great motor, loves to play the game,” Reid said of Matthews. “So it’s a great challenge for our offensive line, the guys blocking him, and we’ll come up with a couple things for him.
“Now, they move him around, but they’re not going to put him through the same gap as another guy because there has to be a rhyme or reason to where he goes, and there is.”
Many times, Matthews has gone wherever he chooses, helping the Packers rank fifth in overall defense and allow just 240 points; only the Steelers at 232 yielded fewer.
Elsewhere on wild-card weekend, defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans is at Seattle in the opener Saturday, followed by an AFC title game rematch of the New York Jets at Indianapolis. The other Sunday game is Baltimore at Kansas City.
Off this week are AFC top seeds New England and Pittsburgh, NFC top seeds Atlanta and Chicago.
Green Bay (10-6) at Philadelphia (10-6): While this is not exactly a matchup of the premier unstoppable offense against impenetrable defense, it’s close enough. The Packers also can score, particularly when quarterback Aaron Rodgers is healthy, as he currently is. Their receiving corps, led by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, can be as dangerous as the Eagles’ outstanding corps of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek.
Still, it’s expected to come down to controlling Vick, who threw for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran for 103 yards in the second half against the Packers.
“It’s a test,” Woodson said. “They’ve got weapons all over the place. They’ve put up a lot of points this year, so we’ve just got to do a good job of not letting Vick get some big gains and hitting his guys down the field, which they like to do, hit those big plays up the field. So we have to put a stop to that, and if we do those couple of things, we’ll fare pretty well.”
Baltimore (12-4) at Kansas City (10-6): It’s not often that 12 wins isn’t enough for a division title. That’s what happens in the AFC North, where the Steelers also reside.
The Ravens, who have won three road playoff games in the last two years, aren’t fretting.
“We’re back in the dance a third (consecutive) year. I say finish. Finish now,” star linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Because we’ve done everything else. We’ve been to the AFC championship, we’ve been to the divisional round, we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. What’s next for us? What’s next is finish.”
To do that, they first must handle the Chiefs, who are inexperienced in such situations, but have a strong running game, an improving passing attack, and some playmakers on defense.
But KC comes off a weak finale against Oakland.
“We’ve been able to bounce back all year,” QB Matt Cassel said. “That helps give us confidence.”