Pack at Eagles: The Preview

For just the fourth time in the past quarter century the Pack opens on the road, with a late start at Philly. This is an Eagles team in transition, moving from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb at QB and probably the best possible time of the season to play them.

I think Kolb is going to have a good season; but the pressure he'll face in the home opener will be intense and he'll be behind an offensive line featuring center Jamal Jackson who is coming off ACL surgery and did not take the field in the preseasonand guard Todd Heremans, who is coming off major surgery too.

Few coaches pass as much as Andy Reid and I fully expect Kolb to throw the ball 50 times on Sunday. With young studs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, as well as gifted tight end Brent Celek, the Pack's secondary will be tested early and often. I expect Dom Capers to throw a lot of new, exotic looks at Kolb to try to fluster him. Romeo Crennel did in the preseason with the Chiefs and Kolb folded faster than a poker player dealt a 2-7 in Texas Hold 'em.

Defensively, they start two new safeties, including a rookie second round pick and feature two old veterans in Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs at corner, the latter coming off a serious neck injury. Rookie Brandon Graham is bound to become a great bookend for Pro Bowler Trent Cole, but his tweeting may get him in trouble. He promises to whisper 'sack' in Aaron Rodgers' ear. He probably should have waited till after the game to mention that. They brought in Lions underachiever Ernie Sims at LB, who joins a mediocre crew, led by MLB Stewart Bradley.

From the Packers' perspective, they enter the game reasonably healthy. Desmond Bishop and Mike Neal are questionable and Charles Woodson is probable with a toe injury. 21 will be out there--not so sure about the other two. Offensively, the Pack appears ready to put a lot of points on the board, even though the old cliche says defense is ahead of offense early in the season.

Where the Eagles have a major edge is on special teams. Reid hired highly regarded Bobby April to run their unit and he inherits Jackson and Hobbs as return guys on punts and kicks respectively. That's light years better than the Packers' choices: for now, starting CB Tramon Williams on punts and either WR Jordy Nelson or RB Brandon Jackson on kicks. I'm very worried about losing Williams to an injury on punt returns. Greg Jennings would be next in line and he's as valuable as Williams to the Packers fortunes this season.

Ultimately, I expect both teams to put points on the board, but I expect the Pack to buck their recent trend of slow starts and do enough to open the season with a big win on the road against a potential playoff team.

Final prediction will be heard Sunday morning between 8 and 9 as we begin season number 15 of "Packer Preview" on KFAN and


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