Much attention is being paid to the quarterback match-up in Sunday's Wild Card playoff game (3:30 p.m., Fox) between Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Philadelphia's Michael Vick. It's a good story, particularly because allegedly reformed dog killer Vick is in the midst of a redemptive season. He and Rodgers own the fourth- and third-best quarterback ratings in the NFL.
But the game may hinge more on each team's ability to stop those quarterbacks, as Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, as offensive-minded as coaches come, admitted at his press conference Monday.
"It starts with defense," he said. "I've always looked at defense as the thermostat. When you have great defense, they keep you in games, week in and week out."
The Packers have a great defense, giving up just 15 points per game, second in the NFL, while Philadelphia gives up over 23. Kevin Seifert, who covers the NFC North for ESPN, noted this week that while the Packers disrupted Chicago's Jay Cutler by blitzing often in the second half last Sunday, they recorded both of their interceptions when rushing just three lineman and playing a nickel defense (five defensive backs).
Blitzing against Philadelphia can mean daring Vick to run with the ball, and the Eagles are 4-1 when he rushes 10 or more times in a game. But that one loss came against Green Bay way back on Sept. 12.
If the Packers can win in Philadelphia, they'll travel to Atlanta to face the 13-3 Falcons, which rank behind Philadelphia in every major offensive category.