John Madden
John Madden
Eagles, Packers look like mirror match
By John Madden

Eagles at Packers | 9 p.m. ET | ABC
The Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles features two tough quarterbacks who aren't afraid to play in pain as well as two broken-down defenses that are tough enough to battle past injury-riddled seasons. Neither team will go down easily. I expect this game to be physical.

I said it during last week's Monday night telecast and I'll say it again and again: The ability of Packers QB Brett Favre to play with a broken thumb is absolutely amazing. If you've ever suffered a broken bone, and I don't care which bone, you'd know that it hurts until it's completely healed.

Brett Favre is playing with a broken thumb.
Now, in the NFL, playing hurt isn't a big deal. I would guesstimate that 80 percent of all players are playing hurt by the 10th week of the season. But in Favre's case, he's not only playing football with a broken bone, he's playing the quarterback position well, with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. That's the hand that feels the impact of the snap from center and the hand that defenses attack on their rush.

Of course Favre is getting some help from an offensive line that is playing as well as it ever has. Not only is the line protecting the quarterback, it's doing a great job of run blocking as well, which allows Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, and Tony Fisher to be very effective runners.

When the Packers are running the ball effectively, opposing defenses are forced to bring extra guys in the box to counter, which in turn, opens up the passing game and allows Favre to go to work. Most teams consider the Packers as a predominantly passing team, but once Green gets going, they better be ready for the run as well.

On Monday, the Packers offense will face a Philadelphia Eagles defense that's been decimated by injuries. The Eagles have lost a bunch of key players, most notably free safety Brian Dawkins, who has been the heart and soul of the Eagles defense. Although he still plays his part by mentoring replacement Clinton Hart, Dawkins has been out with a sprained foot since the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Considering all of the injuries, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has done a fantastic job scheming up various defensive looks for opponents. I liken Johnson to Bill Belichick, whose genius was featured in last Monday's victory over the Denver Broncos. What Johnson lacks in starting personnel, he'll make up for in the chess match. And he's going to have to be at his best, and come up with some special things to enable his team to beat the Packers.

Offensively, the Eagles are just not hitting on all cylinders. Donovan McNabb is banged up with a sprained thumb, a bum ankle and a sore back. He can no longer do it alone. The Eagles need to get things going with their running game, and their wide receivers need to step up and help McNabb, who's been taking a lot of heat for poor performances. But when I watch the Eagles, I see a quarterback who's not getting the kind of support he needs to be successful.

The success of the passing game can't ride solely on the quarterback. It's up to the receivers to beat man-to-man coverage in routes and on the blitz, and find holes in the zones, otherwise their quarterback ends up taking a lot of sacks -- McNabb has already been sacked 28 times this season.

The Eagles wide receivers did a better job getting open and creating separation against the Falcons' last week. They need to continue that success against a better Packers' secondary.
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