Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eagles are in the playoffs...COUNT ON IT!


PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles are going to make the playoffs.

After that, well, who thought the Eagles and Cardinals would meet in last year’s NFC Championship Game.

First things first, and that’s the Eagles, despite an up-and-down season thus far, are about to make their annual late-season rush.

It started with last week’s road win in Chicago and should continue Sunday at home against an inept Washington Redskins team that has a hard time scoring in double figures.

Then that end of the schedule that at one point looked rather daunting now appears very manageable.

Consider that Atlanta, once 4-1, is now 5-5 and could still be without running back Michael Turner when the teams meet at the Georgia Dome a week from Sunday.

San Francisco, another team that got off to a quick 3-1 start, is now 4-6 and by the time the 49ers come to Lincoln Financial Field, in week 15 could be eliminated from the playoff race. They will almost certainly be eliminated from the NFC West race by that time.

And Denver, once 6-0, and the darlings of the AFC, is now 6-4 and has former Eagles star Brian Dawkins calling players only meetings as the Broncos prepare for their fifth straight loss tonight against the Giants.

Unless Dawkins can get his point across in a hurry to a Bronco team in complete freefall, Denver could be on an eight-game losing streak when they visit the Linc two days after Christmas.

So if the Eagles can just win their three remaining home games against Washington (3-7), San Francisco and Denver that would get them to nine wins.

That would mean winning just one of three road games at Atlanta, at the Giants and at Dallas to get to the magic 10 wins that it will likely take to get to the postseason.

All right Eagles fans say, so then what? Does this team have a chance in the postseason?

A year ago today the Eagles hosted the Cardinals in the Thanksgiving night game and blew them out to get to 6-5-1. The previous two weeks they had gotten blown out by Baltimore and tied Cincinnati.

Arizona, who was in control of the NFC West despite the loss, looked like a bad team in a very bad division.

Just about two months later the same two teams met for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

So you never know. I learned a long time ago not to judge what’s going to happen in the playoffs by what’s happened the first 10 or 11 weeks.

Wait and see what happens the final month, or so.

Again, a year ago everyone had the Giants and Tennessee in the Super Bowl at this point.

How did that work out?

Two years ago the Giants barely looked like a playoff team, never mind one that could go on the road and win three straight games and then knock off an undefeated New England team in the Super Bowl.

It happened.
The Eagles have the makings of a team that just might peak late. Their young players – DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek – should just get better. The offensive line should just get healthier.

Nickel back Joselio Hanson will be back from his four-game suspension, linebacker Akeem Jordan will be back from his knee injury.

Brian Westbrook?

Who knows?

Kevin Curtis?

Who cares?

In the NFC it’s pretty wide open again this year.

New Orleans and Minnesota are a combined 19-1 right now and the safe picks to meet in the NFC Championship Game.

But you’re talking about two teams that not only may have peaked too early, but have a terrible playoff history.

If Eagles fans want to talk about their postseason failures, they should talk to Vikings fans or Saints fans.

Hey, the Eagles have work to do. They need to be more consistent offensively and not just live on the big play. They need to be more physical defensively. And they have to stop committing so many penalties.

But they are going to be in the playoffs, and from there, well like Andy Reid likes to say, we’ll see.

POETIC JUSTICE: Was I the only one who found it interesting that on the same day the Eagles signed right tackle Winston Justice to a new long-term contract extension, the man he replaced Jon Runyan signed a deal to finish his career with the San Diego Chargers?

Speaking of Justice’s deal, that’s not bad for a guy who has played 10 games in his career. (We won’t count that one against the Giants a couple of years ago).

And again we’ll ask when are the Eagles going to take care of cornerback Sheldon Brown, who has never missed a game in his career and played last week with a torn hamstring?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eagles run hot and cold on and off field



Sometimes you see things coming, sometimes you don’t and sometimes you just really make a mess of things.

That kind of summarizes the Eagles offseason and why they faced what quarterback Donovan McNabb called a “must-win’’ game last night in Chicago against the equally desperate Bears.

Let’s start with the draft where the Eagles may have selected the best class since 2002 and it may even surpass that one in terms of depth and already has in immediate impact.

Knowing that running back Brian Westbrook was about to turn 30 – and that leftover hippie Joe Banner still doesn’t trust anyone over 30, especially a running back – and that he also had knee and ankle surgeries, the Eagles selected LeSean McCoy in the second round.

Also knowing that wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who turned 31, had seen his best days, or day, at it might be, the Eagles selected Jeremy Maclin in the first round.

Westbrook, as it turned out, was not only bothered by both the knee and ankle the first half of the season, but now faces the seriousness of two concussions in less than a month that puts his career in jeopardy.

Curtis played two games, caught five passes and hasn’t been seen since. The injury report lists him with a knee injury and head coach Andy Reid says he has no idea if or when he may play again.

McCoy, who leads the team in rushing and could break Correll Buckhalter’s rookie record for rushing yards, and Maclin, who is third on the team in receptions and a perfect complement to DeSean Jackson, have helped the Eagles stay in the NFC East race to this point.

On both counts the Eagles did the right thing and should be applauded for their foresight.

So, then what happened?

All right so the team couldn’t have known that middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was going to go out for the season with a torn ACL suffered on the fiasco called “Flight Night’’, but it happened early enough that they could have done something about it.

Instead, they signed San Diego castoff Matt Wilhelm and talked themselves into the fact that second-year man Joe Mays was ready to step in and replace Bradley.

This time they were wrong on both counts.

Wilhelm was released on final cuts and Mays was out of the lineup by opening day, although he was expected back in last night.

The team finally addressed the linebacker issue when it traded for Will Witherspoon at the deadline, which means they may have been able to do that before the season. Or at least they should have gotten someone better than Mays.

And the answer wasn’t Jeremiah Trotter.

Unless the question was who used to be a good linebacker.

If Mays, as expected, started in the middle last night, flanked by Witherspoon and Chris Gocong, it would have been the sixth different trio of linebackers to start for the Eagles in just 10 games.

As bad as the situation is at linebacker, what the Eagles did on the offensive line might have been worse.

The team signed lineman Stacy Andrews, Feb. 28, the first weekend of free agency and also the same day Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos. Remember that was “Stacy Andrews’ Day’’ at the NovaCare Complex.

It’s been his last day, too.

Just two months removed from a torn ACL of his own, the Eagles again convinced themselves that Andrews’ health wouldn’t be an issue and that he would be the starting right tackle next to his brother, Shawn, the right guard.

By the time minicamp came around in May, the roles were reversed, Stacy was at guard and Shawn was at tackle.

That raised at least one red flag, but it was just the start.

See Stacy wasn’t just an Eagle to replace Jon Runyan, who had been at right tackle the past nine seasons; he was there to comfort his brother, who in 2008 battled both a case of depression and a back injury and spent the season on injured reserve.

Well, he went 0-for-2.

Stacy’s health has been an issue all season. The knee just wasn’t, and isn’t, right. He can barely make it through a full game at right guard and when he has played, has been far from good.

And Shawn is back on injured reserve, chillin’ in California, and making rap songs about swimmer Michael Phelps.

Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong, and sometimes you just make a mess.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

McNabb, Eagles face "must-win" in Chicago


As the Eagles face the crossroad of their season tonight with a game against the Chicago Bears, a team it has lost to each of the past two years, there are some issues that need to be addressed.

Let’s start with cornerback Sheldon Brown and left tackle Jason Peters.

I guess the way it works now is once you get your big contract, you don’t have to play when you’re hurt, but when you’re trying to get a new contract, you do.

This space has never and will never say a player who is hurt should play; only the player can decide that. But there are a lot of players who are not happy that Peters did not play last week at San Diego. Just as they were not thrilled he did not go back in the Oakland game when he also hurt his ankle.

The Eagles lost both games.

Peters, you might remember was unhappy with his contract in Buffalo, demanded a trade, got his wish and then the Eagles gave him about a billion dollars in a new contract.

Brown, who has never missed a game as an Eagle since the team drafted him in 2002, has been upset about his outdated contract since last offseason. He has a hamstring injury that has him listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

Think he’s going to play?

“If I don’t play, it won’t be my choice,’’ Brown said.

“A lot of time injuries are just mind over matter. You have to psyche yourself up to believe you can do certain things. But everyone has a different pain tolerance.’’
Just like they have a different paycheck.

*While I think the Eagles will win tonight and that quarterback Donovan McNabb will play well in front of his hometown crowd, if they don’t they will be 5-5.

And at 5-5, there may not be any more time for No. 5.

Especially since McNabb, in his Wednesday press conference, call this a must-win game. Nobody ever says what happens when you lose a “must-win’’, but it can’t be a good thing.

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis will miss his eight straight game tonight with a knee injury and asked Friday, head coach Andy Reid had no idea when, or if Curtis would be back.

So then isn’t it time to put him down for the year and get a player on the roster, be it a receiver a running back, or even a good special teamer, who can actually play and help the team down the stretch?

There are a whole lot of angles/reasons not to like the Eagles tonight.

They are 4-16 in Chicago, 3-7 at Soldier Field and 11-28-1 overall against the Bears.
Then there’s the stat being thrown around all week at how the Eagles are 0-7 on NBC TV and 0-8 in their last eight Sunday night games.

Still Jay Cutler is the Bears quarterback and well, you know what I think of that guy.

The Eagles defense, for the most part, has played better than expected this season. They are ranked ninth overall in the league, ninth against the run and 10th against the pass.

Except the Eagles defense has not stepped up big when it has needed to this year. Yes, it was great against the Giants in a game where everything worked.

But they didn’t stop Dallas when it had to, and last week against San Diego was the epitome of what’s wrong.

The Eagles scored to make it 28-23 with 7:11 left in the game. They didn’t get the ball back until there were 32 seconds to play.

Finally, Brian Westbrook has had a great career with the Eagles, surpassing everything the team thought it was getting when it selected him in the third round of the 2002 draft out of Villanova.

Westbrook is the second-leading rusher in team history, has the best average yards per carry of any running back in team history, is third in rushing touchdowns and third in receptions.

Last week he suffered his second concussion in four weeks and second in as many games as he played. He’s also battled chronic knee and ankle injuries and had surgery on both this offseason.

If it was just the knee and the ankle, you could hope and maybe take a chance that Westbrook could somehow come back and at least be a contributor, if not the star he was.

Now we’re talking about concussions, brain bruises. That makes football secondary as Reid said last week.

It’s time for Westbrook to realize that and walk away from a game he at times dominated while he still can.

Battle Plans: Eagles @ Bears


Offense

1) Attack the backers: The Achilles heel of the Chicago front seven has been its linebacker corps. The group has been decimated by the injury bug. Without All-Pro Brian Urlacher at the inside linebacker post, opposing offenses have gashed Chicago in the running game, and pierced the intermediate lanes that Urlacher used to occupy.
The game plan should be to test the linebackers’ coverage integrity by using misdirection plays. In addition, the backs should be involved in attacking the Chicago backers in-between the tackles and on short passes over the middle.

2) Dink and dunk: Part of the problem for the offensive ineffectiveness in the past two contests has been offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s inability to adjust. Against blitz heavy teams such as the Cowboys and Chargers, the Eagles tried to go downfield to hit the home run ball. That strategy didn’t work, as the protection consistently broke down.

While the big play is an integral aspect of the Philadelphia attack, it won’t work if there is no protection. Against a blitz heavy rush, the passing game has to be shortened.

The Bears are notorious for flooding the “A” gaps with blitzing linebackers. When the backers come, the middle should be wide open for quarterback Donovan McNabb to exploit.

3) Faster start: The Eagles have to get off to a better start than they did against San Diego. While the offense was able to chip away and eventually close the gap against the Chargers, they were too far back to make up the overall difference.

Against the Bears, the offense has to play quicker and with more precision from the jump. If the offense is unable to click early, they may be looking at another uphill climb.

Defense

1) Bait Jay Cutler in the red zone: When it comes to defending Cutler, it’s all about forcing him to make the big mistake. Thus far, Cutler has been unable to avoid these costly errors in critical situations.

Part of the problem has been Cutler’s inability to eat the play. Instead of throwing the ball away, or taking a sack in the red zone, he will force a pass into tight windows. The result of his decisions has been a total of eight picks inside the opposing 20-yard line.
The Eagles have to continue to press Cutler in the red zone. The defense will need to bluff the blitz to bait Cutler into making the wrong pre-snap read.

2) Seven man front: Against the Bears, stopping the run has become an easy feat. The line play has been dreadful, and as a result, defenses haven’t had to commit an eighth defender to the box.

With a safety free, the Eagles can play a coverage based scheme and compel the Bears to be a pass happy team. To stop the run with seven defenders, the defensive line has to be rock solid. They will need to get a push and play on the other side of the line.

3) Better technique: The defense has given up a number of big plays, due to blowing assignments and overall poor technique. It has to get its act together and play a more cohesive game against Chicago.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Broderick Bunkley versus Olin Kreutz: This will be a battle against two players headed in the opposite direction. Bunkley has emerged as an interior presence. He is a compact player who plays with power and explosion. Kreutz is still a good player, but not the best at his position as he once was. Although he is undersized, he is quick and technically sound.

Eagles' backs are against the wall


It's crunch time again and get used to it birds fans because it's going to be this way for pretty much the rest of the season. I'd say the Eagles can afford one maybe two more losses before the playoffs wave bye-bye birdie. Granted the Dallas Choke-boys are leading the way at the moment and you can always count on Tony Romo to fold like a house of cards in a wind storm but I just don't see 9-7 winning the division.

With two other teams in the NFC also 5-4 one of which is Atlanta who we're playing in two weeks it's too close. It’s time to find another gear and get rolling.

This team does not want to be fighting for a wild card spot. They need to lock down the division and do it soon. Once again there's another pass catching tight end on deck. One problem is that tight ends are usually the hot read on the blitz and the Eagles aren't shy about rushing the linebackers.

The Bears are very unpredictable, but one thing you can count on is that Greg Olsen will have leverage on the outside when the linebackers blitz and he will take full advantage of that leverage. If the Eagles are going to win they are going to need to play smart mistake free football. No penalties, get off the field on third down, convert first downs, create turnovers, and score in the red zone!

Hopefully when the blitz is dialed up pressure can be created quickly and get into Jay Cutler's face. Once the pressure is on you can count on him to make mistakes. Jay Cutler is leading the league right now in interceptions with 17. Pair that up with the birds leading the league in takeaways and hopefully you'll see some fireworks and turmoil for Da Bears in Chi-Town.

Either way it's time to step up and bring the heat to the windy. If the Eagles can play takeaway and McCoy kill the clock this should be an easy win and hopefully the start of a winning streak!

Game time prediction: Eagles: 17 Bears: 10

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unlike the birds, fans show up strong in San Diego


So here I am fresh off of a late night flight back from a great weekend in San Diego. It was a weekend which showed people in the city of San Diego just what passion the fans of this city have for their beloved Eagles. Yes, there are some who give the Philly fans a bad name. But those select people cannot take away from just how special this past weekend was to people who experienced it first-hand.

There will be no stats in this article (Except for how irritating it is that Andy Reid passed the ball just under 80% of the game). This article will be more of a testimonial to the support these fans show a team, even if the guys at the top continue to create a divide from them. Yes, that includes the coach, who is becoming more and more irritating to watch week in and week out.

For many fans, the weekend started either Thursday or Friday. As you walked around the city, around every corner were those in Eagles garb. Fans came from Jersey and all over Philly and wore their midnight green proudly. Eagles’ chants spread throughout the crowded streets every day and night and were met with shocked stares of the so-called “locals” of the area. I say so-called seeing as though I met almost more native Philadelphians who have moved out there, than actually being born and raised in San Diego.

The fan support did not go unnoticed by the restaurants and bars. Time and time again bartenders and waitresses spoke about how they were not prepared for this many people from the Philadelphia area. In true Philly form, many bars were sold out of one of the official beer sponsors of the Eagles, Miller Lite. The bars response: “We just were not prepared for this.”

Then it was game day. Fans arrived to their tailgates around 9:00 in the morning, just like any normal Sunday when the Eagles are at home. However, there was something extremely different from the scene around the Linc on a Sunday. The parking lots were practically empty. It seemed like a home game as everywhere you looked there was an Eagles jersey and only a few sprinklings of Chargers attire. The Birds fans had at least 90 minutes of tailgating before the supposedly home crowd began to show up.

Let’s move inside Qualcomm Stadium…

There is a little less than an hour until kickoff. In the upper level of the stadium, there is a roar growing larger throughout the crowd. It seems as though the fans up there are spelling something. Needless to say the letters that are being chanted over and over again are “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!” Chargers fans try and muffle the sound to no avail. The Birds fans are hungry and cannot wait to get it started.

Unfortunately the coaches and players who are PAID to be there and not PAYING a lot of money to be there did not come to play. Still, it was not until the last few minutes began to tick off on yet another bad loss for the Eagles that the fans left that stadium. They tried to will their team back, but it just was not to be.

It is my opinion that Andy Reid showing gratitude to the fans in his day after press conference was forced and meaningless. The way you show your fans gratitude is to show up and learn how to make adjustments in-game.

It’s about learning how to score from the one inch line.

It is not settling for field goals when you are already down two scores.

It’s about not continuing to coach out of arrogance, pretty much saying to everyone that you know everything and it will always work.

Andy, it is not working!

And if you do not drop the ego and start adjusting, not only will the losses continue, but those fans you were speaking about will not tolerate it. Then all of those chants you heard just above your heads 3000 miles away from Philadelphia will grow faint and distant.

And instead of having a tremendous road following, it might be your team struggling to fill their own stadium.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mornhinweg sinks in the red


The home locker room at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t brooking any downers on Nov. 1, after a huge Eagles victory over the Giants. But the downers were there, in the media, doing their jobs.

Are you at all concerned, they asked offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, that the offense can’t move the chains, that all the touchdowns seem to come from big plays.

“I like to score,” Mornhinweg said with a dismissive smile. An offensive coordinator who hangs 40 points on the Giants, he seemed to say, doesn’t need to answer hard questions.

On Sunday, after a third straight trip to the red zone with no end zone, the FOX cameras found Mornhinweg on the sideline in San Diego. The smile was gone.

Using pressure and coverage in turn, the Cowboys and the Chargers shut off the Eagles’ big-play faucet, and the points dried up. All that remains is an offense that cannot run the football, cannot imagine success in tight quarters and cannot manage the clock.

Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb will, as usual, share the blame for this turn in the team’s fortunes, at least in the eyes of fans. But the responsibility may lie with Mornhinweg.

Since he took over as coordinator after the departure of Brad Childress, Mornhinweg’s offense has gone from one of the most consistent in the NFL to one of the least consistent, and the team’s results have gone with it.

An unwillingness to run the ball has been a staple of the Reid era, but now that Brian Westbrook is past his prime, the ground game has atrophied further than ever. Serious red zone problems have been visiting Philadelphia in each of the last three seasons, and while Reid will always take the most heat for bad late-game decisions, Mornhinweg is famously poor in that discipline as well.

Andy Reid has never fired an offensive or defensive coordinator. He's been incredibly fortunate in his front-line delegations, starting with Jim Johnson and Rod Dowhower. Brad Childress was an unmitigated success, and Sean Montgomery -- at the very least -- has shown an ability to adapt on the fly.

By comparison to those guys, Marty Mornhinweg seems stuck in the mud.

I've always assumed that when Mornhinweg leaves the Eagles, he'll be gone before we know there's a fissure between him and Reid. However, it's possible we saw that fissure on Monday.

"I’m not going to sit here and hang people out to dry," the head coach said, in answering a question about the Eagles' red-zone failures. "I just want to get it better and I’ll do that in-house.”

Could Reid have been talking about someone other than his offensive coordinator? Sure.

But just as certainly, Mornhinweg isn't smiling much these days.

Eagles v Chargers Recap: Red means stop?


This is not Driver’s Ed birds! Get it together!

Normally when you have more total yards (decisively), more total plays, and almost equal time of possession you win right? Nope! There was something else that the Eagles racked up more of – field goals in the red zone.

Why are we still struggling with fundamentals in week 10? It seems so simple. Get off the field on 3rd down, convert 1st downs, score in the red zone, win the game. I really feel like John Madden these days stating the obvious but apparently it’s obvious to everyone except who counts.

It's becoming clear that DeSean Jackson is becoming our new T.O. I know what you’re thinking so just give me a second to explain…

Three out of 4 of the Eagles losses this season have come in games where Jackson was scoreless. It's kind of hard to score with DeSean when everyone and their mother knows it's coming. They have to start running the ball more.

And that brings me to my Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week. YO ANDY! C'mon SON! THE WEST COAST OFFENSE DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE! You have to run the ball on first and second down. You have to work the corners. You have two dangerous running backs that can find holes, catch passes out of the back field and make guys miss. USE THEM! Wear down the cornerbacks and linebackers, open up the middle of the field and then strike deep to DeSean.

Am I seriously still saying this?

It's week 10 and you've gone from 3 games above 500 to just 1. I know there are a lot of injuries and I know the team is young but these are things that should be worked out in Pop Warner Ball boys. The Eagles put up 130 plus yards of offense more than the Chargers and lose by 5 points! What's wrong with this picture?

All I can say is Andy better be running red zone drills everyday this week because if Donovan has another 400 yard game on Sunday and they lose again against a Bears team that is just about as injury stricken as we are it is not going to be easy to get to the playoffs at all.

On a brighter note as I had predicted the Cowboys went to Green Bay and got worked which still leaves the birds a game back to be tied for the division lead. That being said I'd really like to see a repeat performance out of Jay Cutler on Sunday with another 5 turnovers. Going into the game Sunday the Eagles were at the top of the list in takeaways this season with 22 yet posted a big goose egg in that against the Bolts. Luckily they're still number 1 in that category.

The Eagles must find a way to get over this injury hump and settle into a grove because the only consistency we've seen out of this team has been their inconsistency. The next few weeks are going to be pivotal. If we can make it to week 15 without another loss the playoff picture will look a lot more attractive to us. Just one problem though – play calling, on both sides of the ball.

Coverage and tackling needs to tighten up considerably and we're running an offense that hasn't worked since Joe Montana shredded defenses in the city by the bay.
Run the ball, create turnovers, control the clock and I promise Andy you will win the game.

This story has been brought to you by Pete Visalli, not John Madden.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Despite loss, Eagles still in the playoff mix


In eight of the past 10 seasons, or since Andy Reid invented what we now call NFC East football, the division has sent at least two teams to the playoffs.

Over two of the past three seasons – 2006 and 2007 – the NFC East has sent the maximum three teams to the playoffs, the division winner and both wild-card teams.

As the 2009 season takes the clubhouse turn and enters its second half there’s a good chance the East will have at least two, and just maybe three, teams in the postseason again.

Right now, the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys are all in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

Yesterday results aside in which the Giants had the best day, by having the week off, the NFC East trio remains in pretty good shape.

The team that wins the division will obviously be in, and unless New Orleans (9-0) or Minnesota (8-1) collapses down the stretch run, will battle likely NFC West champ Arizona (6-3) for the No. 3 seed.

Whatever two teams fail to win the division will fight for a wild-card spot and there is not much else out there in the NFC.

Right now fading Atlanta (5-4) and up-and-down Green Bay (5-4) are the only other teams in the NFC currently over .500. There are three teams at 4-5 – Carolina, San Francisco and Chicago – but none of those three look like playoff teams.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have lost three of their last four and possibly running back Michael Turner to an ankle injury. And Green Bay’s offensive line makes every game an adventure for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Cowboys already have the first tie-breaker on the Falcons, by virtue of their week 7 head-to-head win, but lose out to Green Bay because of yesterday’s loss.

The Giants, next week, and the Eagles, in three weeks, get to play the Falcons themselves. Neither gets to play the Packers.

The Eagles (5-4), despite their second straight loss yesterday are not in that bad of shape.

An aside here, the Eagles loss at San Diego continues the team’s ridiculous streak of not having beaten an AFC playoff team on the road ever under Reid.

Ray Rhodes never won one either.

The last time the Eagles beat an AFC playoff team on the road was at Houston in 1991, under the wizard Rich Kotite, in what has become known as The House of Pain Game.

Anyway, the Eagles should win their next two against Chicago (4-5) and Washington (3-6), before going on the road for two straight games at Atlanta and at the Giants.

If they can get to 8-5, or even if they don’t, they would have home games with San Francisco and fading Denver before the finale at Dallas. If they are 8-5, however, they would need to win two of the final three to get to 10-6, which should secure a playoff berth.

The Cowboys (6-3) are in decent shape as well, with home games with Washington and Oakland (2-8) the next two weeks, followed by their trip to the Meadowlands.

The final month is a bit tough for Tony Romo, who must have thought it was already December yesterday, as the ‘Boys face San Diego, New Orleans, get a break with Washington, and then the Eagles. They would need to go 2-2 in those four.

The Giants enjoyed the bye yesterday and if you’re a Big Blue fan you better hope the team solved its problems of the past month during the week off.

At 5-4, the Giants’ seven remaining games are against teams with a combined 37-26 record and they will face all three division foes again, hosting both the Eagles and Cowboys and traveling to Washington. They may need to sweep.

Of the four non-division games, only Carolina has a losing record, and the Panthers have played a lot better since a 0-3 start.

At Denver, Thanksgiving night and at Minnesota, especially if the Vikings are playing for something, the final week of the season is not going to be easy.

Next week at home against Atlanta won’t just be interesting, it could foretell the Giants season.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eagles @ Chargers Preview: Who's it gonna be?


This weekend’s matchup is going to be very similar to every other one this year with the exception of New Orleans. The Eagles are playing a mediocre team and depending on which side of Harvey two face we see it’s going to be another disappointing week or a good ole' fashioned beat down.

One thing the Eagles have done well after screwing up is recognizing their mistakes and then making the proper adjustments. Let’s hope that they can stay true to form and then develop some consistency because it's getting painful to watch them.

I don't want to see an 8-8 season. Win us a super bowl or get us a draft pick, but this freakin’ roller coaster ride has got to go!

I have to give the Eagles some credit though. They have to have one of the most impressive injury reports in the league. Preseason they had arguably the best and deepest offensive lines, a strong young linebacker core that was only getting better each year and by far the scariest group of four cornerbacks all on one team in the league. Now they are razor thin at all of the above!

It's kind of impressive if you think about it that they could easily be in first place right now with this group of second stringers, rookies and sophomores. Unfortunately it's not going to be any easier this weekend for them as Ellis Hobbs is on IR for the remainder of the season with a neck injury and Joselio Hanson gets my Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week picking up a four game suspension for a banned diuretic.

Isn't this football? Joselio, C'mon SON! Get your weight up not down!

As hard as it is to say our two best CB's in my opinion are still on the field as Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown who will both start this weekend. The only problem with that is instead of having the depth of Joselio Hanson and Sheldon Brown to bring fresh legs and give Asante and Ellis a break or bring one in on a nickel or dime you now have Dimitri Patterson and Ramzee Robinson. Yikes!

Maybe one is a diamond in the rough but don't count on it.

These injuries could not have come at a worse time. Covering tight ends has hardly been a bright spot all season and on Sunday the Birds face one of the best in Antonio Gates. The defense will really have to put a lot of focus on him without somehow forgetting that Vincent Jackson has 722 yards receiving, 42 receptions and tied for the league lead with 7 touchdowns. Oh and by the way, they still have LaDainian Tomlinson and the always dangerous and very fast Darren Sproles.

It's going to be hard to rely on the offensive in this so my keys (or should I say key?) to winning this game is simply to outscore San Diego. (You’re thinking right now how insightful this is right?)

Working the corners with short passes to Brent Celek and screen passes to LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver and Brian Westbrook (who is listed as probable this week after missing two weeks with a concussion) is the formula for racking up points. That will open up the middle of the field for a deep strike to DeSean Jackson. Score early, score quickly and score often and we'll all wake up happy campers on Monday rather than last week which I feel no need to reiterate.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 34 Chargers: 27

GO BIRDS!

BATTLE PLANS: Eagles @ Chargers


Offense

1) Pound the inside: Although the Chargers have played better on the defensive side of the ball, they have still struggled in spots to stop the run. In particular, since losing nose guard Jamal Williams, the Chargers have become more vulnerable to an interior ground attack.

This is a game in which the Eagles – with its newfound power rushing game – will need to drive right at the undersized interior of San Diego. Tailback LeSean McCoy and fullback Leonard Weaver are capable inside runners, and they will need to find room behind the large duo of Jamaal Jackson and Nick Cole.

2) Locate Shawn Merriman: It has taken some time, but Merriman finally appears to be rounding into form. The once dominant pass-rusher was a non-factor for much of the first quarter of the season. He displayed none of the explosiveness and power he had before ripping up his knee in 2008. With Merriman missing some of his physical edge, and not using his hands to disengage blocks, he found himself routinely stoned at the line-of-scrimmage.

Merriman has bounced back to record four sacks in two games. The defensive coaches have done a nice job of moving Merriman to create better mismatch opportunities. In the game against the Giants, one of Merriman’s sacks came from the defensive tackle position.

The Philadelphia blockers have to be able to recognize where Merriman is on all downs and keep him contained.

3) Backs in space: One of the best ways to keep pass-rushers such as Merriman and Shaun Phillips from wrecking havoc in the backfield is to run screens to their side. Opposing running backs have exploited the two linebackers in coverage at various points in the season.

This is a game in which Brian Westbrook – who is listed as probable -- would be a matchup nightmare for San Diego. Look for the former Pro Bowl performer to be a primary target on outs and flare passes underneath, in addition to well-timed screen plays.

Defense

1) Keep the safeties back: Normally, the Philadelphia safeties are a big part of the blitz package. However, against the San Diego passing attack, they will need to be more involved in deep coverage support.

The Eagles will have to mix up their coverages, but for the most part, the safeties will have to help out as much as possible against Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. The corners are not big enough to defend these giants on their own.

2) Nickel package: Given San Diego’s ability to pass the ball, and its inability to run the ball, the Eagles would be better off defending from coverage formations. Specifically, the nickel will need to be in play early and often to slow down the Chargers’ wide open attack.
Nickel back Dimitri Patterson will have the task of checking either Antonio Gates or the No.3 receiver, Legedu Naanee. Both players will have a tremendous size advantage over the 5-foot-10 Patterson.

3) Win the one-on-one battles: In this game, the Philadelphia front four will need to come strong against a San Diego front that pass blocks very well. While the linebackers will be active as pass-rushers, it will still be on the defensive linemen to break down blocks and get to Phillip Rivers.

In particular, if this front line is able to pressure Rivers without help, the backers will be in better position to help cover Gates and tailbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Trent Cole versus Marcus McNeill: Cole heads a front four that has to be able to win its matchups against the San Diego offensive line. He is having another outstanding season, with four sacks in his last four games. Cole is an elite edge rusher who can turn the corner in a hurry. McNeill remains a better pass blocker than a run blocker. Cole will need to force McNeill to chase him all day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Miles away from Austin


Well I can honestly say that I’m anything but surprised to be writing this right now. Welcome back Harvey Two Face. That’s going to be my nickname for this team for the rest of the year.

Are we going to see the normal clean cut flawless side of the Eagles that effortlessly whooped New York like a stepchild at Wal-Mart or are we going to see the hideous dilapidated acid cover ugly side that lost to Oakland?

I don’t have to tell you which side we saw on Sunday night despite doing battle with such a poorly assembled team as the Dallas Cowboys. Granted they are now in first place but honestly who have they beaten? High school teams and an injury-riddled Eagles’ squad reaching down the depth chart.

So mark it down – I’m giving Dallas NO CREDIT because they aren’t worthy. They played poorly and left the door wide open for the birds to take advantage and the Harvey Two Face squad did what they do best: roll over and die when anything is on the line.

For the life of me I can’t begin to understand it. The last time the Eagles looked as bad as they have lately was when they finished 6-10 in 2005 and Correll Buckhalter was quoted saying, “As long as I’ve been here the team has always had a certain character and for some reason we just don’t have it.”

That’s how I feel this year!

That normal character and swag just isn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong some games they’ve had it at points, but New Orleans, Tampa, Oakland, Washington and Dallas they’ve played poorly at best. Win lose or draw (and YES DONOVAN YOU CAN DRAW) they aren’t flying as high as usual. They aren’t getting beat. They are beating themselves.

I mean correct me if I’m wrong but am I the only one out there that knew at half time that the Eagles were not going to win? How could they? They weren’t converting first downs, they weren’t creating turnovers, and they couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. You’ve got to be kidding me! Against the Dallas Cowboys?

Against Tony “I’m good for at least one interception a game in the red zone and can’t win a playoff game because I’m a scared little fruitcake who’s more worried about who I’m dating than winning football games” Romo? Give me a break!

You know what time it is. Time to quote to my boy Ed Lover again: “YO EAGLES! C’mon SON! You lost to the Dallas Cowboys at home! You know they suck! Get outta here with that bull stuff!”

Next week is the Chargers in San Diego. Let’s hope we see the other side of Harvey because a win on the road with New York on a bye after four straight losses, Dallas up for a spanking in Green Bay and Washington (barely even a team they’re so bad) would be a huge help in taking control of this division.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

THE BLIND SIDE: The Michael Oher Story


Like just about everyone I enjoy a good movie and human interest stories are among my favorite. I like the plight of an underdog, the protagonist who perseveres, tackles seemingly insurmountable obstacles and scores a glorious victory.

Now granted those things more times than not happen in fairy tales and in Hollywood or both, but regardless of whether or not they are in fact fictional, if I walk out of a theatre or pause my DVD player feeling good and feeling entertained, the flick gets my thumbs up.

Earlier this week, thanks to the nice folks at Warner Bros, I was able to catch the sneak preview of The Blind Side: The Michael Oher Story.In this movie not only do you get the feel good human interest story, you get the added value of knowing that the tale isn’t all bubblegum and cookies.

The incredible journey of Michael Oher’s life happened (it is NON-fiction)to the first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are a fan of the NFL and consequently I have little doubt that you will applaud at the end of the picture even if it does include some over the top Hollywood embellishing. That said for me, the meat and potatoes of the picture – the part that resonated as I walked out of the theater with my son was the underlying kindness that is really the glue that holds not only the movie, but Michael Oher’s life together.

This film very well could have been called Colorblind. Leigh Anne Touhy played by Sandra Bullock is the star. She is a take charge, A-type personality who runs a high end interior design company. Coupled with her husband who operates a chain of fast food restaurants, the Touhy’s are an affluent family living in the high end district of suburban Memphis.

Leigh Anne feels for the homeless Oher and takes him in – a gesture that her snobby friends label “white guilt.” When she passionately explains why she has become what amounts to as an ambassador Good Samaritan, her friends swallow humble pie as one friend concludes, “You’re changing that boy’s life.”

Her reply…“No, he’s changing mine.”

You watch each member of the Touhy Family embrace Oher on different levels and in different ways. Their collective selflessness that enabled each to look into the heart of Michael Oher and not at his size, destitute lifestyle or his skin color is the shiny diamond of the movie that rises up from the ashes and teaches something to us all.

If you are looking for a hard-core football movie,
The Blind Side is not for you. But if you want to be inspired by heartfelt and wonderful acts of kindness and the bonding of the human spirit, go see this movie.

The Blind Side won’t win any Oscars but it will win your heart.

The Real Test?


Last weekend I’ll admit on Saturday night I was a little worried after the way the Eagles had played the previous three weeks. After the game the story was altogether different. I don’t know what Andy Reid did last week but let’s hope he does it again this week.

This story really can’t be written any better -- Eagles (5-2) v. Cowboys (5-2) on Sunday’s Football Night in America to determine who really is the best in the NFC East.

Once again this week is going to fall on our defense’s shoulders. The birds are going to have to hit the Cowboys’ offensive line and hit them hard. With the way Miles Austin has been playing you do not want to leave him time to get open. And we are all well aware of what Marion Barber and Jason Witten are capable of.

I’d say the key to this one will be keeping fresh legs on the defensive line to get into Romo’s face quick, keep a nickel on Witten and send Witherspoon in to plug up the whole to keep a lid on Barber. Most important though is getting to Romo while keeping a spy on him at the same time. Romo is very good at creating plays with his feet. The Eagles do not want to overly focus on the Cowboys’ weapons and lose sight of Romo because he can and will take off.

Even though a lot of weight falls on the defense’s shoulders in this one the offense would take a lot of that pressure off by doing exactly what they did against New York – score early and often. Donovan McNabb has more weapons this year than he ever has and if he wants to expose the Cowboys defense he’s going to need to use all of them. A balanced attack of rushing and passing will confuse Dallas and open up the field for a big play or two. Don’t force the ball to DeSean just because you want to use him. Pound the ball with Weaver and McCoy, use Celek as your safety valve and wait for them to fall asleep on DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Then hit em where it hurts and drop the deep ball on them.

It seems kind of fundamental but with a threat at almost every position on the offense Dallas can’t cover everyone so someone will be open. It’s all about finding the mismatch and taking advantage.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 27 Dallas: 13

BATTLE PLANS: Eagles v. Cowboys


Offense

1) Attack Demarcus Ware: Despite starting the season with a doughnut in the sack column, Ware has come alive over the past three games, registering five sacks. Ware is arguably the best pass-rusher in the NFL. He is long, athletic, and plays with power.

The Philadelphia line has finally started to gel, but they will still be hard pressed to slow down Ware. Left tackle Jason Peters will need some help.

The game plan should be to run plays toward Ware’s side so he’s not able to pin his ears and fly up field on every play. The backs should be involved on screens, chips, and draw plays. When Ware widens his rush and gets up field, the backs will have to hit the vacated gap.

2) Pump fakes and play-fakes: Although the Dallas secondary has played with better discipline, especially during its three-game winning streak, this is still a group of defenders that can be manipulated out of position. Specifically, cornerback Terrence Newman and safety Ken Hamlin are notorious gamblers who will take chances in coverage to make the big play.

In turn, Donovan McNabb is one of the best at using his eyes and a subtle pump-fake to create openings for his receivers downfield. His ability to sell the fake will be key in this game. McNabb has to stay patient, bait the corners and safeties out of their coverage spots, and then work back to the receiver working against man coverage.

In addition, if the Eagles commit to the run early, the play-action passing game will be in play as the game progresses.

3) Combating the rush: Against the Cowboys, a lot of offenses stress protection first. After all, along with Ware, Dallas is an aggressive front that can get after the quarterback. Although they struggled early in the season, the front seven has hit its stride, and the Eagles will have to find a way to slow them down.

Moving the pocket and allowing McNabb to throw on the run off of bootlegs and waggles could keep the rush off balance. The Eagles can’t allow the Dallas front to get comfortable and attack the same spot. By getting McNabb moving, they may be able to spring some plays off of the backside of the rush, after the defenders move with the backs and the line. In order for McNabb to have success, the outside linebackers have to blow their contain assignments off tackle.

Defense

1) Defending a three-headed monster: In order for the Eagles to stymie the Dallas attack, they will have to cut off the head of the three-headed beast that roams the backfield. The combination of Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones is as good as any in the league. All three backs have strengths that they bring to the tailback position.

Barber is one of the toughest inside runners in the league, and is particularly strong in the red zone. Choice is a slasher who can catch passes, and he has the vision to find the cutback lane. Jones is at his best on the edges, where he erases angles and sprints past defenders in the open field.

One of the keys to slowing this group down will be recognizing which back is in the lineup. When Jones is in the lineup, the emphasis will be to force him to the middle; when Barber is in, the backers will need to fill their gaps and funnel him to the outside; when Choice is in, the entire front will need to play with great gap integrity.

If the run defenders are unable to make the right reads and rally to the ball, it will be a long night.

2) Controlled Chaos: As much as quarterback Tony Romo has struggled at times in the past against the blitz, he has done a much better job against those looks this season. Specifically, he has done a better job of recognizing the pre-snap look a defense shows him, and he has been able to find his hot reads.

Still, defenses look to pressure Romo because he tends to make crucial mistakes when he feels the heat. In the season finale against the Philadelphia defense, Romo had trouble with his accuracy and was not able get a read on where the rush was coming from.

The Eagles will have to show Romo the same type of looks, in which they show a certain pre-snap blitz, only to bring a different pressure package when the ball is snapped. By bringing defenders from different spots, Romo will have a tough time recognizing the proper hot read, and could force the ball to the wrong spot.

3) Bracketing Jason Witten: The Dallas offense has flourished despite the down season that Witten has had. The Pro Bowl tight end has been the focus of every defensive game plan, and as a consequence, Romo has turned to other, more open targets in the passing game.

Like every other defense, the Eagles will have to follow suit and find a way to take Witten out of the game. Given their struggles against tight ends in the past two contests, it is even more of an issue that the backers and the safeties work in tandem to keep Witten from getting open. In rolling their coverage to Witten’s side, the Eagles will have to hope that their cornerbacks will hold in single coverage situations.


One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Miles Austin versus Asante Samuel: As mentioned before, defenses have adjusted their coverage schemes to take away Witten – Romo’s safety valve. The quarterback has adjusted by finding the other open targets. In particular, Austin has gobbled up the corners he has faced. Austin has been especially dangerous as a runner in open space. Samuel is one of the top man-to-man cover corners in the league. He plays with great technique and instincts, and will bait a quarterback into making a mistake. Samuel must hold up against Austin in man coverage when he has no safety help over the top.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Buzz: Ochocinco delivers gifts & more for Week 9 in the NFL


CLEVELAND, BROWNS THE BED…AGAIN ~ Eric Mangini’s tenure so far in Cleveland has been nothing short of a train wreck. He ousted the team’s offensive threats (Messrs. Winslow & Edwards) and has b-slapped his quarterbacks who are now nothing more than significant drags on the club’s salary cap.

To help save face in even a miniscule way, owner Randy Lerner picked GM George Kokinis as his scapegoat and gifted him with a pink slip. To add insult to injury the team is reviewing Kokinis’ phone records to build a case against him so that they don’t have to pay the balance of the former GM’s contract.

Talk about a back assward team! The Browns hire their brand new shiny head coach (Mangini) and then they have ball coach hire the GM, old buddy George. Now former buddy Eric is happily kicking Kokinis under the bus to save his sorry ass!

Same old Browns!

LIAR, LIAR ~ From one sorry team to another, Washington Redskins’ CB DeAngelo Hall recently fired some shots at Falcons’ GM Thomas Dimitroff.

“I didn’t trust Dimitroff at all,” Hall said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He lied to me several times. He promised me he was going to get something done [on a contract] and he's behind my back trying to shop me at the draft.”

Well boo-freaking-hoo. Hall probably wouldn’t be whining so much if the Falcons weren’t so superior to Danny’s boys.

HIS NOSE IS SO FAR UP ~ Staying with the team whose name denigrates Native Americans, Redskins’ D-coordinator Greg Blache stood up for his oft-criticized owner after former Redskins’ Hall of Fame RB John Riggins called Daniel Snyder a “bad guy” whose “heart is dark” during an interview on Showtime’s Inside the NFL.

"That's totally, totally untrue," Blache said. "And the problem is the fans don't get to know Mr. Snyder like we do, and so they get an impression of things that are written and things people say."

Blache added that Snyder is "one of the most generous, kind individuals you could ever meet."

Of course he is Greg. Just look at what he paid underachieving defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. HEY-HEY-HEY!

IT’S SUPERBIRD ~ Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb may have discovered the secret to superhero-dom. Since McNabb’s return from a rib injury suffered in the season opener he has been sporting a secret weapon flak jacket. In four games with the jacket, McNabb has thrown for seven scores and has a string of 115 attempts without an interception.

IS THAT MARCIA OR TOM? ~ While out and about in Baltimore’s Federal Hill area on Halloween, a festive bar patron was spotted wearing a Tom Brady jersey with a pink tutu. Whenever someone touched him, he threw a penalty flag. Joey Porter apparently can relate.

"When a guy can tell a ref when to throw a flag, and he gets it, he's got his own rules,” Porter complained to Rich Eisen on NFL Network’s Around the League.

“They made the rule that you don't go at the legs for Tom, so when he feels that someone is going at his legs, he just points to the ref and he gets a flag. So I can honestly say that he gets his own rules."

Wonder if Tom has his own rules with Gisele?

EWWW THAT SMELL ~ Bengals’ star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco sent gift baskets to players of the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary along with linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. The baskets included roll-on deodorant. No truth to the rumor that No. 85 is changing his name to Chad Oh-No-Stinko.

Ochocinco is hoping that this prank pays off a bit better than a similar one in 2004 when he sent Pepto Bismol to members of the Cleveland Browns’ secondary prior to one of their divisional contests. The Bengals dropped that game to the Browns by the score of 34-17.

CALLING DR. SHEPHERD ~ The undefeated Colts are dealing with a host of injuries that could threaten their unbeaten status. This week the team lost nickel back and former starting CB Marlin Jackson (no not a member of the Jackson 5) for the season after he tore his ACL during practice. The Colts also lost starting LB Tyjuan Hagler (not so marvelous) for the balance of the ’09 campaign due to a ruptured biceps. Now there’s talk that Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders (no relation to the Colonel) may have some lingering knee issues that the famous Dr. Andrews will peruse. Houston could be a problem…this week.

THE COLORADO ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH ~ Speaking of problems this week, the Steelers are missing two defensive linemen for their game in Denver and they could also be without the services of safety Ryan Clark. Clark has a rare sickle-cell trait that flares up when he exerts himself in high altitude. The affects can be devastating. The Steelers and the league for that matter need to be careful here if Clark is permitted to play. They could be exposed legally. Do the right thing fellas and give Clark a comfortable seat along the sidelines.

THAT DUDE CAN RUN… Titans RB Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing with 824 yards and an eye popping 6.9 yard/carry average – the highest rushing average by an NFL rushing leader through the first 8 weeks of the season since 1970. Maybe the 1-6 Titans should give Johnson the ball more, ya think?

YOU BETTER, YOU BETTER YOU BET ~ New odds are out to win Super Bowl XLIV as provided by Bodog and it should come as no surprise that the Saints and Colts lead the way. The odds of some favorites winning the league’s last game in Miami are: New Orleans Saints 3/1; Indianapolis Colts 5/1; New England Patriots 11/2; Minnesota Vikings 8/1; Pittsburgh Steelers 10/1; Baltimore Ravens 13/1; Philadelphia Eagles 14/1; Dallas Cowboys 18/1; New York Giants 18/1; Denver Broncos 22/1; San Diego Chargers 22/1.

WITH THE 7TH PICK THE OAKLAND RAIDERS SELECT ~ The 2009 seventh overall draft pick, Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey finished the first half of his rookie season with five catches for 74 yards and 0 TD’s. The rather abysmal numbers have not tempered the former Maryland Terrapin’s confidence.

"Looking at the first game on film, just studying myself how I've improved, I'm happy with what I see now," Heyward-Bey said. "I see improvement."

He was watching a Raiders’ game, right?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eagles v. Giants: It's Crunch Time


This is the Eagles biggest game this season to date. A pivotal match up against the New York Giants will show which team is the class of the NFC East. It will certainly be a test for the defense even though young wide receiver Mario Manningham will not play with a shoulder injury. Outside of that they will have to keep a close eye on rookie Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks, the always dangerous Brandon Jacobs and most importantly Kevin Boss.

The Eagles got off lightly last week with their problems covering tight ends when Chris Cooley left the game injured. Don't count on that to happen to Kevin Boss this week. Hopefully we'll see another solid performance out of newly acquired Middle Linebacker Will Witherspoon. Tight coverage and the unpredictable rush attack will be the keys to winning this game and shutting down the Giants offense.

On the Eagles offensive side of the ball Running Back Brian Westbrook will be out with a concussion. Rookie LeSean McCoy will start in his place. McCoy has proven to be a solid back up so far this season averaging 3.6 yards per carry and 212 yards on 59 carries. Look out for him on the screen pass, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin deep to expose the Giants defense.

Game time prediction: Eagles 31 Giants 24