The Eagles face arguably their toughest matchup of the season against the 7-3 New England Patriots in Sunday’s game.
The Eagles will be playing without starting quarterback Michael Vick and second wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. They will likely have top receiver DeSean Jackson, but he will be playing with a sore foot. They also have two of their top three cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who are questionable with lower body injuries.
It will take a near flawless game for the Eagles to beat the Patriots. Here are five things the Eagles need to do to emerge victorious, in reverse order.
5. Pressure Tom Brady.
The Eagles have 29 sacks this season, which is right in the middle of the pack for NFL teams. But 27 of the sacks have come by defensive linemen, including 10 by Jason Babin, 5.5 by Cullen Jenkins, and 5 by Trent Cole. If they can get past a solid offensive line and get to Tom Brady three or four times, they can change the course of the game.
It’s as simple as it sounds. Tackle, and you stand a much better chance of winning. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be tough to bring down, as will wide receiver Wes Welker, who will likely catch eight to 10 passes on Sunday. The Eagles are the 31st ranked tackling team in the NFL, with players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Kurt Coleman, and Brian Rolle ranking among the worst in the league.
3. Protect Vince Young.
The Eagles did a tremendous job of protecting VY last week. The Giants collected just a single sack, and it was a coverage sack. Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, and company will have their hands full tomorrow with defensive ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, as well as defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
2. Get LeSean McCoy the football 30 times.
LeSean McCoy is the best player on the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the best running back in the National Football League. With the Eagles starting backup quarterback Vince Young tomorrow, Andy Reid has no reason to not give McCoy at least 25 carries, preferably 30. Yes, McCoy can handle the workload, and he is bound to break one or two of those for a big gain. He leads the NFL with 38 runs of more than 10 yards this season (the next highest in the league is 28), and who can forget his incredible 60-yard run to seal the game last week against the Giants.
1. Win the turnover battle.
Last week, Vince Young threw three interceptions. The Eagles won the game despite losing the turnover battle. That can’t happen against the Patriots, who have an explosive offense and will likely capitalize on all of the Eagles’ mistakes. The Eagles rank 31st in the NFL in turnovers and are -8 for the season in turnover differential. Tomorrow anything less than a +1 probably means a loss.