The Eagles will go into Sunday’s game with the Chargers trying to forget about the painful loss they suffered last weekend against the Cowboys. On the other hand, the Chargers will try to ride the momentum of their come behind win over the Giants. Traveling west earlier this year didn’t go so well for the Birds as well all remember the stunning loss to the Raiders. However, Sunday is a new day and the Eagles will need to put the past behind them and focus on getting a win.
Here’s some quick team stats and league rankings:
Points per game: 25.8 (10th)
Yards per game: 335.4 (18th)
Pass yards per game: 265.8 (7th)
Rush yards per game: 69.6 (32nd)
Points per game: 22.4 (20th)
Yards per game: 309.8 (11th)
Pass yards per game: 179.6 (5th)
Rush yards per game: 130.1 (26th)
Philip Rivers – He’s not in the league of the Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s but he quietly puts up really good numbers every year. If you saw his final drive last week against the Giants, you know he is for real. He’s never really had any outstanding receivers, but he gets the job done with what he’s given. The Chargers can’t run the ball like they used to so you know Rivers is efficient in the passing game. Our secondary has been pretty solid so I expect Rivers to look to find Antonio Gates a lot. Hopefully our front seven can get to Rivers quickly and force him to get rid of the ball early.
Running backs – The Chargers don’t feature a power back like the Birds have seen the last two weeks with Brandon Jacobs and Marion Barber. What they do have is a ton of speed. LaDainian Tomlinson is no where close to being what he used to be so I’m not really afraid of him having a big game. Darren Sproles is a little guy with big speed. He’s really effective in the screen game and if he finds day light you better look out. The Eagles need to make sure he doesn’t get out in the open or you can almost guarantee he’ll rip off a big play.
Wide Receivers – After facing two big wide receivers last week, the Eagles will see two more in Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. Floyd fills in for the Cris Chambers who was released last week and signed by the Chiefs. He only had two catches in his starting debut but Rivers looked for him many times downfield. Floyd isn’t the only one who will see deep balls, as Rivers will air it out frequently. The secondary is going to have to look for this and go up and make a play on the ball.
Antonio Gates – This could be a real problem for the Eagles. They always struggle to cover the tight end and Gates is one of the best in the business. He has caught five or more balls in all but one of his games this year and is averaging close to 75 yards receiving per game. Basically, he’s their third receiver, just in a much bigger frame. I doubt the Eagles will ask a linebacker to cover him alone all day so I’m interested to see how they attack him. They’re going to need to do something or he will definitely have a big game.
3-4 Defense – For the second week in a row, the Eagles get to see a 3-4 defense. So instead of seeing DeMarcus Ware on Sunday, they get to see Shawne Merriman (great). We all know what he can do on the field but his partner on the other side, Shaun Phillips has recorded more sacks. Don’t let this fool you though, Merriman has recorded two sacks in each of his last two games so you know he’s starting to find that rhythm. When Jason Peters went out last week, the line collapsed a bit so I hope he is not limited by his ankle and can play the whole game. It seems like he’s one of those players that gets hurt a lot, so his health is key. I expect the Chargers to send a lot of blitzes Donovan’s way as he hasn’t performed very well when he hasn’t had a lot of time. I’d like to see Donovan make a play or two with his legs. If the Chargers front seven gets over aggressive, the Eagles could take advantage by setting up the screen. We saw Shady bust out a nice run when they were able to set it up last week.
Secondary – I don’t think you hear enough about the Chargers secondary for how talented they really are. Their pass defense is ranked 5th in the league and it starts with two very talented corners, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has good size and really broke out in 2007 when he recorded 10 interceptions and defended 18 passes. He has the speed to run with the Eagles wide receivers so they really need to run good routes and get open for Donovan. Free safety Eric Weddle has some good pop in him so if any of our receivers catch passes over the middle they better make sure they hang on to the ball.
Darren Sproles returns both kickoffs and punts for the Chargers and is very explosive. If he finds a seam, he can pick up some yardage very quickly. He is hard to find on kickoffs because of his size, so the kickoff team needs to make sure they stay in their lanes and come down the field under control. I can see the Eagles trying some directional stuff on punts to try to force him to one side of the field and keep him under control.
To sum it up, the Eagles need to really bounce back here and play solid football. The pain is still lurking from the Dallas loss but picking up a win against the Chargers would really help. They are a good football team so the Eagles can’t afford to make the same mistakes they did last week. This second half of the schedule is huge for the Birds and if they want to make a playoff run, a win on Sunday would start them off on the right foot.