So here we are. Playoffs are clinched, and now we must fight for a home game in the first round and possibly the bye. The Eagles need to play these last two games as if they weren’t already in the playoffs and need to focus on winning. Brian Dawkins return is obviously a huge storyline here and there will be a lot of hype before the game. However, once kickoff takes place, the Birds need to bare down and play their best game. Denver is a solid football team and the Eagles will need to bring it every play.
Here’s some quick team stats and league rankings:
Points per game: 19.6 (20th)
Yards per game: 336.4 (17th)
Pass yards per game: 216.3 (17th)
Rush yards per game: 120.1 (12th)
Points per game: 17.9 (7th)
Yards per game: 294.4 (3rd)
Pass yards per game: 177.5 (2nd)
Rush yards per game: 116.9 (22nd)
Kyle Orton – This guy was kind of Mr. Insignificant in the Jay Cutler trade as Cutler took the spot light in the deal. However, Orton’s team stands in a much better position than the 5-9 Chicago Bears. The Broncos offensive numbers don’t impress you, but they have done what they needed to pick up eight wins so far this season and are in playoff contention. Orton already has career numbers in yards and has a much better touchdown to interception ratio than he has in years past. He doesn’t have the best mobility, so I expect the Eagles to play their typical defense and try to get pressure on Orton early. Our defense did a good job of forcing turnovers last week and I feel they can do the same again this week.
Running backs – Lost in the shadow of the return of Brian Dawkins is former Eagle Correll Buckhalter who also spent a lot of time in Philadelphia. His impact wasn’t as large due to a rash of injuries, but he’s still a good football player. He is just four yards shy of setting a personal record in yardage and has recorded two 100+ yard games. We all know he is a very capable back and his 5.3 average yards per carry this year shows it. He’d be more productive but has shared a lot of reps with rookie running back Knowshon Moreno, a target many thought might land in Philadelphia before the draft. He is just 121 yards away from 1,000 and has averaged just over 20 carries in his last four games. Denver likes what he can do and the Eagles should expect to see a healthy dose of him.
Brandon Marshall – He isn’t called “the Beast” for no reason. Sure he has off the field issues, but once he steps on the field he is one of the best. He proved just how much of a beast he can be two weeks ago when he set a new NFL record for receptions in a game recording 21. It looks like he’s going to go over 100 receptions on the year and already has over 1,000 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns. Marshall will have to be watched closely if the Eagles plan to have any success. He is a game changer and is capable of big plays, much like DeSean Jackson. Also, he’s a huge target and will have a definite size advantage over the Eagles corners. If the Eagles can shut down Marshall, they should be able to find success.
3-4 Defense – The Eagles will see another 3-4 defense this week and seemed to struggle last week against the 49ers. Donovan McNabb moved around a lot in the pocket. Denver’s defense has the NFL’s leading sack man and will definitely try to apply pressure on McNabb. I hope Donovan can get some good reads on this defense and be able to see the blitz and react to the open areas. His receivers also need to read the blitzes and find holes in the defense. If Denver is getting to Donovan all day, it could be trouble.
Elvis Dumervil – This guy has just been killing quarterbacks this year. He leads the league and has recorded 15 sacks. Dumervil showed a lot of promise in 2007 when he recorded 12.5 sacks but then fell off in 2008 and only recorded five. Needless to say, he’s back and very dangerous. Along with his sacks he’s also forced three fumbles on the year. The Eagles are going to need to keep an eye on this guy and not let him control the line of scrimmage. We saw Donovan move around a lot last week but he seemed very hesitant to run. I hope he doesn’t hesitate to run this week because Dumervil very well may be chasing him around all day.
Brian Dawkins – Oh where to start. Everyone knows exactly what this guy brings to the table already. We’ve all seen him do his work for quite a long time. It seems there was doubts whether he would be able to play at the same high level now that he is older but it doesn’t seem to be effecting him. He’s second on their defense in tackles. Dawkins is still as intense as ever and it’s going to be very strange watching him compete against the Eagles offense.
Eddie Royal handles the return duties here and is a shifty little player with pretty good speed. This could potentially be a close game where a big play on special teams could mean a whole lot. The Eagles special teams can’t allow a big play and should look to make one of their own.