Although the state has not been a good destination so far this season, the Eagles return to California dreaming of a win despite having a depleted defense. A few weeks ago the Eagles suffered an unlikely defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders, and now head to the more inviting San Diego area to face a much tougher Chargers team.
Both team's have identical 5-3 records at the season's mid-point. Both team's have also somewhat underperformed expectations and look to develop some momentum for the second half of the season. The Chargers feature a high powered passing game and have the good fortune of facing an Eagles team that is suddenly depleted in its secondary and linebacker corps. On the positive side of the injury ledger, the Eagles should see Brian Westbrook return to the line-up.
This is an important game for the Eagles now that they have dropped a game out of first place, especially after letting last week's game get away with uninspired play and some poor decision making. The national media was looking in on the Sunday Football Night in America game and directed a great deal of criticism towards the Eagles for wasting time outs and kicking a field goal rather than going for a first down late in the game. The latter pretty much gift wrapped the contest for a Dallas team that did not seem all that impressive.
In the Cowboys game, Ellis Hobbs and Akeem Jordan went down with injuries. On Tuesday, they learned that Hobbs will be out the rest of the season with a serious neck injury and Joradn does not appear ready to return. Adding insult to injury, the team also learned that cornerback Joselio Hanson was being suspended 4 weeks for taking a weight loss pill last January. Apparently the NFL allows steroids to slide, but is taking a very firm stance on players worried about their waist lines. As a result, Sean McDermott is finding it necessary to patch a team together with practice squad players and waiver wire additions.
Andy Reid and staff will need to make a strategic decision whether they try to control the ball and keep it out of the hands of the Chargers offense, or whether they tee it up and try to outscore them. Based on the Eagles dreadful ability to consistently execute and sustain drives thus far this year, a shoot out seems to be the far better option. They would also be wise to leave the Mildcat formation and Mike Vick on the sidelines.
Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles are likely to eat up yardage through the air and put points on the scoreboard. Running back Ladainian Tomlinson appears to be a shadow of his former self, but Sproles will likely make some big gains on draw plays and screen plays. The Chargers should also keep very busy hitting Gates in the seams and Jackson up high and down the field.
The Eagles will need Donovan McNabb to come out sharp and make good use of the weapons around him. Last week his throwing accuracy was a little off and the team could not get their speed receivers open for some quick strikes. They were forced to work underneath, where their lack of consistency proved to be their undoing. It will be critical for them to get DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin down the field for some big plays if they want any hope of keeping pace with the Lightning Bolts. McNabb will likely lean heavily on Brent Celek since the Chargers have not been particularly adept at covering tight ends and could very well find him a couple times in the end zone. If so, lets hope the Eagles lose the Captain Morgan routine that gives the opponent great field position afterwards.
Westbrook and LeSean McCoy should help to keep the Chargers defense respecting the run, but it remains to be seen whether the former will be at full strength or whether he can stay healthy for an entire game. The Bolts' defense continues to be vulnerable, so the Birds should be able put up points themselves if they execute.
Although the same was said last week, expect to see a high scoring contest that will go down to the wire. Unfortunately, the Chargers have been far more successful than the Eagles in these situations, which does not bode well for the Birds.