Saturday, December 26, 2009
Brian Dawkins and the Denver Broncos come to town with a hold on an AFC playoff spot, but their grip is a little tenuous at best. The Broncos surprised the football world by breaking out to a 6-0 start under rookie coach Josh McDaniel, but a 2-6 record since then has them hanging onto the final wild card slot. They still control their own destiny with the biggest obstacle standing in their way being the Philadelphia Eagles.
Having already clinched a playoff spot, the game appears to present a little less urgency to the Eagles; however, it could prove critical towards gaining the NFC's second seed. They will need the Vikings to lose another game, but considering the controversy surrounding the team and their declining performance, the probability has surely risen. Moving past the Vikings in the playoff seedings would give the Eagles the luxury of a week off and at least one home game.
No matter what happens, the day will be filled with emotion due to the beloved Dawkins return to the Linc. Fans, former teammates and Dawkins himself will be emotionally charged, but it will all be a little bittersweet with the safety wearing orange and blue. It could prove to be Dawkins last visit to Philadelphia in uniform.
Although they have struggles since their opening sprint, the Broncos will still provide a difficult test for the Eagles. They possess one of the NFL's toughest defenses, including the 2nd ranked pass defense. Considering the Eagles preference to put the ball in the air, this match-up would seem to favor Denver. If Philadelphia opts to keep the ball on the ground more, they will be bolstered by the return of Brian Westbrook now that he has been cleared to play.
The Eagles continue to come together as injured players heal and would love to put another solid all around effort together for their final home game in the regular season. Donovan McNabb has been playing at a high level and will look to use all his weapons to keep the Broncos defense off balance. Jeremy Maclin appears to be feeling better and should play a bigger role of taking pressure off playmaker DeSean Jackson. Brent Celek, Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver will all continue to be a big part of the passing game. It is likely that all three running backs will equally share running duties.
The Broncos will look to establish the run with high draft pick Knowshon Moreno and former Eagle Correll Buckhalter sharing the load. QB Kyle Orton will then keep a heavy focus on troubled receiver Brandon Marshall who set an NFL record for catches a couple weeks ago. The Eagles will look to get pressure on Orton and bait him into a couple turnovers.
On defense, the Broncos will rely on the NFL's sack leader, Elvis Dumerville, to get pressure on McNabb, which will likely force him to use his feet to buy time. He has been doing that very effectively and even scrambling for gains. Another means to counter the heavy pass rush will surely involve the Eagles top notch screen game.
Look for the Eagles to prevail in a hard hitting game. The Broncos should limit their high flying offense a bit, but not enough to prevail. The bottom line is that the Eagles are the better team and are just now peaking.