It’s more than remarkable that the Eagles stand at 4-2 with one game left against the Titans before the bye week, considering all the injuries they’ve had to deal with. In fact, the only two games they lost were the two games when the starting quarterback was replaced due to injury. Both of those games featured two terrible halves of play by Kevin Kolb, but he’s started and finished the last two games and has looked like a completely different quarterback and has posted two quarterback ratings over 100.
The 4-2 Titans have recently run into some quarterback injuries of their own. Vince Young was knocked out of their Monday night game against Jacksonville early with a knee injury and never returned. Later, Kerry Collins injured his finger in the third but was able to finish the game. Neither has been confirmed as the starter, or even available, for this weekend’s match up against the Eagles, which is Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Tennessee. Regardless of who is under center for the Titans, they’ll most likely struggle to beat the resilient Eagles.
The Titans don’t throw the ball much, but why should they with a star running back like Chris Johnson waiting for the ball? Through six games, Johnson has seven rushing touchdowns, which equals Young’s passing touchdown total. This offense basically lives and dies by the run, mostly due to Johnson’s undeniable skills but also because of a lack of threat at the wide receiver position.
Had this match up been two weeks ago, I’d be worried about Johnson as the Eagles had looked vulnerable against the run no matter who had the ball. But for two straight weeks they’ve denied their opponents big rushing yards and kept the 49ers and Frank Gore to 74 yards on the ground, and last week held the Falcons and Michael Turner to 65 total rushing yards. Johnson could potentially be the best in the game, but after keeping Gore and Turner at bay I’m not convinced Johnson will crack the century mark either.
If the Eagles take away the running lanes early, it’ll be a long day for Tennessee. The Titans are ranked 29th in passing offense, averaging just under 160 yards an outing. Collins seems to be the likeliest starter for the Titans, and truthfully is still a better gunslinger than Young. Still, only three receivers on the Titans have touchdowns and their most productive receiver, Nate Washington, has team highs of 16 receptions and 227 yards. No way he’ll be able to average his 14.2 yards a catch against Asante Samuel, especially if Collins is forced to throw often.
The Titans could get some easy touchdowns with their tight end Bo Scaife, who’s a tough tackle at 6-3, 249 lbs. Stewart Bradley hasn’t been effective in coverage against tight ends, so the defense needs to step up their coverage against Scaife this weekend. There’s a chance he may not play as he didn’t practice Wednesday, but that was only a walk through practice. No word yet on whether he took the field Thursday.
Everything points toward a win for the Eagles this week, even with Jackson being out for the game. Maclin has proved to be Kolb’s favorite target this season anyway, and Jason Avant stepped up nicely once Jackson left the game last Sunday. The Titans defense is in the lower ranks of the NFL when it comes to passing defense (23rd overall) and allows 231 yards per game. The Eagles are ranked eighth overall in passing offense, averaging 246 yards a game, but Kolb could easily pass for over 300 against the Titans. Look for Maclin, Avant and Brent Celek to all put up big numbers.
LeSean McCoy is still nursing his cracked ribs but has put up big numbers despite the injury. This weekend could be tough though since the Titans rank eighth in their rush defense and opposing offenses average less than 100 yards a game against them. McCoy will most likely be used mostly as a checkdown receiver for Kolb.
Finally, rookie corneback Jorrick Calvin will take over punt return duties for Jackson. Hopefully he’ll have a big game so Andy Reid and the terrible mistake that is special teams coach Bobby April won’t even have to consider putting Jackson back on the return team once he’s back after the bye.