Week 9 Preview: Eagles-Colts: Can Eagles Keep Reid’s Streak Alive?

By JEFFREY WARNER
Staff Writer — jwarner@highhopesblog.com
_________

Michael Vick will take back over at QB for the Eagles this week, facing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. (Getty)

It’s week nine in the NFL and right now the Eagles are sitting at a good spot in the NFC at 4-3 at the half way point in the season and coming off a much-needed bye. Their next opponent comes to town on a short week after demolishing their AFC South rivals, the Houston Texans, 30-17 on Monday night. Peyton Manning and the 5-2 Indianapolis Colts come to town and hope to continue their dominance against the rest of the NFL coming in on a three game winning streak.

But it’s not going to be easy for the Colts. The Eagles have had two weeks to prepare for this game with the bye in between, after Week 7’s, 37-19 letdown in Tennessee. Eagles coach Andy Reid has had a lot of success in games following the bye, with a perfect 11-0 record in the regular season. So something has to give. Either Reid’s perfection or the Colts run. We will find out Sunday and here is a breakdown of the game.

News and Notes

  • Line: Eagles -3
  • Overall Series: Colts lead 10-7
  • Streak: Colts have won four straight vs Eagles
  • Reid vs Colts: 0-3 record
  • Reid record in November: 29-17-1 (.628)
  • Last Matchup: November 26th, 2006: A week after QB Donovan McNabb was lost for the season, it was backup Jeff Garcia’s time to shine in his first start as an Eagle. He performed nicely throwing for a couple of touchdown passes but it didn’t end nicely. Colts RB Joseph Addai ran all over this defense torching them for 171 yards and four TDs in a 45-21 beat down by the Colts. After this game it was the start of a five game winning streak and the Eagles last NFC East Division crown.

Tale of the Tape

Eagles                                                Colts

24.6(8th)              Points PG          27.6(3rd)

372.6(5th)        Total Offense      402.9(2nd)

129.3(9th)         Rushing Off.       96.6(23rd)

242.3(t-8th)       Passing Off.       306.3(2nd)

22.4(23rd)       Points Allowed    20.3(t-12th)

316.0(t-12th)   Rush Defense      133.1(28th)

206.1(11th)     Pass Defense       203.3(7th)

+7(t-7th)         Turnover Ratio     +3(t-11th)


Injury Report

Eagles: Out- T King Dunlap(knee), CB Ellis Hobbs(hip)

Probable- DT B.Bunkley(elbow) G N. Cole(knee), DE B.Graham(knee), WR D.Jackson(concussion), DE J.Parker(Hip), T J.Peters(knee), QB M.Vick(rib)

Colts: Out- DT Antonio Johnson, S Bob Sanders

3 Keys to Eagles Victory

  • Get pressure on Peyton Manning
  • Win Turnover Differential
  • Run, Run, Run!

When the Eagles Have the Ball….

The Eagles are coming off the bye week, which came at the perfect time. The Birds were banged up especially on offense missing three key starters – QB Michael Vick, WR Desean Jackson, and LT Jason Peters. As mentioned above, all three expect to play Sunday.

The Eagles now go from Kevin Kolb, who played very nicely passing for over 800 yards and five touchdowns en route to a 2-1 record, to Vick, who  is back at the helm for the Eagles, who hopefully can perform at the same high of a level as before getting hurt.

Before suffering the rib cartilage injury, Michael Vick was playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL. Vick was torching defenses, completing over 60% of his passes for about 800 yards and six touchdowns with the second best QB rating in the NFL at 108.8. Not to mention what is perhaps his most telling stat — zero turnovers. But the question is, will Vick perform as well following the injury? He has not played football in a month and it’s tough to say how this injury will affect his ability to make plays on the field.

Vick has a favorable matchup in the passing game with the Colts defense banged up possibly missing some key players like CB Jerraud Powers and LB Clint Session. S Bob Sanders and DT Antonio Johnson are already ruled out. With the banged up defense especially in the secondary, the Eagles will try to take advantage of the opportunity will all the weapons at Vick’s disposal. Vick is probably thrilled to get Jackson back and a connection that Eagles fans love. In two full games that Vick as started, he and Jackson have hooked up nine times for 288 yards and 2 TDs.

But the man who will benefit the most is WR Jeremy Maclin who showcased what he can do with Jackson out showing defenses that he is a threat in the passing game. But don’t forget the other weapons who have picked up their game like TE Brent Celek and WR Jason Avant.

Vick is such a threat not only in the passing game but as well as in the running game. His elusiveness and ability to make plays on the run and extend the play is just dangerous. The Colts defense is going to be eying him up trying to contain him which is going open up the play action and the deep ball down field. But also opens up the playbook for RB Lesean McCoy.

McCoy has really come along especially in the passing game. His versatility has done wonders for the Birds, forcing defenses to try to stop him in the running game, as well as the passing game. He leads the Eagles in receptions with 38 catches for 293 yards, but expect a big day on the ground, Sunday. The Colts are unable to stop the run, even more now with big run stopper DT Antonio Johnson out. Their  defensive line up is not that big and not too dominating to prevent the Birds from making plays with the run the run. The Colts defense has given up over 130 yards a game which is fifth worst in the league. Shady is possibly on his way to maybe his first 1000 yard season racking up 477 yards and averaging about 4.5 yards a carry and five touchdowns.

Andy Reid has done very well as of late with a balance attack on offense and if he continues that, the Eagles have a good chance to win this game. The Eagles need to take control of this game by moving the ball effectively and pick up first downs. If they can do that they can kill the clock,win the time of possession and keep Peyton Manning off the field while keeping your defense fresh. He won’t be able to beat you. That’s the way to beat Peyton Manning — by not letting him and the offense get any opportunity.

All of this has to start up front with what has been an inconsistent offensive line. The Eagles do get back LT Jason Peters who has missed the past few games. Backup King Dunlap filled in admirably for Peters but thankfully the Pro Bowler, Peters, is back just in time — Dunlap would not be able to go for this weeks game with a hyper-extended knee.

The Colts have a tremendous pass rush with the book ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis who combined have a total of 10.5 sacks. Peters and RT Winston Justice need to have the game of their lives to control these two playmakers on this Colt’s defense. Peters has struggled leading the league among lineman with penalties and sacks. Center Mike McGlynn has played alright, but has not been his best recently.

LG Todd Herremans has been their most consistent lineman this season, but has not played up to par. Their play factors in a big part on how the flow of the game goes for the Eagles offensively.  It all starts with the battle in the trenches, whichever line gets lower and is more dominant up front is going to win this football game. If the Colts get pressure on Vick and he can’t get rid of the football, it’s going to be a long day and they are going to need someone spying Vick if they want any chance of controlling him from breaking free and making a big play on the run. If they give Vick the time he needs, expect a big day from this and this offense.

Special Teams could play a big factor in the battle for field position. Andy Reid anticipates Jackson to be back there in the return game. And Jorrick Calvin has done nicely on kickoffs. Sav Rocca is having his best season in the NFL as a punter pinning opponents deep in their territory. And K David Akers rebounded nicely from his three missed field goal game to go 4-4 against the Titans. The Eagles though are going to need to punch the ball in the end zone especially against the Colts who are one of the top scoring teams in the league if they want any chance. Field goals are not going to cut it especially in the red zone.

The Colts defense is only giving up 20.3 points a game which is 12th best in the league and Eagles are top 10 in all offensive categories.

Offensive Edge: Eagles – It all starts with the QB play with Michael Vick. This team goes as far as he takes them and he is going to need to play well if Eagles want to win this game coming off this injury. It helps to get his weapons back. I see the Eagles moving the ball on this Colts defense especially in the running game with the struggles they have in that department. They run effectively it keeps Peyton Manning off the field and does wonders for the defense. Expect a big day from this offense.

When Colts Have the Ball….

When you think of the Colts you automatically think of Peyton Manning. He is possibly the best QB in the game today and maybe when it’s said and done the best ever. In a recent special by NFL Films counting down the top 100 players of all time, Peyton Manning was number eight. And deservedly so — the Super Bowl MVP is having another stellar season eclipsing 2100 yards and has 15 TDs. Not to mention, he is doing it without the weapons at his disposal. He already lost TE Dallas Clark for the season, WR Austin Collie has been banged up, no RB Joseph Addai, and now WR Anthony Gonzalez could miss “significant” time. But despite all that, he is still performing and does have a reliable weapon, in WR Reggie Wayne.

Manning has had the Birds number in the past, doing tremendously well against Philadelphia in his career. He is 3-0 while completing about 70% of his passes and seven touchdowns compare to just one interception. Those numbers give him a 132.3 passer rating which is best against any opponent he has faced.

Manning is one of the best signal callers in the NFL and that what makes him so dangerous. He is just so tough to defend because of his knowledge of the game and he reads defenses so well he calls the play at the line of scrimmage catching the defense off guard.

The Eagles need to get their act together because they have not defended the pass well at all. Titans QB Kerry Collins torched this defense for 276 yards and three scores. 225 of those yards and all three touchdowns went to WR Kenny Britt who just had a field day. The Eagles have given up an average of close to 220 yards a game and eight scores in their past three games in the passing game. If going to allow that to mediocre competition, what you think a guy like Peyton Manning will do?

The one matchup he is going to look for is whoever is lined up against new Eagles’ starting corner Dimitri Patterson who is getting the start for the injured Ellis Hobbs. Patterson in a limited role does have an interception but the inexperience is there and has a tough challenge in his first start. They are going to need big plays from him and others in the secondary to force turnovers and shutdown these Colts receivers. Safety Nate Allen who started off strong has shown his colors of being a rookie and misplaying the football. He has to do better reading the field and covering over the top to give his corners some help in preventing the deep ball down the field. Asante Samuel knows how to stop Manning from his days with the New England Patriots and hoping his knowledge and ability to make plays is enough.

It all starts with getting pressure on Peyton Manning. Manning is literally untouchable because of the ability to read the defenses and get rid of the ball quickly to his arsenal. Trent Cole and company need to get to him and interrupt his passing. The only sack on Manning by an Eagle came in 1999, when Mike Mamula took Peyton down. This is key because all the Colts do is pass the football. Expect a lot of blitzing from this crew to try and get to him especially with the linebackers like Ernie Sims and Stewart Bradley who are both on their way to another great season.

If Sean McDermott’s D can get pressure and force turnovers they have a good chance to win the game. In both games the Colts lost, they lost the battle of turnover differential so do that and you beat the Colts. Have to stop the passing game because the Colts do not run the football at all. They average less than 100 yards a game on the ground and putting up less than four yards a carry.

But I don’t know if that will happen. The Colts have been very careful with the football only turning it over a total of eight times. And their passing game is just so dangerous even without all the weapons. And we all know Peyton Manning can turn anyone into a star.

Defensive Edge: Colts – Peyton Manning. Enough said. This Eagles defense has to get to Manning and disrupt his passing and make big plays because if you don’t, he takes advantage and burns you. With Eagles recent pass defense troubles, Manning is going to have a field day.

Intangibles: Eagles – The Colts are coming off the short week after playing Monday night. They are mentally drained as it was a big game with division rival Texans and they had only five days to prepare for this game. The Eagles are coming off the bye where Andy Reid is perfect 11-0 in the regular season and have had two weeks to game plan for this big matchup. They are also refreshed and don’t have to travel as they are the home team. Both losses for the Colts have been on the road. But need mistake free football and limit the amount of penalties as it ruins the flow and rhythm of the offense and the team. The Eagles have been penalized 58 times for 527 yards.

Prediction – Eagles over Colts 31-28: I see a lot of points in this matchup as two of the best offenses go up against one another. It is going to be a shootout and tight game. In the end, it will come down to a David Akers game winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. Look for Peyton Manning to have a big game, but makes just one mistake that will cost him, as Asante Samuel picks him off.

The Eagles offense will be back on track with Michael Vick under center, making plays on the ground and through the air especially to his favorite target Desean Jackson. Lesean McCoy should have a big day, and when it’s all said and done rack up over 100 yards of offense. The offense has just too much fire power for this mediocre Colts defense. It’s going to be a tough game but feel with all the factors the Eagles can pull it off. As they improve to 5-3 on the year and get ready for a big NFC East Showdown with Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football.

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