Week 13 Game Preview: Eagles look to capitalize on weak Houston secondary

Staff Writer — jwarner@highhopesblog.com

Andre Johnson was not suspended for Thursday's game after this brawl against Cortland Finnegan on Sunday. That means it's up to the Eagles young D to stop him. (AP)

Playoff implications are on the line as two high-powered offenses go head to head in Thursday Night Football. It’s crutch time for both the Texans and the Eagles, as they are trying to stay in contention in their respective playoff races. The 7-4 Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a big 31-26 loss in the Windy City, snapping their three game winning streak. The 5-6 Houston Texans road has been a little different, as they struggled early in the season where one point they were on a four game skid. But last week, Houston shut out an injury plague Titans team 20-0 and completely shut down one of the best backs in the game, Chris Johnson. This game could go either way.

News and Notes

Line: Eagles -8. O/U 51

Overall: Eagles lead series 2-0

Streak: Eagles won two straight

Reid vs AFC South: 4-7 record (regular season)

Last Matchup: Sept 10th 2006; Kickoff weekend in the NFL. Early on it was a back and forth battle but behind the arm of Donovan McNabb throwing for 314 yards and three scores, connecting with WR Donte Stallworth six times for 141 yards and a score in his Eagles debut. The Eagles scored 17 unanswered points to route the Texans 24-10.

Tale of the Tape

TEXANS (NFL Rank)                 EAGLES (NFL Rank)

24.0 (t-10th)         Points             28.2 (t-2nd)

367.7 (7th)     Total Offense       399.3 (2nd)

132.5 (7th)     Rushing Offense 146.6 (3rd)

235.2 (15th)    Passing Offense    252.6 (9th)

26.1 (26th)       Points Allowed       23.4 (20th)

386.4 (28th)     Total Defense        316.5 (10th)

100.2 (t-8th)   Rushing Defense    102.5 (11th)

286.2 (31st)   Passing Defense      214.0 (13th)

41.70 (9th)    3rd Down Offense % 41.20 (11th)

39.70 (20th)  3rd Down Defense % 36.60 (11th)

+1 (13th)      Turnover Ratio           +14 (1st)

Injury Report

Eagles: Out: DE Juqua Parker (hip)

Questionable: CB Asante Samuel (knee); WR Riley Cooper (knee)

Texans: Out: LB Xavier Adibi (hamstring); TE Owen Daniels (Hamstring)

Questionable: WR David Anderson (Hamstring); DE Jesse Nading (knee); WR Kevin Walter (calf)

Keys to Victory

  • Control Adrain Foster
  • Better with red zone efficiency
  • Get pressure on Schaub
  • Cause Turnovers

When Eagles Have the Ball…

The past two weeks this Eagles offense has gone up against stiff competition, and it showed. This team has struggled offensively. The Birds have been unable to execute in key situations. In the past two games, they are 2-10 punching it in the end zone inside the opponents 20. It has been a problem all season long. They are only executing about 49% in 39 trips. They have been settling for too many field goals which in this league you need to score touchdowns to win football games, enough said.  And they have not been able to get the job done. Their struggles could come to an end though going up against one of the worst defenses in the league.  The Texans are the fourth worst defense in the red zone allowing 24 touchdowns, which is about 65% of the time. This offense has to establish drives to get down inside the 20, but been struggling way too much.

Before two weeks ago, only thing everyone was talking about was the resurgence of QB Michael Vick. Well that talk has gone away a little as he has been struggling. He has not been the player we have been accustomed to seeing this season. He is missing receivers down the field, overthrowing targets, and his ability to extend plays on the run has been contained very well. Vick has a total of only two touchdowns the past two games, turning it over twice and has been struggling with ball security fumbling it four times last game. Luckily none were recovered by the defense. It all starts with the offensive line giving Vick the time he needs.

The offensive line looked like was getting their act together but completely fell apart the last few weeks. Their pass protection has completely fallen apart not giving Vick any time to get the ball to his weapons. They were a main cause for the loss in Chicago after guard Todd Herremans got beat inside and Vick rushed the throw, allowing it to be tipped and picked off just as the Eagles were about to take the lead. This line has to play better going up one of the fierce pass rushers, DE Mario Williams. His ability to get to the quarterback is phenomenal. He already has 8.5 of Houston’s 24 sacks. This is a unit that can get to the quarterback from all angles. They bring a lot of different packages instead of the base 4-3. They like to bring pressure from the secondary and linebackers. It’s the line’s job to pick up those blocks so the quarterback can read the mismatch and get the ball to his weapon.

His weapons have not been helping his cause while dropping passes, not running the correct routes and just overall not knowing what he was supposed to do. The big play receiver, Desean Jackson has been held to an average of just 38 yards a game. Reports are coming out that his dimished production has been because of distractions dealing with his contract dispute with the Eagles. But everyone else has not been stepping it up. Quite possibly the receiver with the best hands on the team, Jason Avant, has been inconsistent all year long but hopefully will be getting a bit of confidence after hauling in eight grabs for 83 yards last week. Jeremy Maclin’s numbers have dropped and Brent Celek has been unable to get open this year. RB Lesean McCoy has been productive, but when they have gotten down early, Reid has completely gone away from the run game, not giving him a lot of touches. However, his versatility has allowed him to be a threat in the passing game leading all NFL backs with 59 receptions. This potentially could have been the best offense in football but is not looking like it right now. Luckily, this week they are facing horrible a horrible defense.

Overall the Texans are the fourth worst defense in the league. They have given up a league worst 25 passing touchdowns this season. They are ranked near dead last in all passing categories and they have only been able to pick off the QB nine times this season. This is a unit has struggles covering in general. They have a lot of miscommunication when playing zone, deciding which area is theirs and in man coverage they neither have the speed nor the physicality to stick with the Eagles’ speedy receivers. The Texans have been getting blown up all year long, allowing 26 points a game. This D has had struggles tackling and bringing down ball carriers. This unit has been plagued by injuries missing one of their best defensive players, Brian Cushing, for the season, not to mention LB Demeco Ryans.

The Eagles offense is still very good when clicking and has tremendous big-play capability. They are one of two teams to be top 10 in both passing and rushing this season, the number two scoring team in the league, and second ranked offense.

Right now, K David Akers has been their offense, drilling six field goals in the past two games. And P Sav Rocca is doing a tremendous job, pinning offenses deep in their territory. And Jackson and return man Jorrick Calvin have been doing decent at returner giving Eagles decent position. They just better job by the special team coverage units.

Edge: Eagles — Reid loves to pass the ball and the matchups favor him. Vick should have a field day against this horrendous pass coverage. I expect the Eagles offense to get in a rhythm and jump out to a big lead early. When they do that they have been successful going back to the running game wasting the clock protecting that lead.

When the Eagles are on Defense…

For the Eagles to have success they need to get to QB Matt Schaub and show him what this defense is all about. They are going to try to control this offense especially with all these weapons Schaub has at his disposal. He possibly has the best wide receiver in the game, Andre Johnson.

The 6’3” 225 pound target is a mismatch for any defensive back. Given his size, he is tough to bring down and agility-wise he is very dangerous. Already this season, Johnson has 65 receptions for 869 yds and five touchdowns. He is lucky not to get suspended for this game after his confrontation with Titans CB Cortland Finnegan when the two threw punches. Not only is he putting up numbers but he is opening up the field for other targets like Kevin Walter, TE Joe Dreessen and the all versatile back, Adrian Foster. With all of that this is one offense teams hope to avoid, and so do the Eagles especially with their injury plagued secondary.

The Eagles already lost CB Ellis Hobbs for the season with kneck injury and for the second straight week could be without their playmaking corner Asante Samuel. He is currently listed as questionable but he has limited in practice this week and does not look good for Samuel to get the go. He is difference making will be missed as he has nine picks this season. In his place, nickel corner Joselio Hanson and rookie Trevard Lindley will get bulk of the snaps and is a complete mismatch especially after the performance they had Sunday, giving up four touchdown passes against the Bears. Safeties Quintin Mikell and rookie Nate Allen have struggled and is has been showing in their pass coverage making late decisions that have cost them.

To help with the beat up secondary, the Birds have to get pressure on Schaub and rattle him a little. The West Chester East HS product is not known to be the mobile quarterback to make plays on the run. He is a pocket passer when given time to find his target he can beat anyone with his quick release with the football. He has only been taken down a total of 18 times this season. They have to get him quick with all the short slant and curl routes the Texans run.

The Eagles defensive line rotation has also taken a big hit with DE Juqua Parker out for the game. Rookie DE Brandon Graham will get the start. But with this rotation they have with DE Trent Cole, Graham, Darryl Tapp, DT Antonio Dixon and others, they should have a good day. This season the Eagles are up near the top of the league with 30 sacks led by “The Hunter,” Cole with nine. Unfortunately, the passing game is not all they have to worry about.

The versatile back, Adrian Foster currently leads the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns. He has put up over 1100 yards a total of 13 scores. The once undrafted rookie has shown the NFL what he can do. With his bulky size and speed, he is tough to bring down in open space and when he breaks free he puts the afterburners on. He is one of the most dangerous backs in the NFL with his ability to beat you on the ground and through the air. He will be a tough job for this defense.

The Eagles gave up their first 100 yard rusher of the season last week (Matt Forte). LB Stewart Bradley, who is having a sub par year, has to get his act together because with his sure tackling ability, they need him to make plays and get to the edges to contain Foster. That goes for everyone as they have struggled to bring down the ball carrier giving up way to many yards after contact. LB Ernie Sims is physical but sometimes makes the wrong decision. Moise Fokou has been solid but struggles in coverage especially against the tight end, where Owen Daniels is out and Joe Dressen is in.

Overall this defense has not been playing well lately. They have been giving up about 24 points a game this season, they are the worst defensive team in the red zone, and have been giving up too many big plays. Luckily for the Eagles the Texans are one of the worst teams converting in the red zone. This Philly D needs to force more turnovers, as this team has done a lot this season to set up the offense. They are currently leading the NFL with a +14 turnover differential and a league high 26 turnovers. The bad news is this Texans team that has only turned it over a total of 12 times this season. The Eagles need to play better especially against this Houston’s high-powered offense. Otherwise it’s going to be a long day.

Edge: Texans — The way things are looking, CB Asante Samuel is likely to be out and that is a complete mismatch with Joselio Hanson and CB Dimitri Patterson covering Johnson. Expect the Eagles to give Johnson double coverage looks leaving other guys in one on one situations beating this defense. Adrian Foster is going to be tough to contain and expect a big day from him with this defense struggling to tackle. Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott is going to have a lot up his sleeve with different blitz packages and schemes to handle this offense.

Intangibles: Eagles — Both teams are coming off a short week, but with Philly having the home field advantage, not having to travel, the short turnaround swings in their favor. Also the Eagles have done well lately in primetime, winning all three matchups this season and eight of their last ten under the lights. Andy Reid is a better coach and they have the second best record since 2000 coming off a loss, going 38-16-1 which is about 70%.

Prediction: Eagles win 31-24- This one will be a shootout with both team’s defenses struggling and plagued with injuries. It will come down to which offense can be more efficient to establish drives and execute in the red zone. The Eagles defense will find a way to come up with more big plays that will help them win this game. Look for Michael Vick to get back on track with Desean Jackson against this horrible pass coverage. Eagles skim by and look to get healthy for Dallas.


1 Comment

Filed under Editorial, Jeffrey Warner

One response to “Week 13 Game Preview: Eagles look to capitalize on weak Houston secondary

  1. John from Bensalem

    Good call man! 3 points off!! Jeff Warner does it again!!!!

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