To start or not to start, that is the question for the Eagles in Week 17. After their abysmal 24-14 loss to the Vikings on Tuesday night, the Eagles are punched in as the #3 seed in the NFC. Their NFC East matchup with the Dallas Cowboys has no meaning whatsoever to either of these teams. So, the question is should Coach Andy Reid play his starters in the season finale?
Reports this week stated that QB Michael Vick is out for this week’s game. Backup Kevin Kolb got bulk of the first team reps this week and Vick was listed as questionable on the injury report. Reid went on to say that he is a “stretch to play.” Also a lot of other starters are questionable like WR Desean Jackson, CB Asante Samuel, and RT Winston Justice. Reid would neither confirm nor deny that these players would sit out. But speculation is that they will sit coming off a short week with the playoffs the following week. So it’s going to be the matchup of the backup quarterbacks with Kevin Kolb and Stephen McGee.
Kolb coming into this season was supposed to be the man to replace the face of the franchise for over a decade, Donovan McNabb. But a Week 1 concussion against the Packers derailed those plans and Vick was given the opportunity to showcase what he had. When Vick got injured, Kolb got his chance and performed at a high level as he was NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons. He has over 1000 yards in four starts this season with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Kolb has showed he can play but he has a tough challenge against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys defense has performed a lot better under Interim Head Coach Jason Garrett and with their exotic blitz schemes it could be a long day for Kolb with his inability to avoid pressure is a problem especially behind a offensive line that gave up six sacks and allowed Vick to get knocked around on every play last week. It is expected that most of starters won’t play or won’t play much so you’re going to see a lot of Chad Hall, Riley Cooper and Jerome Harrison.
On the defensive side they go up against third stringer Stephen McGee and this Dallas rushing attack. Last week it was the second time this season the Eagles gave up a 100 yard rusher to Adrian Peterson and in those two games they lost both of them. You can’t really evaluate their performance this week if backups play most of game but you can see what you have because you need to see how much depth you have if someone goes down, one of these guys might have to go in. But McGee performed decent last week in relief of Jon Kitna. He rallied the Cowboys from 18 points down to give them the lead but ended up in heartbreak. He put up over 100 yards and a touchdown and the big statistic is the no turnovers. Something the Eagles have been lacking lately is taking advantage of opportunities and causing the other team to give up the ball.
Overall the Eagles have been flat and sluggish for seven of their last eight quarters. That’s why there has been a debate whether to play or bench all the starters or key players. On one hand you don’t want your team playing as poorly as they have going into the playoffs with the confidence as low and need to find their rhythm. But on the other side after the extremely short week, the team is banged up, tired and mentally drained. You don’t want to risk further injury by playing them. There is going to be all this speculation what Reid will do going up to game time and it is going to be interesting to see what exactly he does.
The Eagles need to come out of the gate quick and go back to what was working for them. Last week, it was a completely pass heavy and they abandoned the run. They need to build some confidence and show themselves they can run the football and that they can establish a rhythm and move the football. They have to go back to what works and that is short slant routes in the middle of the field and expose the zone and man defenses with all that speed they have on the outside so the defense has to cover every inch of the turf. That will open up the big plays down the field and the consistent running game will open up a lot of play-action. If they do that the Eagles can go into the playoffs on a high note maybe with their “B” team.
And defensively need to control the Dallas rushing attack with Tashard Choice , Marion Barber, and Felix Jones. If the offense can limit the three and outs the defense should be ok. It is all a chain reaction and that’s why this game is a team sport and everything affects the other. Should be a good game even though it’s meaningless to the standings, it’s not meaningless for the Eagles confidence going into the playoffs.
Prediction- Eagles win 24-21: The Eagles are most likely going to bench or limit the amount of snaps for most of their starters. But I will take Kevin Kolb over Stephen McGee any day. That is going to be the X-factor in this game on which backup quarterback performs well. With Kolb’s starting experience and he has shown he can perform at a high level I see him having a big day and torches this Dallas defense. McGee hasn’t faced a defense like the Eagles. Even though they have been struggling, they can still have a fierce pass rush and should take advantage and knock around McGee all game. When he gets flustered who knows how the inexperience QB will handle it and could force some throws and make some turnovers. I see Akers rebounding from last week and kicking a game winner.