Here we are already at game 5 of the NFL season and the Eagles travel up to the swamps of north jersey for the second game in a row this time to face the New York Jets. This will be the 5th week in a row that the Eagles play at home, have a week off, or need to travel only an hour or two by bus to play. We talked earlier this week about the importance of a bounce back October that could get this team back in the playoff hunt, so this is no doubt a must win game.
Eagles on Offense
First and foremost health should be the biggest change from the last time we were at the Meadowlands. Brian Westbrook and William Thomas are both expected to play and should clearly bring a boost to an offense that managed only a measly 3 points. The second focus will obviously be on protection. Last time out Donovan McNabb was sacked an embarrassing 12 times and while LT Winston Justice got all the press, at least 8 of that sacks had nothing to do with him. His problems covered up some serious protection issues all up and down that line. All signs point this week being a bounce back for the line. For one, they've got former pro bowler William Thomas back to watch 5's backside plus they've got Brian Westbrook who despite his size is still the best pass blocking runner we have. Combine that with the fact that the Jets have managed only 3 sacks over their first 5 games, which is the third fewest in the league. Of course, before the last game the Giants weren't getting to the QB either...
The Jets are giving up about 240 yards a game(8th most in the NFL) so expect big red to be licking his chops and throwing early and often. However, it should be noted that the Jets also have the 8th worst run defense in the league giving up nearly 128 yards a game. Suffice to say, you'll want to start Brian Westbrook on your fantasy team this week... The Jets 5th worst overall defense would appear to be the cure for any sputtering or anemic offense.
The game plan is not going to be terribly complicated this time out. It's really going to about avoiding the mistakes of the previous game. The Eagles should be able to move the ball on the ground or through the air on the Jets... but whether they can protect McNabb, avoid turnovers, and cut down on the crazy amount of penalties we've seen over the first quarter of the season. If they play disciplined football, they're the better team and should win this game easy. However, as we've seen so far this year the Eagles have tended to shoot themselves in the foot and the Jets have talent of defense that will take advantage of that.
Eagles on defense
5 weeks into the season it's so far so good with the Eagles defense. They're the 8th ranked overall unit in the NFL, right around the top 10 in points surrendered, they're giving up only 74 yards rushing a game, one off the NFL lead in sacks, and they still haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher.
The Jets offense has so surrendered a respectable 12 sacks over the first 5 games, of course it took the Eagles only one game 2 weeks ago to reach that number... The Jets offense overall has seemed to hinge on the play of QB Chad Pennington. The biggest knock on Chad is that is just doesn't have the big arm you like an NFL QB to have, which is big for the Eagles if Lito Sheppard can't play.... We may not need to worry about seeing Will James get beat deep. Actually, Pennington's line for the year is interesting. He has a decent QB rating and he's completing over 70% of his passes. His problem however, has been mistakes. He has 6 TDs and 5 picks. That said, it took Tony Romo only one game to throw 5 picks!
Takeo Spikes talked about Pennington and the Jets offense this week and how they can tend to frustrate a defense. As a member of the Bills, Spikes is very familiar with playing the Jets and he stressed to his teammates to not get frustrated if the Jets are dinking and dunking their way up the field. The key will be to bring the receiver down fast and not let 3 or 4 yards passes turn into first downs.
On the ground the Jets have been pretty inept averaging just 77 yards rushing a game, which is the 4th fewest in the league.