Picture this: You have just come off a big victory over a playoff contender, and your team is being hyped up by the national media as a Super Bowl contender. And now, you get to take on the sub-.500 San Francisco 49ers.
This describes the Philadelphia Eagles.
A week ago it described the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona's 30-17 victory over Minnesota (that was not as close as the score indicates) was arguably more impressive than our win yesterday. They were in prime position for a 3-seed and in striking distance of Minnesota for the first-round bye. They had a chance to clinch the NFC West for the second year in a row in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
What did they do? They turned the ball over 7 times. Frank Gore rushed for 167 yards and the 49ers had a comfortable victory.
The Eagles cannot afford to have an emotional let-down. THe fact is they are playing another tough team that will cause some matchup problems. We are the better team, we are playing at home against a west coast team playing on a short week. But we CANNOT sleep on this game. The Eagles need to come out with the same intensity as last week. They have not won anything yet. I want to see the young guys (particularly Desean Jackson, who has been a national sensation this week) come out with the same intensity again.
Offensively, we have an advantage. Roddy White torched the 49ers secondary for 200 yards and I think the Eagles should have success through the air. The matchup of Brent Celek and Patrick Willis should be interesting as well. However, I expect the Eagles to put up at least 28 points.
The defense is another story. Can they shake off last week's effort? They're facing young, but talented receivers again this week. Michael Crabtree is similar to Hakeem Nicks, but he is better. He can break tackles, jump and make great catches. Josh Morgan provides some speed opposite him, and of course the Eagles will have problems covering Vernon Davis. Frank Gore had a big game last week and the Eagles have struggled with running backs like LT (and even last week the rush defense was meh).
The key is, then, to force Alex Smith into turnovers by bringing the heat consistently. Force them into third and long and force errant throws that can be gobbled up by Asante Samuel and CO.
This is not the Eagles defense of old. Teams are going to move the ball on us, and they are going to score. I think our defense is very similar to the New Orleans Saints. The Saints give up a lot of points. They have some talented players. BUt they have no left defensive end opposite Will Smith, and they are weak at one of the safety spots. In addition, outside of Jonathan Vilma, the linebackers have been inconsistent. However, while teams do score on them, the Saints force turnovers at the right time, and the explosive offense takes care of the rest This Eagles defense will have to rely on big plays to help the offense win the game.
The mentality for the Eagles will be the key. Will Desean Jackson take it easy? This week he arrived as a superstar. Is he going to rest on his laurels? Because he can't. He is our best player and we need him to play like he's capable of playing. Will the defense continue to make sloppy plays? Or will the veterans step up and light a fire under the defense's ass. Time will tell. But we cannot afford to become Week 15's version of the Week 14 Arizona Cardinals.