- Michael Lewis will take over Shawn Barber's role as the nickel and dime linebacker
- The Eagles will wear their defensive calls on wristbands to easier deal with Peyton Manning changing the calls at the line. The Cowboys did this last week with great success forcing 2 picks from Manning and 4 turnovers overall from the Colts
- Jeff Garcia won his only career start vs. Colts, posting 100.4 passer rating with 2 TDs
The numbers the offense has put up so far, the offensive rankings, they are all out the window. Without McNabb the offense has to start from scratch. Under McNabb, The Eagles led the NFL with 54 plays of 20+ yards. Now, while Westbrook will still probably break some big runs, the days of the McNabb 50 yard bomb are gone. Garcia is an accurate passer, but he doesn't have the massive arm #5 has. Frankly, few do. Big plays in the passing game are going to have to come from well placed balls on precise routes where our receivers generate yards after the catch.
However, the passing game should be the least of our concerns. The way to beat the Colts is on the ground. They are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and second last in yards per carry allowed. Westbrook has rushed for 3 100 yard games in his last 4 including 2 straight. He will be trying for the 1st 3 game 100 yard rushing streak for the Eagles since 1981. Can you believe the Eagles haven't had a RB get 100 yards 3 games in a row for over 20 years? If he can't get his 3rd 100 rushing game against the Colts, it can only be because Andy didn't give him the carries.
Aside from the fact that the Colts can't stop the run... the #1 reason the offense should be looking to establish the ground game is to keep Manning and the Colts offense off the field. It's the same strategy that's been used against the Eagles all year. The fact is that no matter how well the defense plays, they aren't going to keep the likes of Manning, Harrison, & Wayne out of the end zone. If the offense can keep the Colts attack off the field by running the ball and controlling the clock, they are going to give the defense their best shot at stopping Manning and Co. Westbrook had a career high 34 touches last week and his 2nd straight week with a career high in carries. This week should be no different.
Eagles Defense vs Colts Offense
Pretty simple here. The book on how to beat Manning is out there and it isn't very complicated. Pressure him, hit him, sack him. Do that and he folds(just like any QB when he has no time and gets hit).
Now while the plan is simple, executing is not. The Colts do a very good job of protecting Manning and he makes reads and gets rid of the ball as quick as any QB in football. The Eagles have 29 sacks so far this year which matches last season's total and is good for 5th in the NFL. The problem is that the pass rush and defensive line in general is inconsistent. How often have we seen them get 2 sacks on one set of downs and none the rest of the game. That isn't going to work against the Colts. They need consistent pressure, preferably up the middle. If Broderick Bunkley ever wanted to make an impact, Sunday would be a nice start...
Rookie RB Joseph Addai is leading all NFL rookie RBs with 618 yds and 4.7 a carry. More than anything to stop him the Eagles just need to do a better job tackling. The tackling last week was embarrassing. In addition, Matt McCoy is going to have to step it up. He's been having a ton of trouble getting of blocks this year and Shawn Barber has been fantastic. Despite not even starting this year Barber is the team's 4th leading tackler. Without Barber this week, McCoy is going to bring his game to another level.
Finally, Lito and Sheldon need to play at an even greater level then they already have been. Since the secondary got healthy, it's been fantastic. The 2 starting corners have combined for 4 picks, 2 for TDs, and the secondary as a unit have only allowed just one passing TD in the last 4 games. Against arguably the best tandem in football, Harrison & Wayne, Lito & Sheldon need to come up big. Not only do they need to lock down the Colts wideouts, but they are probably going to have to come up with a turnover for us to win this thing.