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Philadelphia Eagles opponents preview - Denver Broncos

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This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.

This week the Eagles welcome the Denver Broncos and a certain former Eagle great to town. Oh yes, I'm sure there will be a ton of Correll Buckhalter jerseys...

Check out Dave's full analysis after the jump.

The Eagles will welcome a familiar face back to town this Sunday when Brian Dawkins and his new team, the Denver Broncos square off in a 4:15 P.M. late start at the Linc. Philadelphia is coming off a big 27-13 win over San Francisco that raised their record to 10-4, clinching a spot in the playoffs. The Broncos, coming off a disappointing 20-19 loss to the Oakland Raiders find themselves fighting for a spot in the post season in the crowded AFC playoff picture. After starting the season 6-0, they have lost six out of their last eight games and find themselves needing wins in their last two games just to have a shot. With Minnesota losing to Carolina last Sunday night, the Eagles are still in the hunt for a possible 1st round bye so they are in no position to try and coast through this game. Given all that is on the line for both teams, this game should have a playoff like atmosphere as well as all the drama associated with Dawkins return.

Much was made this off season about the Broncos trading QB Jay Cutler to Chicago for Kyle Orton. After 14 games, Denver got the better end of that deal as Orton has played much better than expected. So far this season he has completed over 60% of his passes for a total of 3182 yards and 17 TD’s. While these stats are impressive, most of that production came earlier in the season as he has struggled over the past several weeks. In his last eight games he has thrown eight TD’s and seven interceptions as Denver has only won twice in that stretch. RB Knowshon Moreno leads all rookies with 879 yards on 224 carries, but he has not gone over 100 yards once this season and has been held to less than 90 yards his last five games. Former Eagle, Correll Buckhalter has been a nice compliment to the offense rushing for 582 yards on 108 carries and could be primed for a big game against his old team. The real threat on this offense is WR Brandon Marshall. He is closing in on 1000 yards receiving and has 10 TD receptions on the year. The Eagle’s secondary will have to account for his whereabouts at all times to keep from giving up any big plays.

Defensively, much of the Bronco’s success can be attributed to the new attitude that Dawkins brought to this team. They are ranked 3rd overall and 2nd against the pass giving up less than 200 yards per game. He personally has 81 solo tackles and 19 assists, second highest on the team. Given his fiery nature, look for Dawkins to try and be a disruptive force all day long. The Eagles cannot afford to allow him make a game changing play as he did so many times when he was wearing the silver and green as he could single handedly change the momentum of the game.

The Eagles still have a great chance at not only winning the NFC East, but getting a much needed first round bye, but they have to win their last two games to do it. While Denver is not the team they were back in the first two months of the season, they are still good enough to come into the Linc and get a win. Philly must exploit the Broncos’ biggest weaknesses on defense; stopping the run. Once again look for a big dose of RB LeSean McCoy and FB Leonard Weaver to control the line of scrimmage and hopefully keep the offense out of too many third and long situations. Also keep an eye out for Brian Westbrook’s return to action which could help the cause. If they can effectively do this, they will control the tempo of this game as well as open the door for some big plays downfield. This strategy has worked the last five weeks so why change now.