By now it is widely known that the New York Jets are headed for Philadelphia. The Eagles will face the ersatz Titans at Lincoln Financial Field in a game that means far more to one team than the other. Could it be that the 5-8 Eagles with their Lilliputian playoff hopes might rally themselves back into the mindset that an 8-8 record could win the NFC East? While the New York Jets (8-5) trail the New England Patriots in AFC East play they are securely second in the AFC West wildcard chase.
Aside from the fact that Rex Ryan is headed into the den of inequity where his father’s generation of Gang Green used to roam, there is not much hype regarding this game. Mostly the New Yorkers simply want to get into and out of town with no injuries – especially from snowballs or bounties placed on players’ heads.
As for the Philadelphia Eagles, any win is life while any loss is death for their 2011 season and playoff hopes. The days of Buddy’s Bounty Bowls are as much a memory as Fog Bowl, but don’t think that Philadelphia fans forget so easily.
RUSHING to JUDGEMENT:
One dimensional is not a good look for the Philadelphia offense and gives the term “holiday target” a whole new meaning in references to Vick’s general well being.
McCoy has also been stuffed at the line of scrimmage 39 times (most in NFL) compared to 20 last season. Much of this is defenses looking for Shady but more of this is due to McCoy’s penchant to run east and west trying to get his-own-damn-selfout of trouble rather than waiting for help from his offensive line.
McCoy remains 114 yards shy of breaking legendary Wilbert Montgomery’s franchise record for rushing in a single season (1,512 in 1979). McCoy is at 1,172 or 162 behind Maurice Jones-Drew for best in NFL. The Jets allow 3.9 YPC (7th best in NFL) with a fourth-ranked run defense overall.
Meanwhile, Jets Shonn Greene has averaged 5.0 yards per carry over his last three games. Overall Greene averages 4.2 YPC (18th in NFL) with 868 on the season. Philadelphia’s defense ranks 20th against the run allowing opponents 4.4 YPC (tied for 21st).
Someday history will decide whether or not Mark Sanchez is the second coming of Joe Namath (an overrated yet capable QB whose persona outshone his talent level) or Ken O’Brien (an underrated yet capable passer with zero social cache who suffered the slings and arrows of media tired of a losing team’s struggles).
Sanchez ranks 22nd in the NFL at 6.7 yards per passing attempt – so stating that this is not an explosive passing offense would be tantamount to the suggestion that the global economy has dipped a bit in recent years.
Opposing QBs have an 89.9 rating against the Eagles (7th-highest in the NFL). The Eagles have given up 23 passing TD (tied for fourth-most in NFL) ranking Philadelphia’s pass defense at 13th in the NFL. Sanchez has never completed 60 % of his passes in a season, and has averaged just 6.63 yards per attempt for his career.
Red Zone Fever:
Philadelphia’s Red Zone offense has been criticized but it is their Red Zone DEFENSE that actually registers as truly woeful. No less than 67.57 % of opponents’ red-zone scoring TD against the Eagles’ defense (this does not include Red Zone FG). Philadelphia has actually moved out of last place in Red Zone Defense and are now 30th in the NFL (Buffalo and Indy are behind them).
The Jets, meanwhile are the top-ranked red-zone offense in the league, converting TD 71.79 % of the time. Sanchez has thrown 17 TD and just one INT inside the opponents’ 20. On the flip side, the Eagles’ offense ranks 22nd (48.15 %), while the Jets’ defense ranks 15th (48.57 %) in the red zone.
Michael Vick is still tied with Josh Freeman for most red-zone INT (4).
The Eagles rank SECOND in terms of defending opposing tight ends – allowing just 42.3 TE receiving yards per game. That’s important because TE Dustin Keller is the Jets’ leading receiver with 47 catches for 620 yards. Behind him are Santonio Holmes (43.4 YPG) and Plaxico Burress. Holmes inked the big contract last offseason, but is averaging just 43.4 receiving yards per game. Holmes and Burress have seven touchdowns apiece placing them 55th in the NFL for WR tandems in terms of yardage and TD.
Eagles Brent Celek plans to have a big game. Celek’s 78.3% receptions per target rate over the last 7 games is nearly double what it had been over the first six (43.3%). Celek is quietly having a pretty good season with 49 catches for 517 yards, including eight grabs of 20+ yards. He had some tough blocking assignments last week against the Dolphins, but the Eagles should probably look to him more in the red zone. Celek has just 2 TD catches on the season.
Defense Wins Championships:
Tennessee Titans yards per carry (3.9) allowed in 2010 included Jason Babin (defensive end) and Jim Washburn (defensive line coach). Both find themselves wearing midnight gree for Philadelphia. Somewhere along the way, in this season of disappointment, Babin and Washburn became targets of criticism for their ineffectiveness against the run – but the LB and DB are far more responsible for the Eagles’ struggles. Babin has come to the Eagles and given them exactly what they paid for: a pass-rushing complement to Trent Cole. Babin leads the team in sacks (15) and hurries (40). He goes all-out on every play, and you never have to question his effort.
The Eagles sport 42 sacks in 2011 – second only to the Baltimore Ravens. Looking ahead to next year, this is a unit that should return Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp. Brandon Graham is expected to be healthy too. The Eagles will have to make decisions on Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri, Trevor Laws and whoever else they add in the draft/free agency. Landri should be someone they absolutely try to bring back. He has a team-high seven tackles for loss and is a great fit in the defensive tackle rotation.
As for this week, the Jets’ offense has allowed 29 sacks (tied for 14th-fewest) and 57 QB hits (tied for 10th-fewest). Meanwhile the Eagles have allowed 25 sacks (11-th fewest). The offensive line turned in perhaps its worst performance of the season against the Dolphins, but sacks are down from last year, when the Eagles gave up 49.
The Jets’ defense is tied for 18th with 29 sacks and is 11th in sack rate. Former Bills first-round pick and former Penn State Nittany Lion Aaron Maybin leads the Jets with 6 sacks. Calvin Pace has 4.5. LB David Harris and Bart Scott have 4 and 3.5 respectively.
Vick’s completion percentage against the blitz last week was 23% – or 3 of 13 passes completed for 23 yards against extra pressure. Vick was also sacked four times against the blitz. Vick, Marty Mornhinweg and Howard Mudd need to have a better plan this week for attacking the blitz if they want to beat the Jets.
Myth of Revis Island – or Mystery:
Marketing campaigns aside, QB across the league know to stay away from Darrelle Revis when throwing into pass coverage. Opposing QB have completed just 29 passes (29-70, 420 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT for a QB Rating of 42.6) aimed toward Revis. We’ll see if Vick, DeSean Jackson and company decide to challenge Revis or just stay away from him. The Eagles would be wise to at least take some shots – even if they are decoys. Jets should take the same advice regarding Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel. They will need to pick apart weaknesses in the defense but can’t risk ignoring one side or the other altogether.
Special Olympics Teams:
Philadelphia Eagles Special Teams rank #17 in NFL. NY Jets rank 4th overall. Philadelphia’s strongest unit has been kickoff coverage, where the Eagles rank second. Their worst unit has been punt return, which ranks 29th. The Jets, meanwhile, have the top kickoff coverage unit in the league and the second-best kickoff return unit. The Jets’ punt coverage unit is fourth.
Eagles Giveth and Jets Taketh Away:
Turnovers make football teams. With 31 giveaways on the season, the Eagles have tied Tampa for NFL lead. Philadelphia has a -12 turnover differential, second to only the Redskins. The Jets, meanwhile, have 24 takeaways (tied for seventh-most) and 24 giveaways (eight-most). If the game is close, this will ultimately determine the winner. The team making the fewest mistakes generally wins.
“You’ve got a winner in town,” had been Buddy Ryan’s proclimation when taking over as Eagles Head Coach in 1987. Question now is whether or not the team with the winning record or winning attitude should be called a winner.
PREDICTION: JETS 28 EAGLES 23
Number of fans in Lincoln Financial Field wearing green = 100%… but percentage rooting for J-E-T-S: 60%
Number of fans remaining on Eagles Bandwagon: Not many - fewer than fans at Soldier Field who could actually see the action at Fog Bowl
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org