ATLANTA --Here we go again: Another must-win kind of game. Another chance for the Eagles to show us something, to really show us something. The comeback wins in Chicago and against Washington certainly aided the cause for this season, pushed the Eagles to 7-4, but didn't satisfy that burning inner question: How good are the Eagles? Not, how good can they be? How good *are *they? Today is another chance to show some consistency.
With that, I have a list of questions about today as I sit in the Georgia Dome press box, the scent of the SEC Championship on Saturday whisked away and the allure of a huge NFL game present. Here is what I want answered today ...
What is Sean McDermott going to do against another premier tight end? Tony Gonzalez is part Antonio Gates and part Kellen Winslow, Jr, and the Eagles could not stop either tight end. Gonzalez combines the best of both players and I have no idea how McDermott plans to contain Gonzalez. Maybe he will bracket the superstar tight end, rely on his corners to shut down Roddy White and Co. and give Will Witherspoon the assignment of coverage Jerius Norwood out of the backfield. I don't know. I do know the Eagles had better get consistent pressure on quarterback Chris Redman.
* Is Jeremy Maclin ready to have 10 passes thrown his way? Look, I understand that he is a rookie and I know that Maclin has kind of been the understudy to DeSean Jackson this season. And in that role, Maclin has thrived. Good year. The kid really has a high, high ceiling. In this game, he wears the mantle of "go-to" receiver and that means something. That is pressure. He did it at Missouri, and now Maclin gets his first real chance here. The Falcons have had a lot of trouble in coverage this season. They have given up a ton of big plays. Still, that defensive front is capable of getting off the ball very quickly and causing problems for Donovan McNabb. Maclin has to come up big today. * Are the Eagles going to do a couple of things to get Trent Cole some space? He is having a dominating season at right defensive end. The Falcons, as banged up as they are on the offensive front, can't possibly leave left tackle Sam Baker (who at this point may not play because of an injury) alone with Cole? Who picks up the slack if the Falcons double- and triple-team Cole? * What can the Eagles do to neutralize Atlanta's linebackers? This is a really underrated group. Don't go to sleep on this crew. They're fast, they get to the football and they make plays. Watch them on the blitz. * How will special teams coordinator Ted Daisher take advantage of a new long snapper and a new kicker for the Falcons? Huge deal. I expect Daisher to try to rattle the long snapper, jar him, show a lot of movement up front on snaps. It's a dangerous tactic and you hope the Eagles have the discipline to not jump early, but they might think they can get a big play on a bad snap. * Is LeSean McCoy really, really, really ready to be the go-to back down the stretch? The kid has a chance to be special. We all see that. The Falcons have studied him all week and they know he carries the ball out away from his body and they will try to jar it loose, so the rookie has to be aware. Turnovers will kill the Eagles today. If they minimize the mistakes, they win the game. * As important as Maclin is in the passing game, can he also make a play or two on punt returns? If there are any, that is. I expect a lot of fair catches against Atlanta's excellent punter, Michael Koenen. * Will Marty Mornhinweg order up some no-huddle offense to open the game? It has worked the last two weeks. McNabb has put points on the board early. I love the no huddle. I want to see more of it, actually. And against a Falcons defense that has a rookie at cornerback and is going to struggle to communicate with all the noise, can the Eagles catch the Falcons off guard with the no huddle? * How much will Michael Vick play? There was definitely some buzz when Vick arrived at the team hotel on Saturday and there is going to be a lot of buzz in the Dome today. I expect Vick to play the usual amount -- four to six snaps. And I'm seeing a couple of big plays for Vick. I think he is really, really excited and nervous to play this game. * Who emerges as the big-play maker we don't expect? I think Quintin Mikell needs to get his hands on the football today. I expect Sean Jones to provide an impact against the run game. But my vote goes to Juqua Parker at left defensive end. He has a good matchup over there. I see him having an impact. * Are the Eagles coverage units ready for some speed from return man Eric Weems? If I'm Daisher, I'm telling David Akers to kick low and try to get touchbacks. I want nothing to do with Weems today. * Speaking of Akers, is he in such a groove that he will convert two field goal attempts and break his team record of 17 consecutive field goals? It just feels like too much of a comfort level right now. * Can McNabb kick it up a notch? I mean, provide one of those 23 of 28 days, pass for 328 yards and 3 TDs? That's the kind of game I want to see, and it's on him to put the ball in the end zone in the red zone. * Will the Eagles order some runs left? Let's see Jason Peters and Todd Herremans road grade on that Falcons defensive line. * Finally, are the Eagles going to play with post-season intensity in this game? No lolly-gagging against the Falcons. They aren't going to have Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, right guard Harvey Dahl and I really think Baker won't play. Go after this offense with the blitz and set the tone and, boy, 8-4 would be sweet, sweet, sweet right now.