For the Eagles, last week's win over the Dolphins was encouraging in several facets. First, the defense dominated, thanks to a ferocious pass rush that accounted for nine sacks. The defense also produced turnovers, something that has been a missing component at times as the Eagles rank tied for 30th in turnover differential on the season. Offensively, the Eagles took advantage of opportunities afforded to them by the defense. Most encouraging on that side of the ball though, was simply the return of quarterback Michael Vick, who had missed three games with broken ribs. Vick was unspectacular by effective as he shook off the rust in his return, but he'll have to step up his game this week against the formidable Jets defense that ranks sixth in the league in overall defense.
The Jets, meanwhile, are coming off a 37-10 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, both opponents of the Eagles and Jets parted ways with their respective head coaches the day following their losses when the Dolphins followed suit and relieved Tony Sparano of his duties. Under Rex Ryan, of course the son of former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan, the Jets have won their last three games. That turnaround can be attributed in part to the Mark Sanchez's improved ball security – he's thrown seven touchdowns to only one interception over the last three games after throwing 10 interceptions over the team's first 10 games. The Eagles' resolve is sure to be tested once again Sunday afternoon, as the possibility remains that they could be eliminated from the playoff race if both the Cowboys (playing at Tampa Bay Saturday night) and the Giants (hosting the Redskins at 1 PM) emerge victorious before the Eagles' 4:15 PM kickoff.
Last Time They Met:
October 14, 2007: Eagles 16, Jets 9
The Eagles came into Meadowlands Stadium with only one win on the season. After an early bye, the Eagles knew that they would need to defeat the Jets if they wanted to resuscitate their season. Despite over 150 total yards from running back Brian Westbrook, the Eagles had difficulty finding their way into the end zone all day. In fact, the only touchdown for either team on the day came on a 75-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to wide receiver Kevin Curtis. Besides that play, the game was rather dull, with placekickers Mike Nugent and David Akers trading field goals throughout the game en route to a bizarre 16-9 final score, and an Eagles victory. Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Todd Herremans, Winston Justice, Mike Patterson, Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Joselio Hanson, and Jon Dorenbos are the only current Eagles who appeared in the game.
When The Eagles Have The Ball:
For the first time in five weeks, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were on the field together last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Though Maclin was only able to play the first half before his hamstring tightened up, it was a shot in the arm for the offense to be whole once again. While Maclin's status is up in the air this week, whoever lines up as the receiver opposite DeSean Jackson (likely to be Riley Cooper if Maclin is unable to go) is likely to inherit a pivotal role in the team's game plan. See, Jackson is likely to be shadowed by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis throughout Sunday's contest and although Jackson is surely capable of beating any cornerback in the league, Revis has not been exposed much in 2011. Football Outsiders ranks the Jets defense as the best in the league against opposing No. 1 wide receivers, thanks to Revis, who typically shadows the top wideout for opposing teams. On the other side, Antonio Cromartie is a playmaker at corner, but is vulnerable to the big play, so either Maclin or Cooper could have a chance to make a game-changing catch at some point come Sunday.
On the ground, we already know that LeSean McCoy ranks second in the league with 1,172 rushing yards and is closing in on the franchise record for touchdowns in a season (his 17 trail Steve Van Buren's 18). How have the Jets done against the run this season? They rank 14th in the league, allowing 109.2 rushing yards per game, but the more telling statistic is their 3.88 yards-allowed-per-rush, which ranks seventh in the league. They've allowed one only one 100-yard rusher in their last eight games. The key to the Jets' run defense is linebacker David Harris, an underrated player in the middle. But the crew of linebackers, namely Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, do a good job of rallying to the ball. Up front, on the 3-4 line, Sione Pouha is the nose tackle in the middle, who holds the point of attack and ranks second in the league against the run according to ProFootballFocus.com. The biggest worry for the Jets, though, will be how they replace Jim Leonhard at safety. Leonhard, a vital part of the secondary, suffered a season-ending injury against the Chiefs and will likely be replaced by Brodney Pool. Expect the Eagles to test the Jets defense deep early and offense to gauge Pool's readiness.
When The Jets Have The Ball:
While Sanchez gets all the hype, the Jets offense still revolves around its running game. Third-year running back Shonn Greene has been on a roll of late, as his last three games have all been among his five most productive of the season. But the Jets' running game is based more on persistence than explosiveness. The Jets rank 12th in rushing attempts despite ranking 30th with only 3.75 yards-per-rush. The stars on the offensive line are center Nick Mangold, a perennial Pro Bowler, and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Both will be put to the test by a rotating cast of Eagles defensive line characters. Mangold must contain the likes of Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Trevor Laws and the impressive Derek Landri, while Ferguson will see a heavy dose of Trent Cole, who is coming off a three-sack performance against the Dolphins. The Eagles rank second in the league with 42 sacks, while the Jets ranks in the middle of the pack, having allowed 27 sacks, tied for 17th in the league.
On the outside, the Eagles secondary will have their hands full once again. Santonio Holmes is one of the more polished receivers in the league, though he hasn't been quite as productive as expected this season. On the other side, Plaxico Burress is a player with whom the Eagles are plenty familiar from Burress' days as a Giant, and he will pose the greatest threat in the red zone. After holding the Dolphins to one touchdown on three trips last week, the Eagles climbed out of last place in the league in red zone defense, but their red-zone defense percentage remains just over 67 percent, 30th in the league. And though the Eagles rank second in the league according to Football Outsiders when it comes to covering tight ends, they would be wise to keep a close eye on Dustin Keller, who leads the Jets with 47 receptions.
DT Mike Patterson vs. C Nick Mangold
One of the unsung heroes of the Eagles defensive line, Mike Patterson has 2.5 sacks and over 20 quarterback hurries on the season, the most for him in either category since 2007. The run game, however, is where Patterson makes his mark. He's the only starter on the team without a missed tackle on the season. Listed frugally at 300 pounds, the USC-alum is a load inside. He'll go up against one of the league's best, though, in center Nick Mangold. A two-time All-Pro selection, the Ohio State Buckeye started 82 straight games since being drafted in 2006, but missed two games earlier this season with an injured ankle. Mangold is one of the top run-blockers in the league and will be looking to shut down Patterson in the run game.
TE Brent Celek vs. Jets' Defense
Brent Celek has put together a great second-half of the season. In the last eight games, the five-year veteran has 40 catches for 444 yards and two touchdowns. The team's leader in receptions, Celek will look to take advantage of a defense that ranks 27th against opposing tight ends according to Football Outsiders, allowing 65.4 yards per game. With one of the key figures in the middle of the Jets' defense, safety Jim Leonhard, out for the season with a knee injury, Celek and quarterback Michael Vick will look to take advantage. This weakness in the middle of the field will be especially tempting for the Eagles' offense because the Jets rank first in the NFL in defending their opponents' starting wide receivers and rank fourth against the run. Look for head coach, and defensive mind, Rex Ryan to make adjustments to contain Celek Sunday.
Players To Watch
WR Plaxico Burress
After missing two seasons due to incarceration, the 6-5, 226-pound Plaxico Burress has reemerged with the New York Jets. He has caught 37 passes for 512 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. His size makes him a go-to target of quarterback Mark Sanchez in the red zone. The former Steeler and Giant is no stranger to facing the Eagles. In nine career games against Philadelphia, Burress' teams have won seven of those matchups. Burress played a big part in those wins catching 36 passes for 635 yards and scoring five times. After facing one of the more physical receivers in the league last week in Brandon Marshall, the Eagles get another test with Burress.
CB Darrelle Revis
Revis Island is apparently where wide receivers go to disappear. Through the first 13 games of the season, Darrelle Revis had only allowed 26 catches for 435 yards and a touchdown in 2011. A three-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time first-team All-Pro, the former first-round draft pick has the size, athleticism and physicality to match up with any receiver in the league. He also helps out in run support. Quarterbacks rarely throw in his direction, but he has four interceptions in 2011 and returned one of them 100 yards for a touchdown. It will be interesting to see whether Revis is matched up with DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin.