They don't play a pretty game. Purists love the Jets for the way they take the body and look for more. The Jets aren't going to fool anyone with their scheme; they want to win games with the cumulative effects of punches to the gut.
So that is the first task for the Eagles this afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field (CBS, 4:15 p.m.): Matching that brawler's mentality with the New Yorkers. It hasn't always been a strength for the Eagles this season, at least for a 60-minute span. The Eagles would like to win with speed over brawn, but in this game the Eagles must bring both to the table.
The defense, particularly, must stand up to the New York running game, a no-nonsense phase of the Jets' game that has worked particularly well in the last few games. Running back Shonn Greene is a downhill runner who punishes defenses with his bruising style. Juan Castillo's defense is not known for its blow-'em-up style, but in this game it must have that mindset.
Rex Ryan brings with him a defense that is going to look for that elusive No. 7 and try to pound quarterback Michael Vick. This is the big question we've all been asking about Vick: Can he play his game, the game that has made him one of the most exciting and productive quarterbacks in the league, and at the same time avoid the needless hits to his legs and his midsection? Can he find a happy medium and drop back and throw the football before the defense reaches him? Can he break off a big run and hit the deck before someone gets in a clear shot to knock him down?
More than anything today, I want to see how "into it" the Eagles are. We know the playoff chances are slim, but alive. At least now. Tampa Bay did the Eagles no favors on Saturday night as Dallas pushed ahead with a victory, and the Giants host Washington at 1 p.m. The result of that game should have no consequence on the Eagles players as they prepare for the Jets, but you never know.
I want to see the Eagles play their best game of the season against a quality, 8-5 New York team. To do that, the Eagles must bring their "A" game, one that includes the smash-mouth mentality.
Other news and notes for today ...
- Trent Cole goes against D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Jason Babin faces Wayne Martin on the edges for the Eagles. Look for a lot of three-step drops from New York quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets don't want to mess with the pass rush here.
- Will Castillo order up some blitzes? The timing and effectiveness in that part of the defense has improved a lot the last couple of weeks. Linebacker Brian Rolle has a good sense of timing and gets home.
- New York has an excellent set of linebackers, including David Harris and Bart Scott. They are going to be all about LeSean McCoy today. The Eagles must find a way to get him in space.
- How do the Eagles attack safety Brodney Pool, who replaces injured starter Jim Leonhard? Keep an eye on that. Pool has to step up as the Jets play their first game without the valuable Leonhard.
- Nice weather in Philadelphia today. The temperatures after kickoff should be in the high 30s or low 40s with minimal winds.
- I expect to see cornerback Darrelle Revis on wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and I really look forward to seeing how Jackson matches up. It's a great battle of size and physicality against Jackson's sheer speed.
- If defensive tackle Trevor Laws can't play, newly promoted rookie Cedric Thornton could see some snaps today. The Eagles are very high on Thornton.