NASHVILLE --There are certain things we know about this Eagles-Titans game: Injuries are a factor for both teams, and for the Eagles to win, they have to play with great discipline and with a more physical mentality than Tennessee. This is not going to be a runaway victory. To win, Kevin Kolb is going to have to grind it out, something he has yet to do.
It is, then, a different kind of test for Kolb. The Titans will pressure the pocket, be sure of that. Their scheme is too good and their depth is too proven to think otherwise. The Eagles must be patient on offense. They must put drives together. They must maintain some balance.
Defensively, of course, the focus is on Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer. Tennessee lacks mobility at the quarterback position with Kerry Collins starting. The option the Titans have run with success won't be there today. The Eagles have to stay in their lanes, play with great discipline and tackle very, very well.
Up front for the offensive line, the matchups are OK. Winston Justice gets Jason Babin, who he saw all of last year in practice. King Dunlap gets Dave Ball, a highly-productive player who is a great technician. The Titans use waves of linemen, which is beneficial on a day like today when the temperatures reach the high 70s, at least.
The storylines are very well established. Here are some other thoughts as we get closer to kickoff ...
- Tennessee won't start wide receiver Kenny Britt, but he will play after a reported nightclub scuffle he engaged in early Friday morning. It remains to be seen how long Jeff Fisher will keep Britt on the sidelines. The other starting wide receiver, Justin Gage, was limited in practice all week with a hamstring injury, and is out for this game.
- Tennessee won't have starting defensive tackle Tony Brown, a significant loss.
- I'm going to say this again: Bobby April's special teams will win two games this season for the Eagles. Maybe this is the day. If so, Jorrick Calvin will have a big hand in it. He takes over the return duties on punts and kickoffs. It is a major responsibility for the rookie and ball security is the key with Calvin.
- The Eagles need to be aware of Will Witherspoon on the blitz. He is excellent timing his blitzes and he has been a huge factor, along with Babin, in the Titans' defensive success this season.
- Clearly, if the Eagles can limit the Titans' running game, we can stamp this run defense much improved. Can't let Johnson and Ringer bounce outside. And the defense can't go for the big hit against either back. Tackling fundamentals come into play here.
- Jeremy Maclin has been in DeSean Jackson's shadow, and now has a chance to make a bit of a national name for himself in this game. I expect Tennessee to pay a lot of attention to Maclin. He has to get open against some coverage over the top.
- Let's hope the Eagles are able to keep giving the ball to LeSean McCoy to keep Tennessee honest. The Titans will feast on a one-dimensional Eagles offense. I think McCoy gets 24 touches, including a couple in the screen game.
- Big game inside for Max Jean-Gilles. Tennessee is quick and they run a lot of stunts. I think Babin will try to catch Jean-Gilles in this game.
- Nate Allen has to be extremely disciplined and not bit on play-action fakes. Collins delivers a great deep throw.
- The Eagles are 5-6 in the game before the bye week with Andy Reid as the coach, having won the last two seasons. A victory here is just so, so huge.
- Can the Eagles use Riley Cooper in the red zone? How much does he know the offense? How will the rookie react to shifts and changes in the Tennessee defense? Expect the Titans to try to confuse Cooper when he is on the field.
- Interested to see how, and how much, the Eagles use Chad Hall in this game. Tennessee's defense is fast and physical. Is that a good defense against which to use a scatback-type player like Hall?
- Looking for Brandon Graham to play some in coverage against Tennessee's tight ends. Graham has shown he is able to drop into coverage and do a good job. At the same time, the Eagles really need to get the rookie on track in the pass-rushing game. In the big picture, the defense needs more than Trent Cole sacking the quarterback.
- No Jerome Harrison in this game. That is disappointing. The Eagles will get him going after the bye week, then.