What the weather conditions are going to be like when this Falcons-Eagles game kicks off, nobody knows for certain. The City of Philadelphia has declared a State of Emergency starting at 5 a.m. on Sunday, so at the very least we can expect the unusual.
The thinking here is that there will be a spattering of rain, with heavy stuff to come once the game has concluded, and plenty of wind.
So you know that when there is wind, an entire game plan is impacted. The thinking goes that teams can throw the ball in the rain, but when it's crazy windy, well, that's another story. Both the Falcons and the Eagles prefer to throw the football, of course, but what happens if they can't? What happens if the wind absolutely makes it impossible to throw the ball behind 10 to 15 yards?
It's not just the offensive strategy that has to adjust. It's the defense -- would you play the safeties at the line of scrimmage -- and it is most certainly the special teams. I can see punts being kicked as line drives -- recall the Randall Cunningham 91-yard punt in the driving rain and wind at Giants Stadium in 1991 -- and the crazy bounces the ball could take if the Lincoln Financial Field turf is saturated.
In short, the team that focuses the best, that holds on to the football, and that concentrates until a completion is made and that tackles the best and that is, collectively, the best mudders, will win the game.
Not to mention the coaching adjustments and the respect for the elements, whatever they may be.
And how about this? The equipment staff that best outfits the players -- the right cleats, the driest gloves -- has a hand in this game as well.
It is a critical, critical game for the Eagles and in the intangible category of "Most Desperate," the Eagles have the advantage. They've got to play that way -- hard, clean, focused, intense.
As for the weather, hey, expect some slippery footballs and some wind-impacted kicks and passes. If the coaching staff for either team is surprised by any rain or wind, shame on them. Hurricane Sandy didn't sneak up on anybody. It has been the talk of the town for days, and it is nearly upon us.
I imagine that if the conditions become too impossible to throw, the running game will dominate the play calling. I don't know which team has the advantage in that instance, especially given the changes the Eagles' offensive line is likely to have -- King Dunlap at left tackle and Dennis Kelly at right guard, along with new starter Dallas Reynolds at center -- going against an experienced Atlanta front seven.
How much practice time, given the weather possibilities, have the Eagles given to the running game leading into Sunday?
You understand, then, how important the mental part of this game is going to be. The players and coaches can't get frustrated. There are going to be mistakes made. The wind could blow a sure-thing field goal into a miss. A 34-yard field goal attempt may be looked at as improbable, so you may see the offenses going for the first down on fourth-and-2 plays.
So much plays into this, besides the obvious matchups against an undefeated Atlanta Falcons team. I'm not buying into the idea that the Falcons are a Dome team and are therefore at a disadvantage playing outside. How many inclement-weather games do the Eagles really play in a season, for example?
To win, the Eagles have to play better and coach better and be a smarter, more focused and urgent team. Who cares what the weather becomes? Both teams play in the same conditions.
Hopefully the Eagles didn't pay too much attention on Saturday night to the weather forecast. No need to be psyched out before kickoff. Just settle in, focus in, and win the dang game, no matter how.
It's a very important game, and a win is needed for the Eagles to keep the Giants close in the NFC East. Whether they run 45 times or throw 30 passes 10 yards or less, the Eagles need to score points. And no matter how slippery the Falcons may be, the defense has to execute for Todd Bowles -- who will be on the sidelines in his debut as a defensive coordinator -- and play shutdown defense.