We've been waiting all season for the season to begin. For six games the Eagles have shown flashes and glimpses and ups and downs. Now, with the Giants in town, the Eagles must rise to the occasion. They have a chance to seize a share of the NFC East lead, and they have a chance to beat a really good football team and make a statement in the process.
What is this football team? It looks, at times, like it can be very good. The offense has big-play capabilities and can, clearly, score from anywhere on the field. The defense has playmakers and speed and excellent pressure packages. The special teams are, well, they are hard to pinpoint because they have been so wildly inconsistent.
The Eagles are like most of the "have" teams in this league. There are weaknesses here, and we have seen just about every one of them in six games. An offense that isn't sustaining drives. A defense with a pass rush that isn't getting there as often as the Eagles want. A special teams committing too many penalties and missing kicks.
With all of that, though, the Eagles are 4-2 with the Giants here.
So what do they need to do to beat New York and win the second of three straight NFC East games? They need to slow the Giants' running game, of course, and they need to pressure Eli Manning, yes, and they must stymie a New York defense that is going to have its heels dug in and ready to attack after losing two straight games.
There are some unknowns, still. Brian Westbrook's status remains a game-day decision, and the Eagles did not update his condition on Saturday. Truly, this one comes down to 11:30 a.m., when the Eagles announce their inactive list. Andy Reid sounded, on Friday, as if Westbrook had a chance to play, and to do so he has to pass through balance and football-related tests, along with passing the neurological tests administrated by the medical staff.
Regardless if Westbrook plays, the Eagles need the entire offense to pick up its game. There have been too many fizzles with offense, too many three-and-out-series, not enough punch from the running game. The Eagles must get something started right away, and that is why I am proposing that the Eagles come out of the gates with something to get the offense into a flow. Start with 10 straight runs, or 10 straight passes, or a no-huddle attack, or Michael Vick in the Wild Eagle or something to get the Giants defense on its heels. I watched Oregon play hurry-up offense from the first quarter on against USC on Saturday night and the Ducks pulled off the upset.
The Eagles must establish the tempo against New York. You know the Giants are smarting after losing to New Orleans and Arizona. This is a proud, and good, football team. The Giants are the defending NFC East champions, two seasons removed from the Super Bowl, and they realize the importance the importance of the contest.
The worst thing that can happen is that the Eagles get caught in a bunch of third-and-long plays. A nightmare is watching Justin Tuck and Co. teeing off on Winston Justice. The Eagles must adjust on the fly, must do everything they can to protect Donovan McNabb, even if it means using maximum-protection blocking schemes.
As for McNabb, well, he hasn't been very good the last couple of games. That much is true. He has been under pressure, has looked rushed, hasn't gotten much help from anyone not named DeSean Jackson. New York will roll coverage Jackson's way, so the Eagles have to attack the middle of the field, get Brent Celek and Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin heavily involved. LeSean McCoy must be a factor, with no mental letdowns. No cut blocks in pass protection. Total commitment to keeping McNabb clean and upright.
You know all the storylines. I don't expect a lot of surprises. The Giants want to pound the football with Brandon Jacobs and then use play-action passes to gash the Eagles defense. They want to use Jeff Feagles to directional kick and pin Jackson on the sidelines in the punt return game. They want to be more physical than the Eagles on both sides of the ball.
Welcome to November. Welcome to the season. Welcome to a game that helps define the Eagles in so many ways. The Eagles need to shake it up, baby, right from the start, and they have to play the game of the year to win against New York, New York and send out the message that Philadelphia is coming to the party in the NFC East.