A beautiful night waits for football at Lincoln Financial Field, and we're all going to tune into this game and see, well, see just where the Eagles' heads are at after such a wild couple of weeks around this team. Losses to the Giants and the Ravens and a tie to the Bengals have changed the focus from a playoff stretch run to a survival game against Arizona here.
I don't know what to expect. How can anyone feel they have a pulse on a team that went from 5-3 at the season's midway point to 5-5-1? How do we know how Donovan McNabb will bounce back after the first benching of his football career? How do we know what kind of offensive output the Eagles will cobble together with Brian Westbrook hobbling and with Correll Buckhalter likely not playing?
How can we predict the defense's ability to cover the best receiving group in the league, headlined by Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and engineered by quarterback Kurt Warner, with cornerback Asante Samuel doubtful to go?
How? How? How?
This really isn't the definitive "show-me" game, because the Eagles have had plenty of those already this season. This is an unusual spot on a holiday, after a very, very short week of rest with a lot going on around this team. The Eagles can win the game, of course, but they first have to shake out of the offensive doldrums from the previous two weeks and control the football and establish the line of scrimmage and then attack with precision an Arizona secondary that isn't known to be all that great to this point.
Defensively, if the Eagles don't win the battle up front with a four-man rush, forget about it. They will have no chance. If they get to Warner and hit him and force him to move around, they can feel good about their chances. But Warner isn't a dumb guy. He is going to throw a lot of jump balls when he is in trouble and he is going to make Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Joselio Hanson go up and make plays against bigger, stronger receivers.
If there is a key player in the secondary, it may be Sheppard. He starts if Samuel can't play. Sheppard wants to establish himself again as an elite cornerback and he hasn't done that this season. He had the one interception against Atlanta, but hasn't otherwise had a lot of big days. Tonight is a great chance to thrive, because the Cardinals are going to throw the football. And throw it. And throw it.
To me, this is an interesting game on a lot of levels. I want to see McNabb and his spotlight. I want to see Lorenzo Booker, a disappointment to date, but a player who should get his first extended playing time of the year against Arizona. I want to see if the Eagles can have success throwing the football. I want to see if the offensive line can provide holes for a clearly-hobbled Westbrook in the running game.
I want to see Trent Cole continue to dominate from his right defensive end position. He has been great the last two games. I want to see if what Victor Abiamiri has shown the last few games continues -- a young player who appears to be getting better and better.
I want to see Akeem Jordan at WILL build on his performance from last week. I want to see those linebackers -- how much will they play, anyway, if the Eagles are in dime most of this game? -- get some turnovers.
I want to see if Quintin Demps is in the coverage mix in the secondary. An impressive rookie on special teams, Demps deserves reps from the line of scrimmage.
I want to see it all. I want to see what kind of mental toughness this team has in the face of so much adversity. Times are tough. There is no denying that. Nobody can put a pretty bow on this season to date.
But a big win tonight can help soothe the disappointment, at least for the weekend. It won't be easy. Arizona is for real. The Cardinals are as explosive an offense as the Eagles will face all season. Warner is a pinpoint quarterback. The receivers are awesome.
It is a beautiful Thanksgiving in Philadelphia. I'm thankful you are here ready for some Eagles football. A team that is struggling so needs a light at the end of this tunnel. This game provides that opportunity.