You can imagine the scene: The Edward Jones Dome is going to be loud, crazy, a hostile place to play for the Eagles. Steve Spagnuolo's Rams defense is going to be aggressive with its blitz packages and the looks it presents to Michael Vick and the Eagles.
So what do the Eagles do? Is this a situation where they spread the field and take advantage of some matchups against a Rams secondary that is going to be challenged? Or do the Eagles roll up the sidewalks just a bit and approach things more conservatively?
"We have to go out and execute, no matter what the call is," said right tackle Todd Herremans, part of the new-fangled offensive line. "Run or pass, no matter the formation, we have to do the job blocking. There are going to be plays out there. We have to give Michael a chance to make them happen."
St. Louis wants to contain Vick's ability to buy time with his legs. If Vick is able to have time to look down the field, the Eagles are going to have a good chance to make some plays. Covering DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Steve Smith, who could be active and in for some packages, is an awfully difficult task for any defense.
Yet, the Eagles are versatile enough to shorten things. They can turn around and hand off to a stable of running backs led by LeSean McCoy, who led the NFC in total yards from scrimmage last season. The Eagles can play smash-mouth football if they choose to do so.
And wouldn't that make some sense, given the youth along the offensive with rookies Jason Kelce (center) and Danny Watkins (right guard) starting?
"We're going to play Eagles football," said Vick. "We need to go out and take care of our business. Every man needs to do his job. St. Louis has a great defense. They're going to be aggressive. We have a lot to prepare for."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has always said that the Eagles will "do whatever it takes" to win a game during that particular week. The Eagles have been probing the Rams' defense for two weeks and they have some areas they would like to attack. St. Louis has an emerging star in end Chris Long and is building its secondary around the skills of former Eagle Quintin Mikell. The Rams have a lot of speed and they play "downhill" football in the mold of what Spagnuolo learned from his days working with Jim Johnson here.
How do you beat that scheme? You get the tight end involved. You get rid of the football quickly to counteract the blitz. You run the ball effectively.
You don't allow the defense put Vick in third-and-long situations so that Long and Co. can pin back their ears and storm the backfield.
"I think we're going to have the right plan in place, so we have to make our plays," said tight end Brent Celek. "The Rams have a great defense. We can't make mistakes. It's as simple as that. We think that if we execute, we're going to make some plays out there."
True enough. That's the name of every game. The Eagles have to dictate to the Rams, so the question is how they do it. The Andy Reid Era of explosive offense has been noted by a strong early passing game to take a lead, before the running game is used extensively to eat some clock.
This time around? We'll see. The Eagles want to minimize the risky situations they present for Kelce and the offensive line. Howard Mudd, the new line coach with the huge job in front of him, likes to keep things as simple as possible.
Do the Eagles come out flinging the football, or do they give McCoy and Ronnie Brown the rock and pound the Rams defense early? That is one of the primary questions Sunday will answer as the Eagles count down the days to the opening act of this 2011 performance.