How different would Weeks 1 and 2 be had the Eagles gotten off to good starts and taken leads? What would this team be like playing from ahead? The first 15 minutes of Sunday's game against the Jets will set an important tone.
A team that has gained three first downs in the first quarter of two games (two first downs in Atlanta, one - via penalty - against Dallas) and that has gone scoreless in each first quarter has spent this week correcting mistakes and digging in to play the NFL's stingiest defense. New York has allowed an average of 8.5 points per game in its two wins and has taken the football away 10 times, including a remarkable six fumble recoveries.
The goal is to get off to a good start and create some positive momentum.
"Obviously that's something you want to do every game and this week is no different," center Jason Kelce said. "We want to execute from the first snap. We haven't done that. We want to set the tone and build from that."
There is no way no way no way no way the offense is as bad as it has played in six of the eight quarters of this 2015 season. But both Atlanta and Dallas have attacked the line of scrimmage, penetrated the offensive line and stomped on the ground game, specifically DeMarco Murray, who is averaging less than a yard per carry. That's not going to continue, obviously, and yet the Eagles know they have tough sledding against a New York front that may be the best in the NFL.
While the Eagles want to get the ground game cranked up, they can't force things. They need to find a weakness in the Jets scheme and go after it. That could mean attacking the middle of the field and involving tight end Zach Ertz in the passing game early.
"We'll see how it goes. They obviously have a tremendous defense. They fly to the football, so we have to be on our game," Ertz said. "We've had a good week. Everyone wants to get out there and play like we know we can play. We haven't done that in two games."
The three-and-outs must end, then. The offense mustered only six first downs in the entire first half in Atlanta, and went to the locker room trailing 20-3. The Eagles then gained 21 total net yards, went 0 for 5 on third down and gained just one first down in the opening two quarters against Dallas, and trailed 6-0 at the half.
"It changes the game when you play from behind," tight end Brent Celek said. "We need to start faster."
How can the Eagles crank up the running game? How can they get the running backs - Murray is a question mark for Sunday, but the general buzz out there is that he's going to give it a go on Sunday despite a hamstring injury suffered on Wednesday - going north-south and gaining some positive yardage?
Beyond that, how can the Eagles regain the explosiveness in the offense and pick up those "chunk" plays that change field position so dramatically? Quarterback Sam Bradford has a tall order against a defense that changes its looks, has great talent at every level and is playing with supreme confidence.
With all of the questions circling the Eagles, the best response is to be productive, to dictate to the defense and to put points on the board.
Head coach Todd Bowles and the Jets are going to pressure the line of scrimmage. Bowles, as defensive coordinator in Arizona, has twice played Chip Kelly's offense. Bowles thinks he has a feel for what the Eagles are doing. You can expect blitzes from all angles on Sunday.
The answer? Somehow, some way, the Eagles need to take a lead, get the Jets on their heels and then execute for 60 minutes and come away with a victory. Simple. Difficult. Needed. Oh and 3 is not a place the Eagles want to be.
- New York's 32-21 win over Washington on Thursday night further muddled the NFC East. Both teams are now 1-2 with Dallas 2-0 and the Eagles 0-2. Washington lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall with a toe injury that could be very serious. Washington's offensive line has some injury concerns. Even with a mini-bye weekend, Washington has some concerns ahead of next Sunday's game against the Eagles. Namely, quarterback Kirk Cousins has been turning the football over at an alarming rate, and there are already calls for Colt McCoy in Washington.
- New York, meanwhile, is a dangerous team. Great offense to make up for a defense that lacks a pass rush and has questions in the secondary. Never sleep on quarterback Eli Manning.
- Does Marcus Smith have a role on Sunday? He has trained all week and could be active against the Jets given the notion that Vinny Curry will play along the defensive line with Cedric Thornton out and Taylor Hart a question mark with a shoulder injury. Smith is likely to be behind Brad Jones in an outside linebacker picture that will rely heavily on starters Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.
- Brandon Bair is a capable veteran who is in line to play at defensive end on Sunday with Thornton sidelined. Thinking out loud: Could the Eagles use Bennie Logan at end with Beau Allen on the nose for some snaps, if needed?
- Eric Rowe has contributed on special teams and he's done a nice job, but he hasn't played in the secondary after starting in the preseason at cornerback. He's learning both cornerback and safety, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he gets some reps down the line at the safety position. The Eagles need some depth to emerge behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond. Chris Maragos has been working as the third safety, with Jerome Couplin next in line.
- New York won't have much other than wide receiver Brandon Marshall as an "elite" receiving threat on Sunday. How does defensive coordinator Bill Davis play it, then? Does he bracket-cover Marshall with a linebacker underneath? Does he keep things as he normally would? The Eagles can't let Marshall beat them. New York wants to win this game 13-10. If the Eagles can get a lead and make the Jets throw it, boy, would that be a huge plus.