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Some Questions To Answer In Week Ahead

Taking stock of the NFC East, it's pretty much come down to what we all expected. The division is a three-team race with four games to go. It really doesn't get a whole lot better than this, does it? While the Cowboys play the blazing-hot Chargers, the Eagles and Giants square off on Sunday night. Between now and then, there are a lot of questions to answer for the 8-4 Eagles.

Here are some for some early-week thoughts ...

**How Does The Defense Build Off Its Game In Atlanta?


The Eagles dominated Atlanta's injury-riddled offense, as expected. Maybe the team can look back at that game as a launching point for some good performances in the final month of the season. It was a confidence boost, for sure. The Eagles made great goal-line stands, forced turnovers and scored points off of takeaways. It was one of those games where everybody did a little bit of everything -- the defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, stopped the run and got their hands up for numerous tipped passes, the linebackers covered well and helped greatly against the run and the defensive backs were swarming.

The next challenge is far greater. The Giants put their big-play weapons on display in the win over the Cowboys. Eli Manning completed just 11 of 25 passes, but he threw for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has good, young receivers. Brandon Jacobs looked like he was in his best form against Dallas.

Cornerback Joselio Hanson returns after his four-game suspension and Akeem Jordan could return at linebacker, and that is good news for the defense. Hanson should step right in at the nickel spot. Jordan? Not sure there. What is the plan with Jordan? Does he go to WILL and Will Witherspoon to MIKE? Is there another plan for Jordan?

How long do the Eagles platoon Jeremiah Trotter and Joe Mays in the middle of the defense? At least now, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has some options. He gets some of the depth back with the return of Hanson and Jordan.

**Did Vick Earn More Reps?


In two trips to the red zone, Michael Vick produced touchdowns -- one running the football and one throwing it. That's perfect production, and it begs for more use in short-yardage and red-zone situations. Vick has his quickness back and, most important, defenses are forced to respect him and account for his presence.

A safe number of touches would be anywhere from 5 to 7 for Vick. He has run from the spread formation and he has run from it, so defenses can't lean on one thing. The offense is certainly energized when Vick trots on to the field. He has given the team some big plays in the last few weeks.

Andy Reid isn't going to commit to a specific number of reps. That's understandable. It is a game-by-game proposition for Vick and the offense. From this perspective, Vick is a weapon on every short-yardage and goal-line situation. He is coming around and the Eagles need to use him.

**How Far Away Is Westbrook? How About Curtis?


Injuries. Everybody has 'em. The Eagles are no different, but the promising news is that they could soon have some help. DeSean Jackson is expected back at practice on Wednesday, and if there are no setbacks, he will play against New York. Brian Westbrook may practice this week and is, at the very least, making progress from his two concussions. Kevin Curtis will work with the practice squad and could be a game or two away from playing again.

Great news.

The Eagles have kept Westbrook and Curtis on the active roster and it's fair to wonder why. Well, if they can get those two on the field in these last four games, the decision will have paid off.

**What Are The Key Matchups Against The Giants?


It's all about the line of scrimmage against New York. The Eagles have to protect Donovan McNabb as the Giants look to generate heat off the edges and the defense must shut down New York's running game and pressure Eli Manning. Guard Chris Snee, New York's best lineman, has a hyper-extended knee and is very questionable for this game.

Jason Peters bears watching this week, but the left tackle insists he could have played after suffering a shoulder injury against Atlanta, so it sounds promising that he will play. Winston Justice returns to the scene of his struggle a few seasons ago, but he is in a much different place now.

Can the Eagles slow New York's running game? Can McNabb heat up on a cold night in Giants Stadium and throw the football effectively? How do the Eagles match up against the Giants and their big-play receivers?

Good stuff, all. The Eagles beat the Giants convincingly in November. The Giants are frothing at the mouth to gain some redemption. They saved their season by beating Dallas. The NFC East is as tight as everyone thought it would be at the season.

It is really a classic game ahead. Sunday night just can't get here fast enough.

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