Enough of these best-team-in-the-NFC debates! Mentioning the playoff field in the conference right now, *if the season ended? *Completely worthless. The season isn't over!! Most Valuable Player chatter? Fun, but there is a looooong way to go in this regular season. What matters is the here and now, and so all attention is focused on the New York Giants and the game on Sunday night. Here are some issues to discuss concerning your Philadelphia Eagles ...
WHAT IS NEXT FOR VICK, EAGLES OFFENSE?
The Giants make it happen defensively with a great front seven. They move people around and they have a variety of pass rushers. This isn't just an edge-rushing team. This isn't a one- or two-man pass-rushing show. The Giants have an excellent scheme with a lot going on, so center Mike McGlynn has a lot to handle mentally this week.
All of the offensive linemen do. Notice how the conversation starts at the line of scrimmage? For Michael Vick and the explosive Eagles offense to do well, the line has to do its job. And the first order of business to develop and master the mental picture of what the Giants like to do and from where they like to bring their pressure.
Dallas had great success throwing the ball down on the field on Sunday because the Cowboys gave quarterback Jon Kitna excellent protection and time to set up and throw the football to his outstanding group of receivers. The Eagles must do the same for Vick.
Now, it will be interesting to see how New York strategizes to go after Vick. Do they lay back and try to spy him, as Washington did? Or do they mix things up and try to create pressure and force the Eagles to make decisions to find the "hot" receivers? This will be a great chess match.
The Eagles certainly have it going offensively with Vick operating so well. He is clearly playing the best football of his NFL career and is very, very confident in the entire supporting crew here. Vick knows he can get the ball out and others will make plays.
Philadelphia ranks third in the NFL in running the football, its highest ranking this late in the season in years and years. The Eagles are getting a lot on the ground from Vick, and they are also getting it from LeSean McCoy and now Jerome Harrison. They have to keep the Giants honest and establish the line of scrimmage early on Sunday night.
**ARE THERE PERSONNEL CHANGES ON THE WAY?
Antonio Dixon remains the starter at defensive tackle with Brodrick Bunkley working in. The Eagles are rotating their defensive linemen nicely. The big question on defense is whether Dimitri Patterson retains the starting role at right cornerback, even with Ellis Hobbs healthy. A question here is whether the Eagles would move Hobbs to kickoff return duty to replace Jorrick Calvin, who struggled on Monday night, and leave Patterson in the starting role. He has done a superb job in his two starts.
Nate Allen is expected back at free safety, and Max Jean-Gilles should be ready to go at right offensive guard. The Eagles are as healthy as can be expected this late in the season.
Way down the list is this question, too: Will the Eagles keep safety Colt Anderson up for this game after he recorded five tackles on special teams on Monday night? Talk about making a good first impression ...
HOW WILL EAGLES DEAL WITH NEW YORK'S EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE?
It is a tall challenge for Sean McDermott and his crew this week. New York is as balanced and as explosive as any offense in the league. Eli Manning already has 19 touchdown passes (he also has 13 interceptions). Hakeem Nicks is a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver. The running back duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs is as good as it gets, and the offensive line, hit by injuries, is still outstanding.
New York may not have starting wide receiver Steve Smith, but there are plenty of weapons here. Manning is on the same page with his receivers. The Eagles must pressure Manning and hit him without giving up big plays on the back end. The first priority, though, is Bradshaw. He has emerged as a Pro Bowl force who has quickness and power. The Giants run an excellent scheme and are averaging more than 30 points per game in the last six weeks. This is a legit offense.
The defense has made strides. Big time. You wonder if McDermott would match up Asante Samuel with Nicks just a little bit more than usual, but that has never been the style of this defense. Patterson matches up better physically with Nicks than does Hobbs, but Hobbs has that veteran experience going against a young receiver.
A battle to watch is defensive end Trent Cole against left offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, the former Eagle. Andrews is playing well and at his best is a dominating offensive lineman. Cole is a Pro Bowl end. Should be a great, great on-field war.
WHAT ARE THE MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS TO DISCUSS?
I know what the fans and the talk shows are talking about: Michael Vick and his future here. Michael Vick as a Most Valuable Player candidate. The Eagles as Super Bowl contenders and why aren't they ranked higher in "power rankings."
From a team standpoint, who cares right now? But it is fun conversation, so here are my two cents ...
I don't know that there is a rush to sign Vick and keep him here for the next several years, but if history tells us anything, and it should, the Eagles keep the players they really want to keep, the players they think are playing at high levels, the players they think will continue to play at high levels for years to come. But I don't sense that either party is in a hurry to do anything now, as the Redskins did on Monday with Donovan McNabb. The Eagles love Vick and Vick loves the Eagles. That is a great place to be in this crazy world of the NFL right now.
- Vick as an MVP candidate? Absolutely. He has played the best at his position this season. But there are seven games remaining and we know how the league is a week-to-week proposition. Keep scoring 6 touchdowns a game and Vick will be a shoo-in ...
- Are the Eagles Super Bowl candidates? Not in November, they aren't. November is about winning games and positioning for a playoff appearance. It's just great that the Eagles are 6-3 and in control of their destiny. They have a tough, tough schedule ahead, featuring four games in the division, with a lot of national exposure and a lot of attention. This football team needs to continue to mature and focus and minimize mistakes. Anything beyond thinking that way is not worthwhile. The Eagles have accomplished nothing other than putting themselves in position to have success this season.