CHICAGO --How can the Eagles start fast in a game that means so much? Onsides kick, anyone? A gadget play or two. Donovan McNabb coming out firing the football? Whatever the Eagles can do to jump-start the offense, they need to do it. Can't fall behind and come from behind. No more disconnects for three quarters.
Here are some of the things to look for tonight as I watch the pre-game warmups and the buzz begins to build at Soldier Field ...
- Stacy Andrews inactive after starting last week? Very disappointing, but not necessarily surprising. I still have high hopes for Andrews, but it certainly would take a huge turnaround to have him contribute much this season. When you look at what the Eagles hoped to accomplish heading into the season and think about those spots that didn't work out the way the Eagles wanted, the right side of the offensive line is at the top of the list. No Shawn Andrews at right tackle all season. Nothing much at all from Stacy Andrews.
- Did you really have a doubt that Sheldon Brown would play in this game? He is an ironman, a gamer. He is a player who you count on each week, and the Eagles need more players like him. I think, in retrospect, it was time to replace Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan at the offensive tackle spots. But what they gave was a burning desire to play every week. They were true professionals. I am wondering how many of those kinds of players this team has right now. With all of the youth, there are still questions.
- My over/under for Michael Vick tonight is 10 plays. I think he is going to be a factor as a Wildcat quarterback. I'm not sure what role he will play, but the sneaking feeling is that Vick is going to have his most active role of the season. Of course, the Eagles have to sustain drives for that to happen.
- What's going to change in the red zone? I say the Eagles run the ball a little bit more and I think they will use the presence of Jason Peters there. Look for the Eagles to run left. Just a guess.
- From all of the pre-game chatter, Joe Mays is going to start at middle linebacker. Good for him. Mays struggled mentally in the preseason and early in the season when he played, so we will see how far he has come. I know this: Mays has been blowing people up on special teams. The Eagles are hoping this game is the hump for Mays to get over and become a good linebacker in this league.
- Big, big test for the special teams against Chicago's excellent group. I think Sav Rocca will average about 35 yards gross per punt and either kick everything out of bounds or hang everything up for a fair catch. No way Devin Hester has a chance to return a punt. Won't you be holding your breath if he has room to run?
- Here is hoping that Macho Harris holds on to the football returning kickoffs. I think he has the north-south speed to break one, but he has to absorb some hits against this Bears coverage group.
- Great weather for game time: 48 degrees with light winds. Good night to throw the football.
- If I'm Sean McDermott, I'm blitzing Jay Cutler constantly, and I'm double-teaming tight end Greg Olsen. I like Asante Samuel and Brown in coverage against the Chicago wide receivers.
- This is a huge spot for Will Witherspoon. The Eagles cannot allow Cutler to check down to running back Matt Forte all game long. Stuff the line of scrimmage and play coverage.
- My over/under for touches for running back LeSean McCoy: 22. I'm looking at 18 carries and 4 receptions.