EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The theories are many. Change the formations. Use a trick play. Find something to get the running game on track ... or else the Jets are going to dominate the line of scrimmage today at MetLife Stadium.
The stadium is starting to come to life. It's going to be a New York kind of life here with the Jets fans in love with their 2-0 team and Eagles fans understanding that 0-2 is as far as it can go for a team with deep playoff aspirations.
So how do the Eagles win today? Some thoughts on a Sunday where so much matters ...
- Najee Goode and Jordan Hicks are going to see big-time reps today, and their challenge will be standing up to a physical New York running game. It's a north-south attack, nothing fancy, and it's physical. The Eagles are going to be challenged inside with some injuries along the defensive line -- no Cedric Thornton and no Taylor Hart -- and with Kiko Alonso out and Mychal Kendricks very questionable (as I write this, the official inactive list has not been submitted). The Eagles must be stout inside. DeMeco Ryans, who is still not fully recovered physically, has to lead the way.
- Eric Decker is out today and the Jets are going to miss him and backup Chris Owusu, so rookie Devin Smith gets the start opposite Brandon Marshall. The focus defensively in the passing game has to be on Marshall and the running backs, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Tight end Jeff Cumberland is not special, so you figure the Eagles can commit to stopping the running game and paying some extra attention to Marshall. Make sense? You know it's never that easy, of course.
- Zach Ertz has to be a major factor in this game. We're waiting for his breakout season. He's a huge talent. The Eagles may be able to hurt New York in the middle of the field, so Ertz has to be a part of things. Ertz has 6 catches for 63 yards in two games. Is this the week he breaks out?
- Josh Huff is questionable with a hamstring injury suffered on Saturday in training. Not a good sign for a second-year receiver who is trying to gain some traction. The Eagles have a huge challenge at wide receiver working against the Jets secondary. Good game for Nelson Agholor to take his next step, and he's going to see a lot of man coverage, a lot of press at the line of scrimmage and he needs to wriggle free and find some space.
- Where are the weaknesses with a Jets defense that's allowing 8.5 points per game? It has to be the middle of the field. Buster Skrine is a talented cornerback and he's tough and he's going to be tough for Jordan Matthews, but Skrine is 5 feet 9 and Matthews is 6-3. The Eagles need to take advantage of that.
- Big day for the special teams. Darren Sproles is averaging just 9 yards in the punt return game and Huff has one kickoff return for 21 yards. It's just a feeling, but today could be the day. Boy, would it be welcome. This has all the makings of a low-scoring game and a special teams win could be the difference for the Eagles.
- Ryan Mathews has 4 rushing yards on 4 carries. DeMarco Murray has 21 rushing attempts and 11 yards. This is not a misprint. This is the truth after two weeks of the regular season. The Eagles are going to run the ball today -- they have to establish something -- and the critical area of the red zone is where the Eagles need to have their most success. There, and on first down. The Eagles have been unsuccessful on first down in two games. Can't have a lot of second-and-long situations against this defense.
- Look out for Devin Smith down the field. The Eagles can't let him get over the top of the defense. He was a big-play machine in college. Smith is pure speed.
- Critical game for Sam Bradford from a big-picture standpoint. He's going to see some heat, no matter what the Eagles do in terms of protection. The Eagles can get the ball out of Bradford's hands as quickly as possible, but the Jets are going to play suffocating defense in the box. Can the Eagles push the ball down the field?