The Philadelphia Eagles are the lucky hosts of Thursday Night Football, when the Houston Texans visit Lincoln Financial Field. This week 13 match up is going to be an all out fight as both teams are trying to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
The Eagles are coming into this match up after a tough loss to the Chicago Bears on the road, dropping their record to (7-4). This loss now puts the Eagles back at a tie for first place in the NFC East, with the New York Giants winning their last game. The Eagles are going to be playing to stay atop the NFC East and keep their record tied with the Giants. This could possibly be the playoff make-it-or-break-it game for the Eagles and their postseason hopes.
The Texans enter the game with a huge shutout win over their AFC South rival, the Tennessee Titans. Although the Texans only have a (5-6) record they are still in the playoff race, only one game behind the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars. This is going to be a huge game if the Texans want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both of these teams have huge implications riding on this game and it is going to be huge if they plan on making a trip to the postseason.
Here are five keys to the Eagles beating the Texans on Thursday Night Football:
5. The Offensive Line Must Improve
The Eagles offensive line against the Bears last week was awful. There is really no other way to put it. The line was able to hold up against the tough Giants defense, but when they played Chicago it was like they weren’t even there.
Michael Vick was under pressure on every single play and was forced to look for the nearest receiver just to avoid the sack. Most of these passes ended up going for short yards or just a quick incompletion. Vick is a QB that can burn defenses if he has time, and it is a big part of the Eagles passing offense.
The person that was most effected by the poor offensive line play was LeSean McCoy. McCoy would get the ball in his hands and he would have two or three defenders in his face. There is no way a running back will be able to succeed when he doesn’t have time to look down field and find his hole. McCoy can be a real threat for defenses, but he is useless if can’t get any blocking.
Vick was sacked four times in his last game. That is four sacks on the most elusive QB in the entire NFL and that shows how poor the offensive line play was. McCoy had several rushes where he was stopped in the backfield and was unable to get anything going.
This may have been against a good Bears defense, but the line has to do a better job of blocking for Vick and setting up holes for McCoy.
4. Score Touchdowns and Not Field Goals
The Eagles offense has struggled over the past two games with scoring touchdowns, and have just been settling for field goals. The Eagles seem to have good drives going, and as soon as they get into field goal range their offense just stops.
It ranges from struggling on third downs, penalties, all the way to dropped passes. The Eagles and Michael Vick need to start scoring the touchdown and not just walking away with field goals. In the Eagles last two games, both against quality defenses, the Eagles have scored 24 points off of field goals.
David Akers may be automatic and a great kicker, but I would really only like to see him on the field for extra points.
It may be the play calling in the red zone, but that is why you have playmakers. I have a saying that goes like this- ‘Even if the play calling sucks, that’s why you draft playmakers.” I am waiting for DeSean Jackson to step it up and make some big plays. Same thing with Jeremy Maclin.
There is no excuse for why Vick and this Eagles offense should not be getting into the end zone. There is just way to much talent and way to much speed for the Eagles to be going for four field goals a game.
Maybe Vick outscored himself in that Redskins game and still has a touchdown hangover?
3. Stop Arian Foster
I’m really glad to see a player like Arian Foster continue his success in the NFL and become one of the truly dangerous RB’s in the NFL. I think this guy deserves to go to the Pro Bowl and continue to advance his game. I just don’t want him to do any of these things against the Eagles.
I promised that after the Eagles stopped Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones Drew, that I would never put a RB down on one of the keys to success again. That was until the Eagles defense was ran over by Matt Forte.
If Forte was able to tear up the Eagles, imagine what a RB like Foster could do? I know that if the Eagles allow Foster to run like they did to Forte, the Eagles will lose this game.
The Texans passing game is too good, to allow their running game to get moving would end in a quick loss for the Eagles. Foster can get moving on the ground and move the ball in big chunks down the field, but then the Texans can run the play action. Play action is what is going to kill the Eagles defense.
The Eagles defense needs to make big hits and not allow Foster to get moving. This is a great chance for the defense to redeem themselves after a terrible performance last game.
The good news- Forte was a big RB. Foster is much smaller. I’m thinking even if Stewart Bradley still can’t tackle, he can just fall on top of Foster to stop him or slow him down.
Actually, Bradley will just miss the timing and allow Foster to score. That sounds more accurate.
2. Double Cover Andre Johnson
I am not happy with how Rodger Goodell handled the Andre Johnson’s boxing match with the Titans. Johnson was able to continue to play without suspension and was simply handed a relatively small fine of $25K. Although, that is easy for me to say as an Eagles fan that has to play against Johnson next week.
The Eagles are now forced to match up with arguably the best receiver in the entire NFL, when they have an injured and delpleted secondary. It looks like Johnson’s, and his fantasy owners, Christmas has come early and he is looking to have a huge game.
With Asante Samuel out with a knee injury and Ellis Hobbs done for the season, it falls on one unlucky backup to cover Johnson. The issue with Johnson is that he is a physical receiver and has the ability to catch the ball even with a corner in his face and pressure from the defender.
So this means that the Eagles defense is going to have to double cover him with one of their safeties over the top. It will either be Quentin Mikell or Nate Allen providing the support for whoever gets matched up with Johnson.
Both safeties have some positives and some negatives. Allen is an athletic safety that you want playing if you are going for interceptions and big plays. A rookie that has shown excellent potential and could be one of the best in the NFL in a few seasons.
Mikell is more of a power safety that can make big receivers like Johnson drop the ball, just from his hit on the receiver. This is the type of player that you want matched up on Johnson, mainly because Johnson is great on jump balls and rarely allows an interception on a pass thrown to him. Also Mikell’s experience is going to be a big factor in covering a receiver like Johnson.
Mikell is the better choice and, I’m guessing Dimitri Patterson will be starting against Johnson, will need all of the help that he can get.
1. Get Pressure On Matt Schaub
The biggest issue with the Eagles defense in their last game was that they gave Jay Cutler all day to throw the ball. I think anyone in the NFL could make throws and post up huge numbers like Cutler did if they are given time to throw the ball. That is, everyone except Matt Leinart.
But really, the Eagles defense did a great job this season of getting to the QB and forcing bad throws and I’m not sure what changed when they played the Bears. The defense needs to get back into a groove of finding lanes to the QB and getting him on the ground.
If the Eagles can get some pressure on Schaub, maybe they can force some turnovers. Whether or not Asante Samuel is playing, I’m hoping that with added pressure the Eagles defense will be able to at least get one interception.
Schaub is a good QB and he has one of the best receivers to throw to, making it hard to slow down this Texans passing offense. But, in the NFL there is one sure way to stop the passing game- Get the QB on the ground.
The Eagles have shown in past games that they are able to get some serious pressure on QB’s and this game against the Texans should be a great chance to establish their dominance once again. The Eagles have a good defensive line and they need to prove that they are as good as the hype surrounding them.
Where has Trent Cole been? I didn’t here his name at all last week? Hey Trent- Your our playmaker on the D-Line. Now prove it.
The Eagles may have just come off of a tough loss on the road, but they are back in the Linc and that means trouble for any visiting team. Not to mention the Eagles this season have looked great in front of national audiences.
I expect the Eagles to get back on a roll, and reignite that fire.
The Texans may have been shutout winners last week, but they were playing against a disorganized and unprepared Titans team. The Texans have had some close games, but I don’t know how serious of contenders they are. They are located in a surprisingly weak division this season, and it seems like every team has been struggling.
This is going to be a close game, but I think that the Texans poor secondary is going to catch up to them and the Eagles are going to be able to pull it out. However, the Texans will put up a good fight over the Eagles defense and the game will be decided in the 4th quarter.
My Prediction: Texans- 28 Eagles- 31
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