|NFL Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 08:45|
A pair of playoff teams from last season off to very disappointing starts meet at the Meadowlands when the Eagles face the Jets.
Though New York (1-4) is at home for this matchup, Philadelphia (1-3) has the benefit of coming off a bye week - coach Andy Reid is 8-0 after a bye - and the Eagles are 7-0 all-time versus the Jets.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Philadelphia -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 42 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 72% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Philadelphia won the NFC East last year after going 10-6, the same record New York had en route to a wild-card berth. Both teams will have trouble reaching double digits in wins this year, with the Eagles off to their worst start since opening 0-4 in 1999 - Reid's first season as coach - and the Jets trying to avoid their worst since that season.
"Some good teams are not playing good football right now," Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook said. "The really good teams will come back from a slow start and make it up. That's what our plan is."
A scheduling quirk has the Eagles making the two-hour drive to Giants Stadium for the second straight game, and the first one was among the ugliest during Reid's tenure. Philadelphia gave up a league record-tying 12 sacks, was held to 190 yards of offense and committed 15 penalties in a 16-3 loss to the Giants on Sept. 30.
The Jets blew a 10-point lead to the Giants last Sunday in a 35-24 defeat as Chad Pennington threw three interceptions, the last of which was returned for a touchdown with 3:15 to play.
"It's frustrating," Pennington said. "And believe me, it makes you sick to your stomach."
The inconsistent play by Pennington and Donovan McNabb have been major problems, but the Jets signal-caller has been hurt by the lack of a running game and the Eagles star has suffered from a lack of protection.
McNabb is going against a New York defense with only three sacks all season, third-fewest in the NFL. Then again, the Giants went into their game against Philadelphia with only four sacks through three games.
The Eagles could be plugging a big hole this week if left tackle William Thomas is ready to return after sitting out the Giants game with a knee injury. His replacement, rookie Winston Justice, was beaten for six sacks by New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Reid was criticized for not giving Justice more help in blocking Umenyiora, and it's not the first time this season his decision-making has been called in to question. He chose to enter the season without an experienced punt returner, and two muffed punts in the season opener cost the Eagles in a 16-13 loss to Green Bay.
"It's a long season and we've got a lot of road ahead of us," Reid said. "We need to buckle down and get ourselves right. Sometimes when you step away, you come back a little bit stronger and that's what I expect our guys to do."
Jets coach Eric Mangini also is enduring his share of criticism.
His offense has been accused of being too conservative with play-calling and not giving enough carries to offseason acquisition Thomas Jones - he's had 25 over the last two games. Mangini's 3-4 base defensive scheme continues to be scrutinized, with New York giving up an average of 27.6 points to rank 27th in the NFL and 127.6 rushing yards per game to rank 25th.
"Each person is accountable," Mangini said. "Players and coaches are accountable. Everybody can do things better and everybody should be disappointed."
While the Jets can't get their ground game going behind Jones - he's been held to 71 yards over the last two weeks - the Eagles might want to rely more on theirs.
Philadelphia has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of its four games and is averaging 4.8 per carry, tied for fourth-best in the league. Plus, Westbrook could return after missing the Giants game with an abdominal injury and he had been off to a strong start with 291 yards rushing, 223 receiving and three touchdowns.
Westbrook, tight end L.J. Smith (groin) and cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee) returned to practice this week, but Thomas, guard Todd Herremans (knee) and safety Brian Dawkins (neck) still are not practicing. It remains uncertain how many of those starters will play Sunday.
The Eagles defense is facing a Jets team which is fourth-worst in the league in total offense (282.2 ypg) and rushing (77.0 ypg). New York is averaging 3.0 yards per carry to rank second-to-last.
"We've had some miscommunications on a lot of different plays, and that's football," Jones said. "It's going to be like that. You just have to keep plugging and keep going and work to continue to get better."
By: Staci Richards - theSpread.com - Email Us
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