Eagles vs. Bolts Preview
San Diego, CA - Following yet another slow start, the San Diego Chargers have gotten on a roll.
It's hard to figure which direction the Philadelphia Eagles are headed.
Philadelphia failed to build off an uplifting win over the reigning NFC East champions and now looks to send San Diego to the same fate Sunday when these division title hopefuls meet at Qualcomm Stadium.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Chargers -1 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 57% of bets for this game have been placed on the Chargers -1 (View NFL bet percentages).
The Chargers (5-3) are going after a fourth consecutive AFC West crown and fifth in six years despite consistently struggling out of the gate. They've had a winning record through six games only once in that span (2006).
They opened 2-3 this year but have since won three in a row and the latest victory may have been their most impressive, rallying past the New York Giants 21-20 last Sunday. Philip Rivers led an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his 18-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with 21 seconds to play.
"I think it will carry over into this week, something we can build on as we prepare for another really tough NFC East opponent," said Rivers, who had three TD passes for the third time in five weeks.
It was the fourth time in 13 games, including a playoff win over Indianapolis, that Rivers engineered a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
"He's calm and confident and that just rubs off on everyone else," said Jackson, who had five TD catches in the last four games and is tied for the league lead with seven.
While the Chargers have pulled within one game of Denver for the division lead behind the passing game, their ground attack continues to stumble.
San Diego is averaging a league-low 3.1 yards per carry and is the only team that has not rushed for 600 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson had 22 yards on 12 carries last Sunday and it appears more and more that his carries are merely to set up the play-action passing game.
"We've still got a ton of room for improvement," Rivers said.
So do the Eagles (5-3).
They opened 3-1 before a stunning loss to lowly Oakland. They appeared to be back on the right track with a 40-17 rout of the Giants on Nov. 1, but a 20-16 home loss to archrival Dallas last Sunday night dropped them out of the NFC East lead.
"We have to eliminate mistakes," said Donovan McNabb, who had two interceptions after throwing only one all season. "We have to have short-term memory and just move on and be able to erase what happened."
McNabb might benefit from the return of Brian Westbrook, who missed the last two games due to post-concussion symptoms. San Diego is 26th in the league against the run, allowing 130.1 yards per game.
The Eagles went 1-8-1 in their last 10 games decided by seven points or less, including a 32-25 defeat at Arizona in the NFC championship game. Their five victories this year have been by an average of 20.0 points.
"That's a pretty good stat," coach Andy Reid said of the record in close games. "I don't know if there is a link other than that stat. I don't see a tightness, or pressing in the fourth quarter. I haven't seen that. On the other side, maybe we're trying too hard, because I see a maximum effort out there."
The Chargers have won five of their last six games decided by eight points or less.
Their defense, particularly against the pass, has keyed the recent surge. San Diego totaled five sacks in three consecutive weeks - linebacker Shaun Phillips had five in that span - while allowing a total of 351 passing yards.
"We've got to put down our foot right now," said Shawne Merriman, who had two sacks in each of the last two games. "If we put down our foot right now, we're going to be in pretty good shape."
Merriman and Phillips have been impressive at a position where Philadelphia is very thin.
Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither are out for the season, fellow starter Chris Gocong could miss a second straight game with a hamstring injury and Akeem Jordan may sit out after hyperextending his knee Sunday night.
The Eagles have lost all four visits to San Diego since winning their initial trip in 1974. The Chargers lost 20-17 at Philadelphia in 2005 in the last meeting.
Posted: 11/11/09 4:34PM ET