Showdown in Philly
Philadelphia, PA - It's no time to celebrate for Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles.
An unpleasant Thanksgiving in Philadelphia could await McNabb, two days after his birthday and four days after being benched for the first time in his career, if he struggles again and the Eagles can't prevent the Cardinals from clinching the NFC West.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Eagles -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Thursday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Eagles -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Coach Andy Reid, also a target of Eagles fans' ire with their team in the NFC East basement, announced Monday he will keep McNabb as the starter despite sitting the four-time Pro Bowler in the second half of Sunday's 36-7 loss at Baltimore.
"As I sit here right now, he's my starting quarterback," Reid said Monday. "I need to coach better. Donovan needs to play better and the guys around Donovan need to play better."
McNabb was 8-of-18 for 59 yards with two interceptions for a 13.2 quarterback rating, the second-worst of his career. A week earlier in a 17-17 tie against lowly Cincinnati, he had three interceptions and was widely criticized for admitting he was unaware an NFL game could end in a tie.
He has seven turnovers in his last six quarters and has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in three straight games as the Eagles have gone 0-2-1.
"I don't think it's Father Time," McNabb said Tuesday on his 32nd birthday. "I mean, you look at what Kerry Collins and Brett (Favre) and Kurt Warner and those guys are doing. ... You go through some droughts.
"What I have to do is just make sure that I kinda do the right things coming into Thursday's game playing against a tough Arizona team. Take care of the football, get us in great position to score points."
The Eagles (5-5-1) appear likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years since McNabb led them to the Super Bowl and four straight NFC championship games. Since McNabb and Reid joined Philadelphia in 1999 and went 5-11, the team has had only one other losing season.
Reid said going back to McNabb has nothing to do with backup Kevin Kolb, the Eagles' first pick in the 2007 draft, failing to jump-start the offense Sunday as he went 10-of-23 for 73 yards with two interceptions.
"I wouldn't even look at it like I'm on a short leash. I don't think that's a way of looking at it," McNabb said.
However, since Kolb may be the heir apparent and Philadelphia may be on the verge of rebuilding, McNabb could be taking the field as more of an audition for potential suitors because the Eagles might want to rid themselves of his $9.2 million salary for next season.
"When you play a game like this, you don't focus on your future," he said after Sunday's contest. "You just focus on trying to win the game. At this present time, I'm not even thinking about what happens when the season is over."
He could end up with a new team looking for revival similar to what Warner has undergone with Arizona (7-4).
The NFC leader with a 102.4 passer rating, Warner has led the Cardinals to within one win of their first division title since 1975, when they were in St. Louis and played in the NFC East.
Arizona missed a chance to clinch Sunday, but might not have been overly discouraged by a 37-29 loss to the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions who share the league's best record.
"They're a good defense and we matched up with them very well and went toe to toe with them for 60 minutes," Warner said. "Of course, you never want to go away a loser and that part is disappointing. ... If we eliminate some of the mistakes we can play with anybody in the league."
The 37-year-old Warner threw for more than 300 yards for a fifth straight game, but was knocked around by the Giants defense and now only gets three days' rest between games.
Teams that have taken cross-country flights for games on the East Coast - including to Pittsburgh and Buffalo - are 0-14 this year. The long trip makes it an even shorter week for the Cardinals, who have lost nine consecutive games on the East Coast since winning at Miami on Nov. 7, 2004.
"I'd always rather play at Sunday noon, certainly no Thanksgiving at 8 (p.m.). That definitely wouldn't be my chosen time," Warner said, "but this is kind of one of those novelty things that's always fun. You know everybody's sitting back watching."
The short week and an unfamiliar opponent - Arizona hasn't played the Eagles since 2005 - make the challenge greater for second-year coach Ken Whisenhunt.
He might need to find more balance from an offense which has been held to a total of 145 rushing yards on 58 attempts over the last three weeks, including 23 yards on 15 carries versus the Giants.
"A big question mark will be answered as to how we respond to this," Whisenhunt said. "I see us growing and hopefully this will be another step that we take toward doing that."
The Eagles run defense has surrendered an average of 126.0 yards over the last seven games.
Philadelphia's own running game has been poor as well. Brian Westbrook has rushed for 186 yards over the last four games, averaging 3.0 per carry, and it's unclear if he is back at full strength after missing time with ankle and rib injuries.
"We're not very effective right now, and it's not all because of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb," Westbrook said. "There are a lot of other guys on the offense who need to play better. We have to find a way to win."
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
ARIZONA is 11-10 against the spread versus PHILADELPHIA since 1992
PHILADELPHIA is 12-10 straight up against ARIZONA since 1992
13 of 21 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period
All games played at PHILADELPHIA since 1992
PHILADELPHIA is 5-5 against the spread versus ARIZONA since 1992
PHILADELPHIA is 8-3 straight up against ARIZONA since 1992
6 of 10 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[TE] Ben Patrick missed last game, "?" - Knee - 11/16/08
[DB] Roderick Hood injured last game, "?" - Ribs - 11/17/08
[LB] Ali Highsmith IR - Knee - 11/03/08
[OG] Shawn Andrews is out at least 6 weeks. - Back - 10/22/08
[S] Brian Dawkins injured last game, "?" - Leg - 11/18/08
[CB] Jack Ikegwuonu IR - Knee - 08/27/08
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Posted: 11/25/08 9:47AM ET