|Eagles go to Foxborough trying to figure out some way to win|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 19:11|
It's made worse by the fact quarterback Donovan McNabb has a sprained ankle and a swollen right thumb, likely leaving journeyman backup A.J. Feeley to be served up.
It's probably best that McNabb save himself for the final push. Even at 5-5, the Eagles have a shot at the playoffs in the NFC, where they are tied with the Redskins and Cardinals just out of playoff range.
Still, they can't officially give up even as 22-point underdogs, the second-largest spread in NFL history. The spread makes sense: New England has outscored its opponents in 10 wins by an average of 41-16, and only once has won by less than 17 points.
``Every team can be beaten, that's a given,'' says Brian Dawkins, who has been one of the league's best safeties for a decade. ``There's no team that's played the game that can't be beaten.''
This is the first meeting of these teams since the 2005 Super Bowl, won by New England 24-21. There are 17 Patriots and 14 Eagles left from that game.
These Eagles aren't those Eagles - McNabb is hobbled and Terrell Owens is in Dallas.
The Patriots, who can clinch the AFC East with a win, might be one of the best teams ever. Tom Brady and new addition Randy Moss are in reach of season records for touchdown passes and catches held by Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice.
Even Brett Favre, whose Packers are playing as well as they have in a decade, is awed.
``Unbelievable isn't it?'' he said this week. ``I don't see that changing. The only one who beats the Patriots are the Patriots themselves. ... It's not a knock against anyone. I just find it hard for anyone to beat them. Tom Brady's statistics are off the charts. I just think that he is playing the quarterback position as well as it has ever been played.''
In last week's 56-10 win over Buffalo, a team that had won four straight, New England scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions, then returned a fumble for the eighth score. Bill Belichick finally inserted the scrubs with about 11 minutes left, but not before twice going for a first down on fourth-and-1, leading Buffalo fans to chant obscenities.
Belichick was asked about that this week.
``I mean, our offense was moving the ball pretty well and in those situations at that point in the game, I really don't like kicking field goals,'' he replied. ``I feel like that's just adding points. I'd rather go for it on fourth down and give them an opportunity to stop us ...''
The problem is that nobody can.
The weekend started with three Thanksgiving games.
The Packers (10-1) took a four-game lead in the NFC North with a 37-26 win over the Lions (6-5) in Detroit.
The Cowboys (10-1), who will host the Packers in a key NFC showdown next Thursday, dominated the Jets (2-9) in a 34-3 victory.
The injury-riddled Colts (9-2) will have 10 days off to get healthy after rolling past the Falcons (3-7) in a 31-13 win.
In other Sunday games, Seattle is at St. Louis; Minnesota at the New York Giants; Oakland at Kansas City; Houston at Cleveland; Tennessee at Cincinnati; New Orleans at Carolina; Washington at Tampa Bay; Buffalo at Jacksonville; San Francisco at Arizona; Denver at Chicago; and Baltimore at San Diego.
Miami is at Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Buffalo (5-5) at Jacksonville (7-3)
While the Colts have been stumbling, the Jaguars have won three of four. If they win this game, they will be no worse than a game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South when they go there next week.
The bad news is that middle linebacker Mike Peterson broke his right hand in last week's 24-17 win over San Diego and could miss the rest of the season. The Bills had won four in a row until they ran into the Patriots last Sunday night.
``We do get added motivation because of the way we lost. So we're going to have some regrouping around here,'' safety Donte Whitner said.
Washington (5-5) at Tampa Bay (6-4)
The Redskins came close to winning last week in Dallas. Jason Campbell threw for a career-high 348 yards in a 28-23 defeat, but also had a costly interception in what might have been a game-winning drive.
Tampa Bay has little competition in the NFC South, where it leads by two games over New Orleans and Carolina, two of the NFL's biggest disappointments. Still, Jon Gruden thinks his team is no surprise despite a 4-12 mark last season.
``We won 11 games two years ago,'' he says. ``It's not like we've been flushed down the toilet forever. We had a bad year last year for a lot of reasons.''
Miami (0-10) at Pittsburgh (7-3) (Monday night)
The Dolphins continue their own run at history with rookie John Beck making his second start at quarterback. The only winless team since 1970 was the 0-14 Bucs in 1976 and they were an expansion team.
This is an unlikely spot to end the streak. The Steelers are 5-0 at home and are angry after losing in overtime to the Jets. In the process, they allowed seven sacks to a team that had gotten just nine all season.
``We played totally out of character,'' Hines Ward said.
Denver (5-5) at Chicago (4-6)
The Broncos are tied for the lead in the weak AFC West after beating Tennessee at home Monday night with big plays from unlikely players. Glenn Martinez, signed off the practice squad in September, returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. Andre Hall - ``our last tailback,'' according to coach Mike Shanahan - ran 62 yards for a TD.
The Bears, way back in the NFC playoff race, continued a disappointing post-Super Bowl season by losing in Seattle when Rex Grossman, who played well until then, fumbled on what could have been a tying drive. Their season isn't so surprising, because most Super Bowl losers this decade have fallen the next year.
Minnesota (4-6) at New York Giants (7-3)
The Giants put themselves in prime position for a wild-card spot by winning in Detroit. But they lost linebacker Matthias Kiwanuka for the season with a broken leg and running back Brandon Jacobs with a hamstring pull. Reuben Droughns and little-used rookie Ahmad Bradshaw will be the primary running backs.
With Adrian Peterson out, Chester Taylor ran for 164 yards in a 29-22 win over the Raiders. But coach Brad Childress doesn't seem to expect much this week. ``You don't get to play them all at home. You don't get to play them all against the Oakland Raiders,'' he says.
Baltimore (4-6) at San Diego (5-5)
This should be a Thanksgiving game because these are probably the NFL's two biggest turkeys: the Chargers were 14-2 and the Ravens 13-3 in 2006. Both had strange games last week.
The Chargers' Shawne Merriman, who led the league with 17 sacks last year, was knocked down by the Jaguars' 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew and questioned his team's commitment after the game, although he later retracted the comments.
The Ravens thought they had beaten Cleveland and went to the locker room, then had to come back on to the field when Phil Dawson's tying field-goal attempt was found to have bounced off the goalpost support and was ruled good. They lost in overtime.
Seattle (6-4) at St. Louis (2-8)
Maybe the injury-ravaged Rams, who lost their first eight games, can win the final eight, which would get them to .500 in a division where that might win. But they need a victory here against a team that beat them 33-6 in Seattle.
The Seahawks have been decent in beating the 49ers and Bears with their new pass-based offense. Maurice Morris rushed for 87 yards in each of those wins in place of Shaun Alexander.
Tennessee (6-4) at Cincinnati (3-7)
`I'm not going to dwell on it. If I get more information, I'll deal with it in-house.''
The Bengals know all about those sorts of distractions. They haven't had them this season. But neither do they have many wins.
Houston (5-5) at Cleveland (6-4)
Feel good for the Browns, who are in playoff contention despite allowing a league-high 294 points. After awful luck the last few years, including injuries, they're getting the breaks this season, such as Dawson's weird tying field goal at Baltimore.
Houston probably is out of the playoff race. But last week's win over New Orleans demonstrated what might have been if the Texans had Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson all season. Johnson had six catches for 120 yards, including a 73-yarder for a TD in his first game back after seven games out with a knee injury.
San Francisco (2-8) at Arizona (5-5)
The Cardinals are moving toward the top of the NFC West. They have a relatively soft finishing schedule and Kurt Warner is holding up despite torn ligaments in his left elbow. And if they can't catch the Seahawks, they have a decent shot at a wild card.
San Francisco had ambitions at the start of the season. But it's lost eight straight after two wins to start the schedule, including over the Cardinals in the opener. This week, Mike Nolan hired Ted Tollner to help the offense, hardly a vote of confidence in first-year coordinator Jim Hostler.
New Orleans (4-6) at Carolina (4-6)
Two of the NFL's most disappointing teams, especially the Saints, who had Super Bowl hopes after reaching the NFC championship game last season. It looked like they were on track when they won four straight after losing their first four games. In the loss to Houston last week, they squandered two scoring chances with turnovers and another with a penalty.
Carolina is 0-4 at home. One problem is QB, where Jake Delhomme was lost early and Vinny Testaverde and David Carr aren't the answer. Delhomme's passer rating was 111.8. Testaverde (69.8) and Carr (65.7) barely get there combined.
Oakland (2-8) at Kansas City (4-6)
The Chiefs put forth a nice effort in Indianapolis, but are hampered by their lack of offense, made worse by the retirement of Priest Holmes this week. That leaves Kansas City with Kolby Smith, who wasn't even a full-timer in college, as the starting running back.
The Raiders squandered several chances in Minnesota and were demeaned afterward by Brad Childress, the Vikings' second-year coach, who said: ``You don't get to play them all against the Raiders.''