McNabb, Blitzing and the Point Spread
The Patriots resume play against the NFC East on Sunday. New England has already beaten Dallas and Washington. Today, Jason from Bleeding Green Nation helps us preview the game.
tommasse: A few weeks ago in the wake of the videotape scandal, some Eagles players were saying they should get Super Bowl rings. Has there been any talk about that in the last couple weeks?
Jason: It seemed to me that those Eagles players were kinda being tongue in cheek there... but either way I haven't heard anyone bring it up again.
Back when that whole thing broke, just for fun(since it wouldn't/shouldn't happen anyway) we talked on the blog about whether we'd actually want a ring or not and my conclusion that was that it wouldn't really mean anything to get one after the fact. You want to win on the field, you want that moment of glory when the game ends, you want the parade. To get awarded a ring a couple years later would just be pointless and empty.
tommasse: I like the questions you pose whether the Eagles are better without Donovan McNabb or whether Andy Reid would be a better coach without McNabb. What do you think? Did the Eagles trade the wrong guy after 2006? Who would you rather see play (McNabb or A.J. Feeley) considering McNabb's ankle injury?
Jason: Yeah, I think if you look at the numbers from most games where McNabb hasn't played you'll see how much the Eagles offense changes. The pass/run ratio is much more balanced, if not slanted to the run a bit... With McNabb in, it's usually 60/40 pass/rush. In the past, when McNabb has been healthy and playing better the pass happy offense has worked, but this year he just hasn't been able to re-capture that magic. I'd love to see Reid take the pressure off him and run the ball like he does when Jeff Garcia or A.J. Feeley run the offense, but Andy has never shown he'll do that.
If McNabb is healthy enough to go I'd rather see him play this weekend. However, if that ankle is swlled up and slowing him down more, I'd rather see A.J. Feeley than an even further injured McNabb. He hasn't really gotten over his knee injury yet, so the last thing he needs is to be out there playing even more hurt. Plus, A.J. has proven he can run this offense and at least be pretty effective at managing a game.
tommasse: Is Brian Westbrook enough to put up points against the Patriots defense? What does the Eagles offense need to do?
Jason: I think he'll be able to do some things against the Pats defense. He's always the focus of any opposing defense and yet he stills continues to produce week in and week out. Whether he and the Eagles offense can do enough to match the Pats offense... well that's another story. Against a team where you can put up 20+ points and still get blown out, it's hard to ask your offense to match theirs.
An interesting idea was floated on the blog this week about how to combat the Pats offense with your own offense that I think makes some sense. Don't punt. At least not if you're anywhere but inside your own 40 or so. Anytime your offense reaches around midfield, I say play with all 4 downs. The fact is that the pats offense scores on almost every possession, so what's the difference if you give them the ball on their 20 or at midfield? Why not just go for it on 4th downs and try to not only keep you guys off the field but put up more points of our own? Just think how your play-calling would change and how open the playbook could be if you knew you were playing with 4 downs?
Of course, Andy Reid would never do this... but I thought it was an interesting idea.
tommasse: Tell me about Philadelphia's defense and how they can slow down or stop New England.
Jason: Well, they love to blitz and leave their secondary out to play pretty straight up... So if they stick to what they've been doing for most of the past 8 or 9 years expect them to come after Brady and not play too much prevent in the secondary. Honestly, I want them to just stick with their base defense in this game. I think some people have overthought themselves when facing the Pats. Whether it's by blitzing more often than they normally do, or playing their safeties deeper than normal... I think the easiest way to get yourself blown out is to stop doing what you've been doing all year. It shouldn't matter how good the Pats are, the reason a team runs a specific defense is because it's what they think works best. Why change it? You spent years installing the defense and building it around your personel... Stick with it and let your guys give it their best shot.
As for how they've been playing this year... They've struggled in coverage at times, had an inconsistent pass rush that either gets sacks in bunches or creates little pressure all game, but they've been consistently stout against the run. If I had to say one area where I feel pretty good about our chances in this game, it would be stopping the Pats on the ground.
tommasse: What do you think of the ludicrous point spread? Will the Eagles cover? Might they even win? And how does playing in Foxboro in prime time impact that?
Jason: Well it's an obvious reflection of how desperate bookies are to get money against the Pats. That Patriots win and cover every week, so it's really been easy money for bettors. At least with a 23.5 point spread, you may have to think twice about betting on the Pats. Especially considering they're winning by an average of around 25. So really you guys could win basically in the manner you have all year and still not cover. It's crazy. Definitely a testament to just how good you guys have played this year.
I do not think the Eagles will win this game, but I feel like they could cover the spread. Even a 33-10 loss means we've covered the spread...