Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Upon returning from my first extended train-plane combo to the Northeast, I wanted to see what Les Bowen had to say about the Eagles. Les has been one of Donovan McNabb's biggest defenders over the years, but he's getting a little worn out by the quarterback's uneven performances. On Sunday, McNabb began the game 3-of-13 passing. And this isn't a new development.
Coach Andy Reid likes to focus on how McNabb can turn around a poor performance in a hurry, but that's not as difficult against teams such as the 49ers and Seahawks. If McNabb starts slowly against a potent Giants defense, the Eagles could find themselves trailing by two touchdowns.
Against New York these days, that could be an insurmountable deficit. It's also disturbing that the Eagles have been so bad in the red zone and short-yardage situations. There are times you have to impose your will on a team, but it's tough to accomplish that on predictable swing passes to Brian Westbrook at an opposing team's 4-yard line.
"Other than the obvious absence of Shawn Andrews, I don't know what to point to on the offensive line, to explain the short-yardage failures," writes Bowen. "I suspect we'll see a lot of offensive line changes in the offseason, if this doesn't get solved. Overall, I think you need to run the ball more than every now and then to get good at it; you don't just swing into prime road-grading mode after passing eight times in 10 plays. Seems like we've chewed over that dynamic before, a time or 12."
The Redskins and Giants each have powerful running games (unless they're playing the Steelers), and that gives them an identity. The Eagles like to isolate Westbrook on linebackers and then take shots downfield from time to time. But as Les points out, teams don't always have to respect the Eagles' running game because Reid will usually get caught up in throwing the ball on five or six straight downs.
Sunday's game is more important to the Eagles than it is to the Giants. Following their 7-1 record, a couple of losses in the second half won't kill their playoff chances. That said, the Eagles would pull to within a game of the Giants with a win at the Linc. For some reason, I'm sensing that Eli Manning is going to have a big game. He's so comfortable with his receivers right now, and the offensive line almost always buys him enough time to make a play downfield.