NFL Nation: MNF15 Eagles

Eagles strike at Browns early

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
8:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles, as heavy favorites, are doing exactly what they should against the struggling Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football."

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb connected for a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis to complete an eight-play, 64-yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead.

With playoff hopes on the line, the Eagles do not want to let the Browns hang around for a potential upset. It will be interesting to see if Philadelphia puts Cleveland away early.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

New York Giants (11-2) at Dallas Cowboys (8-5), 8:15 p.m. ET

  

Could someone remind me what the Giants' controversy was all about? With the drama at Valley Ranch, it's hard to remember. When I talked to Giants defensive end Justin Tuck about the Cowboys' story, he had a long laugh. Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens has now come out and said he's not jealous of the Tony Romo-Jason Witten relationship, as was reported by ESPN's Ed Werder. But since we actually have a game occurring Sunday, let's talk about it a little bit.

The Cowboys like some of their matchups against the Giants' receivers. You'll see a lot more man-to-man coverage now that Plaxico Burress isn't playing. Terence Newman will probably cover Domenik Hixon. And look for rookie Orlando Scandrick to end up on Steve Smith quite a bit.

Now we know that running back Brandon Jacobs has been ruled out of Sunday's game and he'll be replaced by Derrick Ward. The Cowboys will still crowd the line of scrimmage to stop the run, but Jacobs is a big loss. It's looking like Marion Barber will try to play now that he's been called out by owner Jerry Jones.

Back to the current controversy at Valley Ranch, coach Wade Phillips ordered his players not to talk about the "secret meeting" that took place between three receivers andJason Garrett on Monday. He wants them focused on Sunday's game, which seems like a good idea.

The Giants were embarrassed by their performance against the Eagles. They were beaten up at the line of scrimmage. The defensive line isn't producing sacks right now, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has decided to go back to some of the blitz packages that were working earlier in the season.

Cleveland Browns (4-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5-1), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday

  

It didn't seem possible after the Ravens game three weeks ago, but now the Eagles are back in the playoff race. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is in a much better rhythm, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Andy Reid is showing some commitment to the running game. This team will go as far as Brian Westbrook can take it. When he's healthy, he's a top-five player in this league. He's still banged up, but he'll be able to play against the Browns.

For whatever reason, the Eagles seem to play their best football late in the season. And the defense isn't getting enough credit for the way it played against the Giants. The defensive line won the battle up front and stopped the best running game in football.

The Eagles aren't getting a ton of sacks, but they're throwing off the rhythm of opposing quarterbacks. They're about to encounter a quarterback, Ken Dorsey, who's pretty limited. The Eagles will play a lot of press coverage in order to give their defensive ends and linebackers more time to get to Dorsey. The Browns are out of the playoff race and Romeo Crennel will probably get fired at the end of the season. But their biggest win of the season came on "Monday Night Football" against the Giants. The Eagles have struggled against inferior teams (see the Bengals), so it's important to take control of the game immediately.

Washington Redskins (7-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-11), 1 p.m. ET

  

Most of the attention has been on the Clinton Portis-Jim Zorn dispute this week, but the Redskins have to win a football game. There's been a lot of frustration because of the losing and all the injuries. This football team built its reputation around its running game in the first half of the season. After the loss to the Steelers dropped them to 6-3, the Redskins started seeing everyone stack the line of scrimmage with eight or nine players.

Receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El can't get any separation right now, and quarterback Jason Campbell's confidence is not high. This was a team that has lost its identity. And the frustrating thing for Redskins fans is that their team had a relatively easy schedule in the second half.

Could Washington run the table and sneak into the playoffs? Stranger things have happened. But Todd Collins led that charge last season. This offense doesn't feel like it's about to take off, although the Bengals would be a good place to start.

To his credit, linebacker London Fletcher has continued to play unbelievably well despite the fact that he's injured. Zorn needs
to head off this controversy before he loses all the gains he made early in the season. Nothing helps a coach's credibility as much as winning. And the Redskins have to start Sunday.

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