Someone’s string of perfection will end on this Sunday afternoon in November. Will it be Andy Reid’s 11-0 record coming out of the bye week that falls by the wayside, or will Peyton Manning lose to the Eagles for the first time in this, his fourth meeting with the Birds?
Reid is also 3-0 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs when his team had a first-round bye. The only game Reid ever lost with two weeks of preparation was the 2004 Super Bowl, but the New England Patriots had the extra week as well.
With both teams in tight races in their divisions, there’s more at stake today than the idea that an extra week of preparation is a recipe for success for head coach Andy Reid or that Manning could possible keep his quarterback rating so high that there is not no building in the United States that has as many floors as he has points in the rating, nor has there ever been. Manning has put together a 132.3 rating against the Eagles, and the Sears Tower has 110 floors.
Stopping Manning today might be as difficult as climbing to the top of the Windy City’s most famous structure one step at a time, but it is possible. First the Eagles have to figure out how to react, or whether to react at all, to Manning’s hand signals and audibles at the line of scrimmage.
“That’s all part of the game management and all part of just what he brings to the table,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. “It’s smart, very smart on his part. They do a great job with their system and their scheme. And he’s seen about everything. He’s had the kitchen sink thrown at him. It just comes down to making plays; it comes down to what happens after that ball is snapped and making plays.”
The good news for the Eagles is the skilled players around Manning are lacking in numbers and health. Running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart are out, tight end Dallas Clark is done for the year, fellow tight end Brody Eldridge is out and Austin Collie is questionable. Many expect Collie to play though, which would give Manning his top three targets in the air once again – Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. Donald Brown, a Connecticut product, is the last running back standing.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are getting healthier thanks to the time off. Michael Vick will play today, DeSean Jackson has been cleared to play and is probable, Jason Peters will return at left tackle and LeSean McCoy’s ribs are nearing 100 percent.
With a win today, the Eagles would have a second chance to deliver a knockout blow to Donovan McNabb’s Redskins next Monday night after failing to drop them to 1-3 earlier this season. The Birds can move to 5-3, a full game ahead of 4-4 Washington with a chance to make it two games next week and turn the NFC East into a two horse race between the Giants and Eagles.
The Colts need the win to grab a bit of breathing room, with only a half-game lead over the Titans in the AFC South.
At the end of the day, Andy Reid will either be 15-0 in games coming off of a bye week against a team off a normal week, postseason included, or the Eagles will be praying that if they ever do get back to a Super Bowl, Peyton Manning isn’t across the line of scrimmage. After all, it’s tough to level the playing field if he’s looking down from a perch higher than the Sears Tower. The Birds hope to knock him back down to Earth today.
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