It’s a short week of preparation but a big game for both teams tonight as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Houston Texans. The 7-4 Eagles are tied atop the NFC East with the Giants, and after losing last week in Chicago have little room for error down the stretch in an increasingly tough NFC. The Texans, meanwhile, are 5-6 and a game behind both the Colts and Jaguars in an AFC South that doesn’t figure to get a team into a Wild Card spot.
With just three days of preparation, both sides face the challenge of getting fully ready for such an important late season game.
“I will tell you that their bodies are sore from both teams,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “I can’t tell you that’s not the case. It’s no different for them than it is for us. On the other side of that, you have to do the mind over matter thing and get yourself in the right frame of mind to play the football game.”
The Texans pose a tough test for an Eagles defense that was gouged for 131 rushing yards and four passing touchdowns by the Bears last week. Houston running back Arian Foster leads the league with 1,147 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and has been particularly adept at choosing the right holes in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme.
“He’s good, real good,” Reid said. “So we got to make sure we wrap him up. The offensive line is doing a nice job in creating things for him. He’s a heck of a player. He can catch the ball. He can run the ball. He does it all.”
It’s a different look for a Texans squad that built it’s offense around the arm of Matt Schaub and his favorite target, Andre Johnson, last season.
“We’re pretty much yardage wise the same team that we were last year, we’re just built a little bit different,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. “We’ve got a hell of a running back; we’re running the ball pretty well. We’re trying to control the ball better, those type of things, [we] got better in the red zone. The makeup of our team is a little different from that standpoint.”
But the biggest question may be how the Texans 31st ranked pass defense, which has given up a league-worst 13 passing plays of 40 yards or more will slow down the high flying, big play offense of the Eagles. Philadelphia is second in the league, averaging more than 28 points per game. The Birds have averaged 33.5 points in the six games Michael Vick has started and finished.
“No one guy, I mean you can spy a guy, but [Vick's] a better athlete than that guy – a much better athlete than that guy,” said Kubiak. “I think it just comes down to everybody doing their job from a contain standpoint and doing everything you can to not give up big big plays. So I think we’ve all got our work cut out for us, it’s not about one guy it’s about the group.”
That said, the Texans much-maligned defense has improved over the last few weeks – since star linebacker Brian Cushing returned to outside linebacker after a failed experiment at middle linebacker. Houston shut out Tennessee 20-0 last week.
“We’ve been struggling on defense throughout the season and the last two weeks we’ve actually played pretty good on defense,” Kubiak said. “At New York we played pretty darn well, of course at the last minute we didn’t get it done, but then we come back last week and play our best game so we’re just, hopefully we’re improving. That’s what you want to do, you want to be playing your best here late in the season.”
Beyond a critical win as far as standings are concerned, that all-important late season momentum is also at stake tonight at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles: CB Asante Samuel (knee) and WR Riley Cooper (knee) are questionable. DE Juqua Parker (hip flexor) is out. RB LeSean McCoy (shoulder), G Nick Cole (knee), CB Jorrick Calvin (back) and CB Trevard Lindley (knee) are probable.
Texans: TE Owen Daniels (hamstring) and LB Xavier Adibi (hamstring) are out. DE Jesse Nading (knee), WR Kevin Walter (calf) and WR David Anderson (hamstring) are questionable. QB Matt Schaub (knee), LB Brian Cushing (knee), DE Mario Williams (groin), LB Kevin Bentley (knee, shoulder), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), OT Eric Winston (shoulder), CB Glover Quin (hand) and WR Jacoby Jones (Illness) are probable.
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