Of course the Birds would have to play the Giants. Of course. As if it wasn't offensive enough that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, now they have a chance (a four-point chance at home with a bye week in the mix) to end the Eagles' season. It's been a glorious and serendipitous couple weeks for the Eagles and their fans, but now we've to deal with the defending champs. And I've signed up to watch it in person.
Certainly I can feel emboldened by our previous trip to the Meadowlands. Sure, the intensity on the field and in the stands was different that day, and the Giants' fans in our section were very polite (even before it was obvious that the Birds were beating them down), but that was definitely my best-ever Eagles experience in that stadium.
I do not expect a repeat of that experience today, either from the Eagles or the locals. This is going to be as tough as it gets on the field and in the stands (I swear I'm not going to lose my temper if I absorb a snowball in the head -- I will bend like the reed in the wind!).
But here's the thing -- can we ask for much more than this? Even if the Eagles win, any matchup the following week will be a letdown. The defending champs in rough conditions in their own soon-to-be-retired stadium? With two of the best defensive teams in the league? If the NFC East has its own set of Gods, surely they must be pleased by this offering. As a fan, even if it doesn't go our way, I consider myself lucky to have a seat for this one.
(At least that's how I'm rationalizing it. I'll be a complete lunatic by kickoff I'm sure. At least I can say I made a commercially reasonable effort to be an adult.)
What I'll be shouting about:
I'm looking for someone to convince me that the Eagles will succeed on offense. The weather is going to make it difficult to throw the ball effectively. The offensive line didn't get much of a push last week against the Vikings (though admittedly the Vikings are pretty tough against the run), the starting fullback (Buckhalter) weighs as much as I do (yikes!), and the starting running back continues to limp. Can McNabb and the wideouts be strong enough -- again -- to move the chains? That might be asking a lot. I dunno. It's a bit disheartening.
Speaking of, Jon Runyan doesn't look good. And I don't just mean because of his hirsute appearance or cretinous manner of discourse. He didn't move well against the Vikings last week, and I can't imagine he'll move any better in 28-degree weather. But hey, he's only facing Justin Tuck, that shouldn't be a problem. We can only assume that Runyan will have an ungodly cocktail of painkillers pumped into his bloodstream before the game and that he'll hobble through it again. Don't worry, Jon. Walking in your forties is completely overrated.
And then, the apocalypse scenario. Runyan or one of the guards gets hurt. Mike McGlynn is on IR. Thus would Winston Justice enter the game. That will be the point where my wife has permission to roofie me for the remainder of the game.
First tackle. First foul. First shot. First goal (1). So last week it was Brian Dawkins who established the appropriate level of violence with his brutal shot on Adrian Peterson. Who's going to step up with a big hit early this week? Feels like it's Sheldon Brown's turn.
First tackle. First foul. First shot. First goal (2). Given my general level of concern about the offense's ability to succeed against the Giants, it's extremely important that the Eagles survive the inevitable rush of enthusiasm from New York in the first few minutes of the game. Going down by more than 10 points in the first half could be deadly.
I wish I could be more excited about the special teams. After the Minnesota game, I assumed that special teams would be an advantage for the Birds. Then I remembered how David Akers is completely spooked by the Meadowlands and how multiple field goals were blocked. Still, this will be the rookies' place to shine today. We've come to expect it from DeSean Jackson; wouldn't it be lovely if we got something special from Demps? The Giants struggle in their kickoff coverage -- it could happen.
Things that do not worry me. The Giants' passing offense. I imagine that the Eagles' secondary thinks they can handle the Giants' wideouts, and I imagine that they'd be correct. And I'd also say I'm especially emboldened in this prediction after pulling my little stats in defense of Tavaris Jackson the other day.
Things that might worry us. As well as the Eagles have defended the run over the past two months (really since the first Giants game), I still think they'll have a tough time of it versus the G-Men today. The Birds didn't get a week off, and it's cold outside -- you can imagine them wearing down a bit.
Do we have bandwidth for one more superhero performance from 36? It is unlikely that the Eagles will be able to win without a superhuman effort from the gimpy 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had enough for the Eagles to win last week, but he didn't look consistently strong throughout the game. I can't imagine that the Eagles win without Westbrook making at least one big play. The nice thing about Westbrook is that he completely terrifies Giants fans. In the parking lot a month ago, more than one person was still haunted by his punt return in 2003 -- and then he goes and scores twice that afternoon. Seriously, he has them spooked. Also, if the wideouts don't catch the ball, the Birds are cooked.
Hopefully they'll score before they get to the 20. Things haven't looked so good in the red zone of late. Huh. Guess they'll have to score from 21+ yards out!
Actual prediction. Rational brain, you go away now, and stop reminding me how healthy the Giants are and how the Eagles have a pretty limited ceiling on offense, and how the conditions favor the rested, ball-control offense. Instead, suggest that the Eagles' defense really might be that good, and that Andy Reid and Jim Johnson are up to the challenge today. I can't imagine either team making it much past 20 points; let's hope the Eagles are on the friendly side of that number. Luckily, we can all rest assured that churches throughout the Delaware valley are filled with young men and boys ignoring a series of horrific wars around the globe and are silently praying for an Eagles victory. And really, who are we to argue with the power of prayer? Eagles 17, Giants 16.