Through 13 games, the Eagles have captured just five victories, but Philadelphia's slim playoff hopes (still) remain alive thanks to a 26-10 win over what seemed to be a hot Dolphins team last weekend. No matter how the team finishes, the Birds of 2011 will undoubtedly go down as a regular season disappointment, opening September as a seemingly surefire Super Bowl contender, but dragging around eight losses with several weeks still left in the season. Even so, the Eagles have a slight chance of making a miraculous turnaround, and perhaps the toughest challenge for the remainder of the '11 campaign will come on Sunday in the form of the Jets, who boast one of the league's top defenses and are looking to make their own statement en route to the playoffs.
The Jets had a problem similar to that of the Eagles early in the season, attempting to live up to lofty expectations and aspirations of a deep playoff run. However, New York has steadied itself in recent weeks and is arguably one of the toughest teams in its conference, even though there's a very real chance the men in green could be left out of the playoff picture because of the performance of teams like New England and Pittsburgh. Mark Sanchez has hardly been dominant at quarterback, but he turned in an impressive performance for the Jets last week, teaming up with Shonn Greene and Santonio Holmes to give the organization a feared offensive attack. On the other side of the ball, the Jets rank among the top 10 defenses in terms of yards/points allowed and takeaways recorded.
The Eagles got a much-needed boost of momentum with their win over the Dolphins last weekend, but in a lot of ways, this Sunday's showdown with the Jets could provide an even bigger challenge. While players like Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin are finally healthy, the Birds will arguably need to bring their "A" game if they intend to make big plays and score points against Rex Ryan's aggressive defense, which is stocked with productive veterans even after a season-ending injury to safety Jim Leonhard. At this point, the Eagles will need both a complete turnaround themselves and help from their NFC East rivals to have any shot at cracking the postseason, but Sunday's game, like last week's matchup, could give them a chance to at least show there remains a desire to change the organizations' fortunes and erase memories of the club's early-season woes.
As Week 15's Eagles-Jets game approaches, here are a few key questions and a game prediction:
Can LeSean McCoy get going against a stout Jets defensive unit? This season, it's been rare for McCoy to struggle on the ground. The third-year running back has been the clear-cut standout of the Eagles offense and is well on pace to break a number of records, but for whatever reason, he had trouble getting into a groove against Miami. Granted, the Dolphins have had success shutting down opposing teams' offenses this year, but McCoy was bottled up for just 38 yards on 27 carries, turning in one of his least productive performances of the season. McCoy being able to get going against a stout Jets defense could be key for Philadelphia on Sunday.
Will the pass rushing unit be able to mirror its Week 14 success against New York? The defensive line had somewhat of a breakout party against the Dolphins last weekend, so it could be difficult for the pass rushing corps to be as successful as it was vs. Miami, but applying constant pressure to Jets QB Mark Sanchez could give the Eagles quite an advantage, especially if its own offense has trouble gaining momentum against New York's "D." Last weekend, Jason Babin and Trent Cole helped propel the Eagles to a total of nine sacks and a forced fumble, and another astounding outing from the men in the trenches could be a huge lift for a defensive unit that's had trouble maintaining consistency this season.
How often will the Eagles receivers get separation from the Jets' secondary? If you weren't aware, New York has arguably the best cornerback in the NFL roaming its defensive backfield in the form of Darrelle Revis, so finding seams down the field could be a crucial aspect of Sunday's game for the Eagles wideouts. Revis, like Philly's own Nnamdi Asomugha, is best known for his ability to lock in on his opponent at the line of scrimmage and, if things go his way, completely shut down his side of the field. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson have also found success at the back end of the Jets defense, so DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin could have their hands full trying to make plays against New York this weekend.
Game Prediction: I've had far too much faith in the Eagles this season, predicting them to win just about every week. However, the Birds actually have something to fight for with the NFC East collapsing as of late, and with many of their stars finally healthy, Philly could, believe it or not, be a dangerous team as the 2011 campaign comes to a close. The Jets will surely keep this one close, but I'm going to go with the Iggles. Predicted score: Eagles 20, Jets 17