Michael Vick and the offense along with DeMeco Ryans and the defense face their first true test of the 2012 season when they play the Ravens on Sunday.
The Eagles haven’t played a team that could be described as “good” since Week 12 of the 2011 season when they faced the New England Patriots. Unfortunately, Vince Young was our starting QB that day so it’s tough to say whether or not the Eagles would have fared any better if Michael Vick had played.
The Eagles were dominated by the Pats, 38-20.
Since then, the Eagles have gone 5-1 in their past 6 regular season games, including 5 wins in a row. That’s all well and good, but, they have played teams that have ranged anywhere from mediocre to bad.
None of the Eagles’ last 6 opponents finished 2011 with a winning record. So, it seems they have been good enough to beat the average-to-below-average teams.
In contrast, the Eagles have a 3-7 record over the past 3 seasons against non-divisional teams with winning records, including a 0-3 mark last year. This shows an obvious trend of not being able to beat quality opponents.
The Ravens certainly qualify as a “good team”, and then some. They looked very good on both offense and defense in their season-opening romp over the Bengals.
The Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and have posted 12-4 records in each of the past 2 seasons. They are a good, quality team that will provide our first real glimpse of just how good the Eagles are since last November.
However, they are not formidable.
If the Eagles want to be the best, they have to beat the best. They need to show that they can play with the Big Boys in the NFL. Good teams step-up their level of play against good opponents and will usually win their share of games.
With that said, can the Eagles actually beat the Ravens this week?
They can, if they do the following:
Reduce the penalties by at least 50%. Last week’s 12 penalties for 110 yards were completely unacceptable.
Stop turning the ball over. Even though the Eagles defense recorded four interceptions in Week 1, they’re already in the hole with the turnover ratio at -1.
Feature the run-game more. I’m not necessarily saying to run it 35 times, but rather mix in the run more steadily throughout the game. The Eagles averaged 5 yards per rush last week while at the same time the Ravens defense allowed 4.6 yards per rush.
Help Michael Vick. Perhaps more frustrating than Vick’s 4 INTs last week was the fact that Reid and/or Mornhinweg did absolutely nothing to help their struggling QB.
I’m talking about calling more 3-5 step drops and get the ball out quick. If the Ravens are bracketing DeSean Jackson deep, play small-ball to keep the first-down sticks moving.
Get Brent Celek more involved over the middle. Use McCoy to help Dunlap with some chip blocks instead of staying in max-protect too often.
Stop Ray Rice. This is obvious, but still a key factor. They can’t allow Rice to take the game over and average large chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball. The offense can help in this matter by controlling the ball and getting an early lead.
Rattle Flacco. Another obvious one, but Flacco and the Ravens offense like to take deep drops, which plays into the hands of the Eagles’ ferocious D-line. He can’t be afforded the time to pick apart the secondary.
Another interesting aspect of this game will be how the Eagles defend the Ravens’ no-huddle attack. Juan Castillo says they have a plan for it, but what Juan says and what we see on the field are sometimes two different things.
The Eagles are capable of beating the Ravens, but they must play smart, disciplined football on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They cannot afford anywhere close to the amount of mistakes they made last Sunday.
Ultimately, the Eagles may very well end up losing this game, but a loss will not be the end of the world.
To me, much more is riding on how they perform. Playing well and losing a competitive game will be easier to swallow than another horrific performance like last Sunday.
More-so than anyone else, Michael Vick needs a strong showing…even if in a losing effort. He needs to prove to the Philly faithful that he can still play this game at a high level.
But, as Andy Reid likes to say, it’s a team effort and everybody has a piece of the pie — starting with him.
(I know, I’m a homer)