Patrick Causey, on Twitter @InsdetheHuddle.
The Philadelphia Eagles face-off against the red-hot New York Jets in MetLife Stadium today at 1 p.m. in a must-win situation.
Win and the Eagles salvage whatever chance they have left of turning this season around, especially given the dire nature of the rest of the NFC East.
But lose and the Eagles are on the wrong side of history. Only 2 percent of teams that have started 0-3 have made it to the NFL playoffs. To make matters worse, no teams have made the playoffs starting 0-3 since 1998.
There are many reasons to doubt the Eagles even have a chance to win.
As I wrote earlier this week, the Jets are a matchup nightmare for the Eagles right now. They have a dynamic, talented defense that blitzes over 50 percent of the time, and their Double and Triple-A gap blitzes — the space between the center and guard — will be especially problematic for the interior of the Eagles line, which has looked wildly incompetent so far this year.
The Jets also have one of the best secondaries in the league, with All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis surrounded by talented playmakers like Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pryor. They play an aggressive press-man style that should pose significant problems to the Eagles young receiving core, which has had issues creating separation.
Add in the fact that the Eagles are missing four starters on defense, and this looks like the perfect recipe for the Eagles to fall to 0-3.
But the Eagles simply must win this game, not only because their season depends upon it, but so does the psyche of Philadelphia sports fans.
The Phillies are one of the most expensive 100 loss teams in MLB history, the Sixers are purposefully tanking, and the Flyers have not been to the post season in two of the last three years. The Eagles were supposed to be the one team we could hang our hat on, the one team that stood a chance. The Delaware Valley can not handle another season of tanking and talking about which draft prospect to target with a high draft pick.
But outside of the collective sanity of Philadelphia sports fans, there are a few other reasons why the Eagles could win this game.
The Eagles have had success against Todd Bowles led defenses in each of the first two seasons under Chip Kelly. When Bowles was defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, he brought top 10 defenses in to shut down the Birds. And yet the Eagles still gained 863 yards on the Cardinals in two games. As mentioned before, Kelly exploited the over aggressive nature of Bowles' defense through misdirection, wide receiver screens and big shots downfield. Expect to see more of that today.
The Eagles also present some matchup difficulties for the Jets, particularly with Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz. The Jets do not have a player on their roster to contain Sproles in space, especially if the Eagles continue to rely on Sproles in the passing game. Ditto, Ertz. We have been waiting for Ertz to have a breakout game, and if there was ever a time for Kelly to rely on Ertz, it would be this week.
It would also be unreasonable to expect the Eagles to continue to play as bad as they did in the Cowboys game. The Eagles dropped six passes in that game, many of which occurred on third down. Had they caught this, didn't throw this, and blocked this, it could have been an entirely different game.
The Eagles also have played three of the worst halves of football we saw under Kelly, and yet they still were in the games late. If the Eagles actually manage to put together an entire football game, they could be a very formidable team.
The Jets also come in dinged up, with Revis, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory questionable for today's game. Revis is expected to play, but if Decker and Ivory are out, that would be a huge loss to an already mediocre offense.
Speaking of the Jets offense, two words for you: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yes, he's played well so far. But he's still Ryan Fitzpatrick. It is only a matter of time before he regresses back to the mean. If the Eagles get enough pressure on Fitzpatrick, they could force a few turnovers.
And finally, while most of the objective signs lean heavily in favor of the Jets, those same reasons also favored the Eagles beating the Falcons and Cowboys. And the Eagles lost both games.
In other words, sometimes the teams that aren't supposed to win, win. It's why Vegas makes so much money — and interestingly enough, have the Eagles as only 1.5 point underdogs. Add to it that the Eagles are desperate, they need this win, while the Jets might be a little too confident coming in at 2-0, and it could be the perfect recipe for an upset.
The Eagles better hope so, or it is going to be another long, depressing season.
UPDATE: 11:31 a.m. – Eagles Inactives
UPDATE: 11:35 a.m. – Jets inactives
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