After a riveting comeback win against the New York Giants under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football, the Eagles head up the road to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Keystone State showdown.
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Although the two teams are pitted against each other every year in the Preseason, it is only the second time since 2001 (and the first since 2008) that these two sides meet in the Regular Season. The Eagles would get the best of the Steelers at home in 2008, but were beat to a pulp in 2004 at Heinz Field. However, the two sides seem to be headed in completely opposite directions.
Philadelphia is 3-1 on the year, and are coming off an almost flawless game against the Giants at home. Michael Vick had his best performance against the Eagles NFC East foe, completing 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards, and 1 Touchdown. The most important stat: zero turnovers. Vick showed flashes of his stellar 2010 campaign, making smart decisions with the football, and evening breaking out of the pocket and dashing forward for a handful of yards. Head coach Andy Reid also incorporated the run game early and often, and it would pay massive dividends late in the game. On 23 carries, McCoy ran for 123 yards, and broke open a 34 yard run late to put the Eagles in the Red Zone.
For Philadelphia to be successful on Sunday, they must get Jeremy Maclin back in the passing game. After returning from a hip pointer injury last week, he caught just one pass for 7 yards.
The Eagles did a fantastic job of subduing the Giants running game, as Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown ran for a combined 53 yards. However, the Eagles secondary was targeted frequently, and WRs Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon combined for a whopping 223 yards combined. Philadelphia's secondary will find themselves with an even bigger problem: containing Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The tandem has combined for 474 yards and 4 Touchdowns, and it will be on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to shut down Wallace, and Nnamdi Asomugha to take on Brown.
While Pittsburgh has a handful of dangerous weapons, they cannot seem to put it all together. Injuries have plagued both the Defense and Offense, and have made the running game almost nonexistent. However, key pieces James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Running Back Rashard Mendenhall are all expected to make their return today. In a 34-31 loss against the Raiders, the banged up Steelers Defense allowed Carson Palmer to complete over 70% of his passes, and Darren McFadden rushed for 113 yards. The Steelers are hoping that the return of two of their Pro Bowlers on Defense will help limit the Birds versatile Offense. If there is anything going right in Pittsburgh, it is the play of their Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 30 year old is on pace for a career season, and has totaled 8 Touchdowns and 904 yards through the air in just 3 games.
Eagledelphia Staff Prediction
Steelers 24 Eagles 20
The odds just seem stacked against Philadelphia today. Here you have a 1-2 Steelers team coming off of a bye week, and desperately need a victory. Since 2008, Pittsburgh has not lost a game coming out of a bye week. They'll also get three starters returning to the team, and they'll especially covet Rashard Mendenhall's return to action, as Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have done nothing. This is the kind of game for the Steelers that can make or break your season, and especially at home, this is not a game you want to lose. Ben Roethlisberger is going to go after Nnamdi Asomugha today, and he'll probably win more than half the time today. For the Eagles to win, the secondary needs to step up their game. I'm not sure they'll be able to do that.