Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Philadelphia Roars: We will not give up!

Let’s begin our analysis by considering Romans 8.28:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, to those called according to his purpose.
Any analysis of the Dallas affair begins and ends really with the impact of TO’s season-ending injury- although it was re-assuring to see the defense continue to play very well down the stretch, particularly again against the run. It is amazing the difference adding Trotter has made- if he had played the whole season he might have gone to the Pro-Bowl. There is no way he’s coming back next year, right? How can someone with serious ‘backer problems- Minnesota, Oakland, Miami, New Orleans, I’m talking to you- not throw multiple years and multiple millions at him? Philadelphia was pretty bad against the rush; now post-Trotter, frankly the Eagles are pretty good.

The injury is, bluntly, a bad blow. Reid’s singular failure as the head of this football operation has been his inability to draft and develop a single, even average, NFL wide out. I cannot think of any team with a worse collection of wide-receivers entering the play-offs. Pinkston is a poor number two- and probably a true “production-less wide-out” as a number one- drawing the other team’s top corner. There is nothing right now about Pinkston that engenders confidence that he can contribute in a play-off game. He cannot get open, he cannot catch it consistently, defines “a zero” in the red zone. Mitchell is not a bad slot guy; he can undoubtedly catch it. His numbers are not great. But I think that is more because there aren’t that many balls to go around with TO and Westbrook around and McNabb normally throws to the tight ends on those possession style routes. But even I do not believe in Mitchell as an every down guy? Wide receiver is an important minus now, a consequential minus.

Obviously, the various sports networks have an obligation to shriek endlessly about the magnitude and significance of this injury. However, the Eagles are still a heavy favorite to win the NFC- although I admit I cannot see them winning the three consecutive games against good competition needed to win the Super Bowl. Still, of the offensive triumvirate, TO was the only one they could lose, and still be the favorite to win the conference. Let’s not even think about #5 going down. And Westbrook is the guy the whole offense is designed around. They still have two legit game-breakers on offense, which is as many as anyone else has in the NFC.

As the Eagles last gasp drive against Dallas showed, as long as those two guys are upright, they can do damage to teams. Yes, Donovan is going to have to leave the comfort of the pocket and move around downfield again- something he been loathe to do this year. Westbrook has to do more special team duty. A lot of the safety net, the corners Philadelphia cut on offense to minimize Westbrook’s touches and McNabb’s exposure, have to go by the wayside now. But it will be the play-offs, so the precautions probably needed to go anyway. There is still almost certainly no one coming to the Linc in January that they will not score at least 21 against.

Even without Owens, this football team is simply so much better than the completely shot outfit that entered last year’s play-offs: no Westbrook, most of the defensive secondary and defensive line out, three months of gut busting effort to rally from the 1-3 start. Since Thomas should be healthy in a month, and I doubt you’ll see a key player pull more than a cameo until the play-offs, TO ought to be the only key player out.

The Eagle defense will be the best, healthiest and deepest of any unit in the NFC. The special teams are superlative. They’ll be at home- and I guarantee the faithful will be roaring with defiance and anger- with a month to heal and freshen key guys. Reid has won in the play-offs with much less. The team is smart and gutty. Bluntly, I simply do not think anyone can come into the Linc and score 17- or prevent McNabb from scoring 21. But the Super Bowl road just got much, much harder.