So, that loss to the Bears, was it a big deal? It certainly has had some consequences. Andy Reid had a little outburst. DeSean Jackson is pouting. Maybe fans are wondering how fragile the situation is? It all has to be processed in a short week for the Birds. Just three off days before getting back into the mix against the Texans in Philly on Thursday night. The loss to the Bears, which put the Eagles at 7-4, doesn’t look too crippling at first glance, but when you consider the wild-card implications and the remaining schedule, the Eagles 7-4 record might not be as good as it looks.
Do the Eagles have to win this game against Houston? They don’t. They could lose, win out from there, go 11-5 and easily make the playoffs. So, in the most literal sense, the game is not must-win, but what is the likelihood of that scenario playing out if the Eagles lose? It’s a pretty slim chance. You have to look at most likely ways the Eagles can get to 10 or 11 wins. The schedule goes, Houston, Dallas, New York, Minnesota and Dallas. Those last two games at home are likely going to be against teams with nothing to play for. A good spot to pick up wins. That would get the Birds to 9 wins. Of the other 3 games, Thursday night is by far the most winnable, and so if you want the Eagles hit 10 wins and make the post-season, tomorrow night is must-win in some ways.
If the game is a must-win, what are the chances the Eagles pull it off? If we assume the team can put the in-house issues behind them. There are several reasons to think this is a great spot for the Eagles to pick up a win. A sampling…
The Texans Pass Defense:
It’s awful. It’s historically bad. Unless you are starting Rusty Smith, the Texans haven’t been able to stop anyone from throwing the ball. Michael Vick is a slight upgrade from Trusty Rusty. I love listening to NFL analysts talk about the Texans defense, because they go through an interesting range of emotions. First, they are dumbfounded. They don’t know what the Texans are doing, they criticize scheme, talent, communication, everything across the board. Eventually they end up sounding angry, though, almost upset they have to discuss something so putrid. If there was a spot for Vick and company to get back on track…this is it.
Thursday will be the Eagles’ fourth game in 17 or 18 days. Something like that, and that is a lot of football. As a fan the game on Thursday night sneaks up on you quickly. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the players. When you add in the bonus that the Texans have to travel, I think it gives the Eagles an obvious edge. The Eagles practice schedule this week is jammed. They are trying to fit everything into 3 days. The Texans have to do the same thing, but also have to fly, etc. Unless the home team is hopelessly over-matched, I think you have to like them in these Thursday contests.
The Eagles are laying anywhere from 8 to 9 points. That’s enormous. And, Andre Johnson being green lighted doesn’t seem to be making anyone rethink the number. I know some people who have had this game circled on the schedule for a long time, saying this was a lock. Well, it looks like Vegas agrees. This is the biggest Eagles line I’ve seen in a long time. Not in terms of the actual number, but in terms of making you like an Eagles victory.
It’s The Texans:
Not sure how many years of proof you need on this one. The Texans have no scrap. The Texans can backdoor cover you, they can beat a 3rd string quarterback, but when things get close at the end they almost always come out on the wrong side. I just don’t see this team coming across the country on a short week, playing on a cold night at the Linc and imposing any kind of will on the Birds. At 5-6 they might actually be in a literal must-win situation, but that hasn’t provided any motivation in the past. Don’t see why it should this week.
As you can see there are plenty of reasons to like Philly. That’s why the gamblers have been pointing to the game and that is why the line is so high. The Eagles will still have to execute, though. If Cutler/Knox and Bennett can light up the Eagles for 4TDs through the air, you’d have to imagine the Texans are capable of the same. Plus, they have the most beastly running back this side of Peyton Hillis, Arian Foster, on their side. Shootout? Maybe, but the Birds better stop with the bullbleep and get the job done, because if they don’t my ears will get sports radio shock therapy for the next 10 days.