Texans vs. Eagles: 7 Things Philadelphia Must Do to Beat Houston
On Thursday night, the Houston Texans will visit the Philadelphia Eagles with their playoff hopes on life support.
The Eagles, on the other hand, sit at the top of the NFC East tied with the New York Giants and in control of their own playoff destiny.
While even with a loss the Eagles can still guarantee themselves a playoff spot, the importance of this game cannot be underestimated. A loss last week against the Chicago Bears exposed some of the holes of this Philadelphia Eagles team.
Michael Vick is not perfect and cannot carry this team alone.
Here are the seven things that the Eagles need to do to guarantee a victory against the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
Get LeSean McCoy Involved in the Running Game
The success of LeSean McCoy has been a deciding factor in most of Philadelphia's games this season.
In the Eagles' four losses, McCoy has averaged 50 rushing yards. Alternatively, McCoy has averaged 83 rushing yards per game in Philadelphia's seven wins.
When LeSean McCoy is a true threat in the Eagles offense, it opens up the playbook to play action, an essential factor in opening up the offense. Forcing defenses to play honest, Michael Vick can roll out and look down field for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Slow Down Andre Johnson
Texans receiver Andre Johnson is undoubtedly one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Stopping him is almost impossible, but slowing him down is plausible.
Johnson's size-and-speed combination forces defenses to pay special attention to him and that is exactly what the Eagles will have to do to slow him down. Philadelphia's safeties will have to shade towards Johnson's side and have constant knowledge of where he is on the field.
Slowing down Johnson will aid in minimizing the threat of the big play for the Texans and is essential in keeping the momentum of the game in the Eagles' favor.
Better Play from the Offensive Line
Last week against the Chicago Bears, the Eagles offensive line's failure to contain the pass rush was a major factor in the eventual loss. Philadelphia's offensive line gave up four sacks on Michael Vick and six hits on the quarterback.
One enormous consequence of this poor offensive line play was the four fumbles and one interception that Vick would give up. While all of these fumbles were recovered, the Eagles may not be so lucky against the Texans.
It will be absolutely essential to minimize turnovers and keep the weak Houston Texans defense on the field throughout the game. If the offensive line struggles again, Houston's offense could have the opportunity to take advantage of several short fields.
Use the Home-Field Advantage
Lincoln Financial Field has had a reputation as being one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL. As evidenced by their booing of their own players and even Santa Claus, Philadelphia fans are some of the most ruthless in the NFL.
Over the last three home games, Philadelphia has had some difficult matchups. The Eagles have played the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants and have come out victorious in all three home games, proving that there is a definitive advantage for the Eagles playing at home.
While the Texans do not pose the same threat that any of these other teams did, the Eagles must tap into the energy of Philadelphia fans to play with the same energy and intensity as the previous three home games.
Exploit the Texans Pass Defense
The Houston Texans pass defense is amongst the worst in the NFL. Ranked 31st in the league, the Texans secondary has given up an extraordinary average of 286.2 passing yards per game to opponents.
Last week, a large part of the Texans' 20-0 victory over the Titans was due to a much-improved pass defense. Houston held the Titans to just 138 passing yards and consequently won the game with ease.
Michael Vick has some of the best offensive weapons in the league in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. The Eagles passing game will need to dominate the weak Houston secondary and should be able to take advantage of the porous defense created by the Texans' defensive backs.
Stack the Box Against Arian Foster
You cannot stop Arian Foster. You can only hope to contain him.
The NFL's biggest breakout player of the 2010-2011 season, Foster has absolutely dominated opposing defenses this season. He is on pace this season for nearly 1,700 rushing yards and 650 more receiving yards. Also, Foster is shattering records for the Texans and has five games of two-or-more touchdowns this season.
In eight of the 11 games this season, Foster has contributed over 100 total yards. He has been a major factor in not only the rushing game, but also the passing game.
The Eagles will have to have seven in the box at all times and keep the defensive line stacked to prevent Foster from breaking out for big runs. Stopping key playmakers is always essential to winning and Foster has been the Texans' top playmaker this season.
The Michael Vick Factor
Until last week, the Philadelphia Eagles had been undefeated in games that Michael Vick started and finished. The Chicago Bears proved that Vick can be beaten this season.
Still, was the loss really Vick's fault? The Eagles quarterback threw for 333 passing yards and two touchdowns while adding 44 yards on the ground. His traditional problems with accuracy were not a problem either, as Vick completed just under two-thirds of his passes.
The problem could involve turnovers. While Vick only committed one turnover last week on an interception, he fumbled an additional four times. None of the fumbles were recovered by the defense. However, Vick will have to take better care of the ball if the Eagles are going to win this Thursday night.