The Sunday matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills appeared to be an easy road win for the Eagles just four weeks ago. Fast forward one month and the Bills are tied for first in a very tough AFC East division while the Eagles are just trying to end a three-game skid that is causing mass panic in Philly.
So far one of the most media hyped teams in the league has seen many of their offseason acquisitions backfire on them through the first four games. Nnamdi Asomugha has struggled in both run support and in zone coverage while Ronnie Brown's attempt to throw the ball on a running play while being tackled has everyone baffled.
The Bills come in with a chance to get to 4-1 in a year where they seemed to be more in the running for Andrew Luck then they did a AFC playoff spot. Sunday's matchup is a good test for both teams.
Are the Eagles still a playoff contender? Are the Bills something more than just a nice surprise early in the season? This game will provide us with plenty of answers, however all the pressure is on the visiting Eagles to show up for four quarters and get some of their dignity back.
Eagles kicker Alex Henery took a lot of heat following the Eagles loss to the 49ers last Sunday, but it wasn't deserved. The skinniest guy on the team shouldn't take the blame for the awful play in the red zone.
In the last two games, the Eagles have scored a touchdown in just three of their 12 red zone trips. In order for the Eagles to get back on top in the NFC East they can't keep turning the ball over and settling for field goals inside the 20.
Everybody has been at fault in the red zone. Michael Vick has thrown a couple picks, the play calling has been horrendous and the offensive line has been pushed back on quarterback sneaks. Andy Reid needs to get the ball to LeSean McCoy on first downs inside the 20 and let Vick use the whole field on passing plays instead of rolling him out to one side of the field.
The offense is too talented to drive 60 to 70 yards down the field only to either turn the ball over or settle for a chip-shot field goal. This is the number one priority for the offense. The Eagles should get deep in Bills territory at least five or six times on Sunday. The Eagles need to turn that into at least 28 points if they want leave Buffalo with a much needed victory.
Nnamdi Asomugha is the leagues best cornerback in press man coverage. Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has moved Asomugha all over the field and taken him away from his strengths. Asomugha has struggled in zone coverage and in run support.
Expect Castillo to simplify the game for Asomugha by putting him at right cornerback for most if not all of the game. He needs to stay on the outside along with Asante Samuel and to utilize the Eagles greatest strength on defense.
When the Eagles pass defense can lock down on receivers, the run defense will eventually make stops. The Bills will get a nice chunk of rushing yards, as everyone else has against the Eagles, but if they let the passing offense get going as well they defense has no chance.
The Eagles run defense and tackling has been so bad that people haven't noticed how good their pass rush has been. They have 15 sacks all from the defensive line through the first four games including seven from Jason Babin who is on pace for 28 sacks. Cullen Jenkins has four sacks and Trent Cole has three as well.
When the Eagles linemen can pin their ears back and get after the opposing quarterbacks the defense is at its best. The Bills are set to start a rookie at left tackle for his first career start and it could be a long day for Buffalo's offensive line.
Expect this talented bunch, even without Trent Cole, to make a huge impact on Sunday. Five or six sacks isn't out of the question.
One of the NFL's best running backs was held to just nine carries last week against the 49ers. The Eagles abandoned the run early against a good run defense and they suffered the consequences.
LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown combined for a grand total of 12 carries for 33 yards and zero touchdowns. The Eagles need to establish the run and keep running it for four quarters. The Eagles have the second best rushing offense at 163.5 yards per game while the Bills give up an average of 129.5 yards on the ground per game which ranks them 24th.
When the Eagles can run the ball consistently, it opens everything up for everyone else on the offense. It's hard to protect against the deep ball when you can't stop the run. When the Eagles can run the ball, they can put up big time numbers on offense and convert on more red zone opportunities while at the same time keeping Michael Vick upright.
The Eagles linebackers have been awful through the first four weeks, especially against the run. Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou have played two different linebacker positions while Casey Matthews has lost his starting spot altogether. His replacement, Brian Rolle, may be the X-factor on this defense.
Asante Samuel, Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha are the big name starts that can make this defense great, but Rolle is the guy that can really turn things around. Rolle is incredibly fast for a linebacker, and despite his size at 5'10 and 229 pounds, is really strong as well.
In his limited workload through the first four weeks Rolle has been able to cover running backs down the field and has also been knocking offensive linemen on their backs. That is something that no other Eagles linebacker has even began to do.
He plays with a major chip on his shoulder due to all the criticism from his lack of size. His intensity, athleticism and toughness on the football field will remind Eagles fans of another former defender who now plays for the Denver Broncos.
I don't think Brian Rolle is on the same level as a Brian Dawkins quite yet, but his style of play and his heart will make a major impact on this defense. He has to keep improving in order for the Eagles defense to be able to contain anyone against the run.
Expect Rolle to make five or six tackles against the run while covering both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller all over the field.