KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 10th meeting. Eagles lead the series 6-3. The two teams haven't faced each other since October 4, 1998 in Denver. The Broncos won that game easily, 41-16.
2005 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 7th (32nd rush, 1st pass); defense 20th (10th rush, 22nd pass). Broncos: offense 13th (2nd rush, 25th pass); defense 22nd (5th rush, 26th pass)
PREDICTION: Broncos 27-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: With the Eagles facing yet another top-five run defense, don't expect this to be the week coach Andy Reid begins to lean more on his running game. Denver's weakness defensively is its pass rush (tied for a league-low eight sacks), and if QB Donovan McNabb has time to sit in the pocket he will attempt to pick on Broncos rookie CBs Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth. The game could hinge on the Broncos' ability to run the ball and keep their defense off the field. Philadelphia held Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson to seven yards last Sunday and its relative lack of size shouldn't be a hindrance against Denver, which utilizes smaller, quicker offensive linemen. RBs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell are the league's only tandem with at least 450 rushing yards apiece, and must keep the production high to prevent the Eagles from blitzing QB Jake Plummer from all over the field.
FAST FACTS: Eagles: Lead the series 6-3, but this is the first meeting since 1998. ... McNabb is 24-5 (.828) for his career when passing for at least 250 yards. Broncos: Are 17-4 (.810) at home against the NFC under coach Mike Shanahan. ... Their six-game home winning streak is the longest since INVESCO Field opened in 2001.
--CB Champ Bailey said he's not 100 percent yet, but he'll be matched up against Philadelphia WR Terrell Owens on Sunday. Bailey was penalized three times against Giants WR Plaxico Burress last week but said he doesn't mind facing physical receivers like Burress or Owens.
--CB Lenny Walls didn't practice again on Thursday because of a groin injury. He would have to make a quick recovery to be able to play on Sunday.
--S Sam Brandon still hasn't returned to practice after suffering a partial tear in his pectoral muscle. He is still hoping to be back for Denver's game after the bye, which is next week.
--QB Jake Plummer will have to be aware of Philadelphia's many blitzes on Sunday. Plummer has done a good job avoiding mistakes this season but he should be pressured this week.
--OL Chris Myers could become Denver's primary backup at guard now that Dwayne Carswell is out for the season. Myers is a rookie who played every position on the line in college.
--PK David Akers will miss at least one more game with a torn hamstring. Jose Cortez will handle the kicking chores for the Eagles Sunday against Denver.
--CB Lito Sheppard was added to the Eagles' injury list Thursday. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a knee injury and didn't practice Thursday.
--CB Rod Hood could get his first start of the year Sunday against the Broncos if Lito Sheppard is unable to play. Sheppard is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Hood is the Eagles' No. 3 corner.
--RB Ryan Moats took some kickoff return reps Thursday, but it's uncertain whether he'll handle the job Sunday. Moats suffered a concussion in last week's game after being inactive for the first five games. He fumbled both of his return attempts.
--QB Donovan McNabb insists that his sports hernia injury has not had any effect on his throwing accuracy.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Denver Broncos were stunned on Thursday when they got to work and found out offensive lineman Dwayne Carswell was in the hospital after a car accident.
Carswell had the accident on his way to the Broncos' facilities at about 7:10 a.m. Thursday morning. He suffered a ruptured spleen, a ruptured diaphragm, multiple rib fractures and a contusion of his entire left internal cavity.
His prognosis was "very good" after surgery Thursday, according to the Broncos. Carswell is done for the rest of the season and at age 33 his long-term future in football is in question.
Carswell is in his 12th season with the Broncos. Only kicker Jason Elam, who was drafted by Denver in 1993, has been with the team longer.
"Anytime somebody has an injury like that, such a freak accident, you don't know what to do," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "You're just hoping that he's all right."
Carswell switched from tight end to the offensive line this season. He was a backup but played as an extra tight end in short-yardage situations. Carswell caught two touchdown passes against Jacksonville earlier this season on lineman-eligible plays.
The Broncos tried to maintain their focus on Thursday as they went through their usual practice while their teammate was in the hospital.
"You do have to work but obviously our minds are on that," fullback Kyle Johnson said.
Eagles: The Eagles will go to Denver on Sunday for an important interconference battle with the Broncos with a new placekicker after releasing Todd France and claiming Jose Cortez off waivers earlier this week.
"The change in kickers is part of the process to try and make us as strong as we can be on Sunday," special teams coordinator John Harbaugh said.
While France made 6 of 7 attempts since replacing injured David Akers, the Eagles feel Cortez will give them consistently deeper kickoffs.
"Kickoffs were a big part of it," Harbaugh said. "Not to say that Todd didn't do a good job with kickoffs. But Jose is a proven kickoff guy. He pounds kickoffs."
The Eagles are hopeful that Akers, who has missed the last three games with a torn hamstring, might return as soon as next week. Even when he returns, though, there's a good possibility Cortez will remain on the roster to handle kickoffs.
"I don't know whether David is going to be able to kick off when he returns," Harbaugh said. "But it sure gives us an option to have the best possible kickoff situation that we can have down the road."
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