Broncos v. Eagles Game Preview

Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is expected to return to action against the Broncos after missing eight games. Check out the complete game preview.

Denver Broncos (11-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)

Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/27/09
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)

PREDICTION: Eagles 20-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: FS Brian Dawkins returns to Philadelphia as part of a veteran Broncos secondary that will have its hands full with the Eagles' quick-strike passing game. However, coach Andy Reid has to be careful not to become too one-dimensional because Denver boasts a pass rush with 35 sacks. The Broncos' offense stalled when the ground game managed just 2.9 yards per carry against Oakland last Sunday. Creating manageable passing downs is critical because QB Kyle Orton thrives on the underneath routes and letting his receivers run after the catch.

FAST FACTS: Broncos OLB Elvis Dumervil has 15 sacks, one shy of Simon Fletcher's (16) single-season franchise record set in 1992. ... Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is 9-1 in his past 10 December starts.


--WR Eddie Royal returned to a limited practice Thursday. He missed Wednesday's practice with a head/neck injury. Royal has a chance to play on Sunday.

--RB Correll Buckhalter has practiced on a limited basis all week and should be fine to play Sunday. He missed last week with an ankle injury but should get his usual 10-12 carries.

--CB Ty Law was held out of practice. That might have been a precaution with the Broncos practicing outside in cold weather and Law nursing a hamstring injury. But if Law can't go, Denver's two backup cornerbacks would be rookies Tony Carter and Alphonso Smith.

--S David Bruton returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness. He is one of Denver's top special-teams players and its top backup safety. He should be ready to play Sunday.

--LB D.J. Williams was a limited participant in Thursday's practice. He has an ankle injury, but that should not keep him out of Sunday's game. Williams has missed five games in his career, all due to a knee injury last season.

--WR Jeremy Maclin practiced again Thursday and didn't seem to have any problems with his injured foot. Maclin missed Sunday's game with a partially torn plantar fascia.

--QB Michael Vick, who suffered a quad contusion in last week's game against the 49ers, wasn't able to practice again Thursday. It's unlikely he'll play Sunday against the Broncos.

--QB Kevin Kolb is expected to be the team's No. 2 quarterback Sunday against Denver, with Michael Vick sidelined with a quad contusion. Kolb has been the No. 3 quarterback all season.

--LB Moise Fokou is expected to start at strong-side linebacker Sunday against the Broncos. The rookie will replace struggling Chris Gocong, who has been benched.

--CB Sheldon Brown has played the last three weeks with a hamstring tear. He hasn't missed a down except for two plays last week after tweaking his ankle. He got it taped and returned to the game. He'll start Sunday against Denver.


Perhaps the Denver Broncos can feed off Brian Dawkins' emotional high on Sunday. There will surely be plenty of emotion from Dawkins, who returns to Philadelphia after spending 13 seasons with the Eagles.

Brian Westbrook's return remains on schedule. The running back practiced for the second straight day Thursday with no problems and is expected to play Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

Westbrook, 30, has missed seven of the last eight games with two separate concussions. He hasn't played since November 15, when he suffered the second concussion against San Diego.

Rookie LeSean McCoy and fullback Leonard Weaver have handled the ball-carrying load in Westbrook's absence. Both have played well. Head coach Andy Reid said Westbrook will be eased back in.

"I don't think it's fair to throw him in and have him take every snap," Reid said. "He'll have his role and he'll do that part of it, and we'll go from there."

The Eagles have played primarily one-back sets with Westbrook out. They've used McCoy a lot in three-wide receiver, one-back, one-tight end formations, and have used Weaver in power sets with two wide receivers and two tight ends.

Asked if Westbrook will start Sunday, Reid said, "We'll see. There are different packages that they have, so both of them (McCoy and Wesbrook) are getting practice time, and we're doing it a little bit different than we did before, sort of a rotational deal.

"I would probably tell you that LeSean has a little bit bigger package. I can't tell you who's going to be the guy that's on the field first."

Quarterback Donovan McNabb said the offense is getting Westbrook back at an ideal time. His legs obviously are fresh and he'll have two regular-season games to get back into football shape before the playoffs.

"It's great timing for us," McNabb said. "Because he'll get an opportunity to get two games under his belt, to get his legs back under him (before the playoffs)."

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