Five Key Matchups This Week

Warnest Contributor Andrew Pluta breaks down five key matchups between the Eagles and Bills in this Sunday's game. Can the Eagles secondary keep the Bills passing game in check? Will the Eagles finish the season 8-8? All of this and more inside...

Eagles Secondary vs. Trent Edwards

Although Philadelphia’s defense has allowed 221.4 yards per game through the air this season, only two teams in the NFL have allowed fewer passing touchdowns. Although they have not come up with as many turnovers this year compared to past seasons, the Eagles secondary has contained high scoring offenses like the Patriots and Cowboys, and they continue to show that they are one of the best defensive backfields in the league. Getting Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard back to full health has been a big reason for this group’s success, and the emergence of Quintin Mikell, who is third on the team in tackles, has also been key.

Coming into this season as a rookie out of Stanford, Edwards was supposed to be J.P. Losman’s backup, but an injury in week three saw the Bill’s third round draft pick take the reins of the offense earlier than expected. After throwing only one touchdown and five interceptions in five starts, Edwards was benched again in favor of Losman only to return as the starter four weeks later. Edwards has shown some improvement since taking over again, like the four-touchdown day he had against Miami, but overall, he is still a developing player. Last week against the Giants, Edwards threw three interceptions and he has not completed more than 50% of his passes in the last three weeks.

Kevin Curtis vs. Terrence McGee

Kevin Curtis catches a pass against the Dallas Cowboys.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Last week against the Saints, Curtis became just the second receiver in the Andy Reid era to have a 1,000-yard season after grabbing six passes for 78 yards in the game. On the year, Curtis is tied for eighth in the NFC with 1,048 receiving yards and he has also scored six touchdowns. The former St. Louis Ram has proved worthy of the big contract the Eagles awarded him with in the offseason, as he has been a big part of the Eagles offense this season. He averages 15 yards per catch, the sixth highest average among NFC receivers.

Although he is only 5-foot-9, McGee possesses great speed and instincts and is Buffalo’s best cornerback. He leads the team in interceptions with four, and has knocked down 21 passes this season. The 27 year-old out of Northwestern State also ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 72. Also a key member of the Bill’s special teams, McGee is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL and has five return touchdowns in his career.

Eagles Rushing Attack vs. Buffalo’s Linebackers

With 12 total touchdowns this season, Brian Westbrook has unquestionably carried the load for the Eagles this season both as a runner and as a receiver, and the sixth-year veteran is only one yard away from breaking Wilbert Montgomery’s team record of 2,006 yards from scrimmage in a season. While Westbrook has had an All-Pro season, backup Correll Buckhalter has also performed when called upon. After rushing for 37 yards and a touchdown on just four carries last week, Buckhalter now has four touchdowns on the year and his 5.6 yard per carry average is the highest among the leading rushers on the team.

While the Bills have the 27th rush defense in the league, allowing 128.3 yards per game on the ground, they have gotten strong play from their linebackers all season. At 6-foot-1, 243 pounds, Angelo Crowell anchors the defense at middle linebacker and is one of the top tacklers in the league with 122 stops this season. After stepping into the starting lineup because of injuries to other players, outside linebacker John DiGiorgio has fit in nicely as a starter for most of the year. The second year pro out of Saginaw Valley is second on the team with 109 tackles on the year.

Trent Cole vs. Buffalo’s Offensive Line

With his scary speed and low-pad style of play, Cole has emerged one of the top playmaking defensive ends in the NFC this season. On the year, Cole has posted pro bowl numbers, recording 69 tackles, 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, but the third year pro was somehow overlooked for this year’s all star game.

With Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters set to miss this week’s game with a groin injury, the Bill’s offensive line will have their hands full against a tough Philadelphia pass rush. Kirk Chambers will get the first start of his career in place of Peters on Sunday, and his lack of experience could spell trouble for the Bill’s offense. Buffalo’s offensive line has let up 26 sacks this season.

Donovan McNabb vs. Aaron Schobel

McNabb’s 40-yard scramble against the Saints last week on third-and-one was another encouraging sign that the nine-year veteran is returning to his Pro Bowl and can still be an offensive weapon. While he showed off his running ability, McNabb also had a brilliant day passing against a weak New Orleans secondary, throwing for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing 68.6% of his passes. For the season McNabb has thrown for 2,979 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing just over 60% of his passes. The Eagles are 3-0 this year in games where McNabb throws for more than one touchdown.

After recording 14 sacks in the 2006 season and earning a starting spot in last year’s Pro Bowl, Schobel’s production has fallen off a bit this year, but the Bill’s top defensive end is still a threat to make plays because of his relentless motor. The older brother of Eagle’s tight end Matt Schobel, the seven-year veteran out of TCU has 6.5 sacks this season along with 53 tackles and five forced fumbles. Schobel is entering Sunday’s game on a hot streak, recording a sack in the last four consecutive games.

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