Who Has The Edge? (Position Grid)  


Eagles might be poised to exploit inexperienced QB Jackson



Donovan McNabb threw for a career-high 3,916 yards this season. More telling, instead of blowing up the locker room after being lambasted for not knowing the NFL's rule on tie games then getting benched a week later vs. Baltimore, McNabb threw nine touchdowns and just one interception in posting four victories over the final five games.

Donovan McNabb

Brian Westbrook is the key to Philadelphia's offense. His rushing yards per carry the past few weeks have been minimal and he hasn't faced a front like he's about to face. This is where his effectiveness in the passing game will come into play. Correll Buckhalter's late-season emergence in the run game could provide a boost.

Brian Westbrook

Westbrook and Buckhalter have to be included in this group since they're such a vital part in the passing game. Rookie DeSean Jackson is a game-breaker. Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis are occasional targets but they haven't provided much help. Tight end L.J. Smith is still nursing a shoulder injury but he could be integral if he returns.

The Eagles lost their share of games because they couldn't get push up front in short-yardage or goal-line situations. They have made some headway down the stretch but they will be facing the league's stoutest defensive interior. LT William Thomas has fended off some elite ends this season so Jared Allen could be in for a long day.

William Thomas

Ends Trent Cole and Juqua Parker have combined for 14 sacks. Their ability to keep Tarvaris Jackson in the pocket will prove vital. Tackles Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley are very solid in gap control, which is of the utmost importance when facing this potent of a rushing attack.

MLB Stewart Bradley has been bothered by a rib injury. The Eagles are going to need him at full strength because he's likely going to be the first unblocked defender to plug the holes to try and stuff Peterson. OLB Chris Gocong is a scrappy player with a nose for the ball.

Corners Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown are physical coverage players that allow for scheming with other parts of the defense. FS Brian Dawkins is one of the most reliable and heady players at his position. SS Quintin Mikell is a violent hitter who won't mind challenging Peterson. A very strong unit.

David Akers doesn't have the deep leg anymore but he's pretty automatic from within 45 yards. DeSean Jackson is a constant threat on punt returns and Quintin Demps is a better-than-adequate kickoff returner.

Andy Reid's play-calling and use of personnel has come under fire more this season than in recent memory. Still, he was able to get his players to play best when it mattered most -- save the poor showing at Washington in Week 16. He coached with Brad Childress for years and knows his tendencies. The same can be said about Childress, regarding Reid.

McNabb and most of his teammates have been here before. Jackson's inexperience could limit the Vikings' offense and play right into what the Eagles do defensively.

Like McNabb, third-year player Tarvaris Jackson responded well to losing his starting job. He completed more than 63 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns in guiding the Vikings to three victories in their last four games. Jackson's inexperience will be tested as he is about to face pressure like he hasn't seen.

The Vikings would not be here if Adrian Peterson did not put them on his back. It could be tough sledding for the league's top ground-gainer against a rugged run defense. The Eagles are aware of Peterson's ball-security issues and will be trying to dislodge the ball. Chester Taylor provides more than adequate relief.

Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian are solid on the edges but they'll be facing some of the best man-coverage corners in the NFL. The key could be TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who has become a favorite target for Jackson. Shiancoe has 15 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns since Jackson returned as the starter four weeks ago.

Bernard Berrian

Center Matt Birk, LG Steve Hutchison and LT Bryant McKinnie are among the league's best at their positions. The Vikings also have been using three-tight end sets to help in the running game. This group will be challenged by the variety of stunts and blitzes that Jim Johnson's Eagles unit is sure to have ready for them.

Matt Birk

Nose tackle Pat Williams, one of the best space-eaters in the NFL, is set to return after missing two weeks with a broken shoulder. He joins fellow Pro Bowlers DT Kevin Williams and DE Jared Allen in trying to fluster Donovan McNabb and limit the quick-hit passing lanes the Eagles try to exploit.

Pat Williams

OLB Chad Greenway is the most disruptive player on defense other than Allen but he is going to have some matchup issues with Westbrook in the passing game. The Vikings likely will use a lot of nickel sets since the Eagles are going to throw so much. OLB Ben Leber is steady.

CB Antoine Winfield is an opportunistic playmaker who is very good at blitzing. He must be accounted for. Darren Sharper and Madieu Williams are solid tacklers who will have to make plays in the open field against Westbrook and Buckhalter when they catch the ball out of the backfield.

The Vikings have allowed four punts to be returned for touchdowns. Their return teams have been adequate. Ryan Longwell was 29-of-34 on field goal tries and had two blocked. Put him beyond 50 yards and he's been nails, converting all six tries.

Childress made the bold decision to bench Jackson early in the season then stuck with him when Gus Frerotte was ready to return from injury. Decisiveness and backbone tend to garner respect from players. Andy Reid's former offensive coordinator will just have to find some way to get points on the board.

The Vikings are underdogs in the Metrodome. That's probably as much for the way they played down the stretch as it is the way the Eagles have played in recent weeks. In a game oftentimes dictated by momentum, Minnesota doesn't have much.



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