Do or die for desperate Eagles; more thoughts on Week 6

As many of my readers know, I love Bruce Springsteen -- not only because the Boss is from my home state of New Jersey, but also because the words in his songs are poignant and applicable to daily life and even sports. One of my favorite lines in a Springsteen song is, "I can't tell my courage from my desperation," and it applies this weekend for the Eagles, who visit the Redskins. Will the Eagles play courageous, desperate, or both?

Let's face the reality in Week 6: Philadelphia's season is on the line. A 1-5 hole would be impossible to dig out of. When the Eagles had their players-only meeting this week -- I hate those; as Benjamin Franklin once said, "Well done is better than well said" -- they had to discuss the need for urgency. But my question is: Where was that urgency against the 49ers and Bills the past two weeks?

The Eagles are the NFL's most giving team and eliminating turnovers would certainly improve their chances of winning. But when watching the Eagles, their problems run deeper than just the turnovers. They have issues in all three levels of the game -- players, coaching and scheme -- and until they fix those, the losing won't end.

Most importantly, the Eagles lack confidence and the belief that they can turn things around when things go wrong. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo spoke to the media Thursday about his thoughts moving forward: "When you look at the tape, you see sometimes it's just the little things, that you see them getting better, but you know that all of the sudden, man, it's going to happen, and that's what you believe in. That's what the players understand -- have a plan. You say, well 'right now, 1-4,' but you know what, we have a plan, and in 10 weeks you'll be saying 'Man, Juan kept saying he had a plan.'"

I am not sure Juan and I are watching the same tape. I don't see the improvement each week. In fact, I see the same mistakes. I see quarterbacks sneaking the ball for a six-yard first down because of the misalignment of the Eagles defensive front; I see the Eagles being out-flanked in the run game; I see a lack of adjustments in the second half. I watch tape and don't feel confident that the Eagles can solve the problems on the field, so how can the Eagles players feel confident? How can Castillo feel so confident?

In spite of the misgivings I have with the Eagles, the scariest team to play is the one that's most desperate. And the Eagles have my vote. But the Redskins will anticipate that desperation and must match them play-for-play to gain the win.

Eagles-Redskins will be like a playoff game. Both teams will be desperate for the win -- the Eagles to salvage their season, the 'Skins for redemption from last year's embarrassing 59-28 loss. It will make for great TV as we watch Castillo's plan develop.

The First 15

  1. Don't be surprised if you see the Vikings offense unveil a Joe Webb package Sunday night against the Bears. Webb, not Christian Ponder, will be the next quarterback in the game for the Vikings. Is this due to Donavan McNabb's poor play? The Vikings will say no, but in reality it has to be.

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  1. Bengals owner Mike Brown said this week that there is no trade in the works regarding disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer. My sources indicate that Palmer has talked to Brown on the phone to plead for his release. But each time they talk, the further apart they become on critical issues. Don't expect this to be resolved before the trade deadline Tuesday.
  1. If I worked in the Falcons front office, I'd be worried about my defensive front and especially the defensive ends, because they were blocked last week by the Packers' two second-string tackles. Now, I know John Abraham was missing for the Falcons, but they needed to pressure Aaron Rodgers without having to rely on their zone dogs.
  1. Aaron Curry's departure from Seattle ends five years of really bad first-round picks for the Seahawks -- center Chris Spencer in 2005, corner Kelly Jennings in '06, receiver Deion Branch in a trade with the Patriots in '07, defensive end Lawrence Jackson in '08 and Curry in '09. All of these players are still in the league, but are not playing for Seattle.
  1. Chicago is making changes at the safety position again this week. Heading to the bench are Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather and in come Major Wright and Chris Conte. Both Harris and Meriweather have missed too many tackles, thus allowing big runs. Has a team ever devoted more time, money and draft picks to the safety position than the Bears? Since 2002, the Bears have spent nine picks on the position -- including Danieal Manning in the second round and Conte and Wright in the third -- and spent big money for Adam Archuleta and traded for Harris. And you thought the Bears only struggled to find capable offensive linemen...
  1. I really think the pressure is on Josh Freeman and the passing game to improve or else the Bucs will have a hard time repeating their 10-win season. Freeman is the fourth-quarter comeback king, but he must play better in quarters 1-3 for the Bucs to win. And I mean a lot better.
  1. It will be fascinating to watch how the Cowboys play the Patriots' empty formations, especially since they struggled to handle that in the Lions game. The Cowboys are not good against the spread offense because it highlights the weakness in their secondary -- coverage safety and nickel corners.
  1. Teams like the Rams, Jags, Bills and Titans should be all over the Broncos to obtain receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd is a big-time player who could really help those offenses, especially Tennessee's since Kenny Britt is out.
  1. Aaron Curry going to Oakland gives them a true linebacker -- one who can play in space and run. (Not sure how well he can play, but he has the characteristics of a linebacker.) The Raiders essentially play with seven defensive linemen in their base unit, as Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Quentin Groves move like linemen, not 'backers.
  1. How much longer are the Jets going to kid themselves by keeping fullback John Conner in the starting lineup? The "Hard Knocks" star was a pet project of coach Rex Ryan, but he is not playing well. When Conner is in the game, the Jets are slow and predictable. Speaking of not playing well, linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are not playing to the same level they are accustomed, but both will be on the Jets next year because both have fully guaranteed contracts for 2012.
  1. The strength of the Lions is their passing game and the weakness of the 49ers is their secondary. For the 49ers to win, they must control the ball with their run game. This game is all about pace, and if the pace favors the 49ers, then they will win, but if the Lions start fast, it will be hard for the 49ers to come back.
  1. LaMarr Woodley looked and played like the LaMarr Woodley of old last week against the Titans. He was much quicker and more physical than at any point this season.
  1. The Giants offensive line is not playing at its normal level, which is one of the reasons the team is struggling to consistently run the ball. Left tackle Will Beatty is not playing well, nor is Kareem McKenzie at right tackle.
  1. The Ravens have never lost to the Texans, though Houston did force overtime last season. The Texans must find a way to get their run game going, as they cannot throw every down and expect quarterback Matt Schaub to stay healthy. He took some incredible hits last week against the Raiders.
  1. Every week, I watch Cam Newton and expect to see a rookie meltdown. But every week, he improves and so does the Panthers offense. Carolina is a problem for all the defensive coordinators in the league because it runs so many different concepts -- the option, speed option, single wing and power run. It's hard to prepare for all of that in just one week's time.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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