Here is what we will be watching during Sunday's game between the Eagles and Colts:
1. Peyton Place. That would be inside the 20. On their way to the Super Bowl last year, Manning and the Colts converted 66 percent of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Even with injuries to many of their key skill-position players, the Colts still are fourth in the league in red-zone offense this season (64.0). That’s the bad news. The worse news: the Eagles are dead-last in the league in red-zone defense, giving up 12 TDs in 16 opportunities. Opposing QBs are 17-for-23 with 8 TDs v. Eags inside the 20.
2. Third down is the money down. Manning is one of the best third-down passers in NFL history. Over the last 6 seasons, he’s got a .648 completion percentage and a 102.3 passer rating on third down. He’s the closest thing to unblitzable as there is. As for the Eagles, they are 20th in third-down defense and have had a knack for third-and-long screwups, whether it’s been a blown coverage, a lack of pressure, a missed tackle or a penalty.
3. It’s OK to run. Andy Reid has done a pretty good job of balancing the run and the pass thus far. At least his idea of balance. They’ve had 20 or more rushing attempts in every game this season. And they need to continue to do that Sunday against the Colts, who are allowing a hefty 4.9 yards per carry. In the Colts’ 2 losses to Houston and Jacksonville, they gave up 431 rushing yards on 77 carries. The key of course is keeping the Colts out of the end zone so they don’t have to play catchup.
4. Protecting Michael. Michael Vick returns to the lineup Sunday after missing the last 3 games with a rib cartilage injury. He’s as good as anyone at eluding pass-rushers and extending plays. But the Eagles’ 2 offensive tackles – Jason Peters and Winston Justice – can’t give Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis free runs at Vick. The Colts only have 14 sacks, but Freeney and Mathis have 10 ½ of them.
5. Special opps. Eagles rookie return man Jorrick Calvin could be a big factor in Sunday’s game. The Colts’ many injuries have had a trickle-down effect on their special teams, particularly their coverage units. The Colts are 25th in the league in punt coverage (11.2) and 20th in kickoff coverage (24.2). Calvin will have some opportunities to make plays and give the Eagles’ some decent field position.
To read our post from earlier today, click here.