Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eagles: What are the Chances...?

This week’s matchup is a toss-up. Both teams have top quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger is #1 in the NFL in passer rating with a 133.9 rating and Donovan McNabb is sixth in that category) and both possess elite defenses (led by two of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, Dick LeBeau and Jim Johnson). Since running the ball figures to be a challenge for both teams, the game figures to be won by the team that makes more plays in the passing game. As always, pass protection will be a concern for the Steelers, but if Big Ben has time to throw the ball downfield, Santonio Holmes could exploit the Eagles’ secondary in the deep passing game.

Big Ben is 1-0 against the Eagles in his career, a 27-3 win at Heinz Field during his rookie year, when he completed 11 of 18 passes for 183 yards, throwing 2 TDs and 1 INT (109.3 passer rating). But Pittsburgh hasn’t won a game in Philadelphia since, well, it was long before the Steelers drafted Terry Bradshaw.

One advantage the Steelers have is an extra day to rest and prepare, as the Eagles played at Dallas (a 41-37 loss) this past Monday night. A little-noticed disadvantage is that Philadelphia signed former Steelers’ wide receiver Willie Reid to its practice squad back in August, perhaps in anticipation of this game. One can't imagine Reid actually playing in the game, but without a doubt he's been huddling with the Eagles' defensive coaches all week long, providing insight into the Steelers' offensive tendencies.

In the final analysis, we see the Steelers as having close to a 50 percent chance of winning, and would probably pick Pittsburgh if the game was at Heinz Field. But since it’s not, we’re predicting an Eagles victory. “What are the Chances…?” is 2-0 thus far in 2008 and 28-7 all-time.

P.S. We’re still waiting for Rashard Mendenhall to do something that leads directly to a Steelers’ loss. It’s going to happen sometime this season; it’s just a matter of when.

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