The Eagles battle the Atlanta Falcons Sunday (1 p.m., FOX) in what could very well be the most important game of Andy Reid’s career.
Owner Jeff Lurie said 8-8 isn’t acceptable and a loss here would drop the Birds to 3-4 on the season. Beat Atlanta, however, and hope springs eternal. Reid is 13-0 after the bye, a flawless mark that isn’t just a coincidence. He gave his charges the entire week off to rest up, relax and take their minds off football. Obviously it’s worked in the past, but will it work again? We’re about to find out. Here’s what we’ll be watching Sunday:
1. Draw a line in the sand.
The Eagles’ offensive line has never been more under the microscope than it is right now. Dallas Reynolds, the practice-squad center turned starter, is struggling as he attempts to build chemistry with his linemates. Meanwhile, guard Danny Watkins, who missed practice Thursday with a bad ankle, has come under fire for blowing assignments vs. Detroit. It’ll be interesting to see how both players respond, especially against a strong pass-rush featuring John Abraham.
2. New week, same old problems.
Will the two biggest albatrosses of the 2012 season continue? Or have the Birds finally found a way to smooth them out? The Eagles rank No. 26 in the NFL in red-zone conversions (42-percent), which is down almost 10-percent from 2011. The only people happy about that are Alex Henery fantasy owners. And then there’s the turnovers — we all know the numbers by now — and making that problem even harder to clean up is having to deal with ball-hawking, ex-Eagle Asante Samuel.
3. If at first you don’t succeed … run, run, run.
LeSean McCoy’s overall numbers, at least his touches (six more than he had at this point in 2011), are actually up. It’s been more of a matter of sticking with the run even when it’s not working. That’s something Andy Reid should make paramount this week against Atlanta, which ranks No. 28 in the league in run defense. McCoy should be able to exploit a Falcons’ interior defense still hurting without Corey Peters.