Forum Spin Doctor
PHILADELPHIA - The standings, point spread and team rankings suggest the Philadelphia Eagles should have an easy time against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Not so fast.
The Eagles (5-4) have been favored in all their games this season, but managed to lose four, including three in a row at one point. Each of their five wins has come by a double-digit margin, but they didn't play a complete game in all phases until last week's 27-3 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile, the Titans (2-7) are have lost four games by seven points or less, including one-point losses at undefeated Indianapolis and last week against first-place Baltimore.
"They are the best 2-7 football team that we will have played," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "They have a lot of talent. It just happens to be a lot of young talent that's getting better every week. It's a good, solid football team offensively, defensively and also on special teams."
Sure, Reid's comments sound a lot like coachspeak. However, his team can't possibly overlook anyone on its schedule after losing to woeful Tampa Bay and mediocre Jacksonville in consecutive weeks before a bye.
With a Sunday night matchup against the Colts next week, there could be a tendency to look past the Titans. Once the Eagles sat down and reviewed Tennessee's game tapes, they understood their opponent is no pushover.
"They've had a chance to see the film now, so they understand that," Reid said. "There's not a lot to hide. They see the talent and the relentless football that Tennessee plays. I could tell them anything, but they see it right there on the film."
On paper, the Titans don't seem quite so formidable. Their offense is ranked 27th and their defense is last in the NFL. The Eagles have the top-ranked offense and their defense is 12th. That's one reason why oddsmakers made Tennessee a 13-point underdog.
The Titans, though, have come a long way since an 0-5 start. After a 14-13 loss at Indy, they beat Washington and Houston and nearly upset the Ravens following a lopsided loss to the Jaguars.
"There's no way this team is going to get discouraged if you watch them practice," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "They love to practice, they learn from their mistakes and they put them behind them. They believe that each week they can do better. They believe that there are a number of players on this roster that can make that play at the end of the game to help us win."
The game features a matchup between two quarterbacks who have much in common. Titans rookie Vince Young, the third overall pick in this year's draft, will get his seventh start. He'll see five-time Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb across the sideline.
Like McNabb, Young is a threat with his legs and his arm. He's already been compared to McNabb, Michael Vick and Steve McNair, the guy he replaced in Tennessee.
McNabb waited until Week 10 to get his first start in his first season in 1999. He's led the Eagles to the playoffs five times, including four straight trips to the NFC championship game and one Super Bowl.
"He's definitely going to have to take his licks and you have to be prepared for that," McNabb said of Young. "Also, you have to be able to put the play behind you and go over to the next play. It's tough because you're so used to doing different things on the college level than on this level. Some of the easiest passes at that particular time are going to get tougher. You just have to work on timing and being on the same page with all of the guys. Once that happens, you feel like you're willing to do whatever."
McNabb is tied with Peyton Manning for first with 18 touchdown passes, is second behind Drew Brees with 2,569 yards passing and his passer rating of 98.2 is fourth.
Young has completed only 46.9 percent of his passes (82-for-175) for 973 yards, five TDs and eight interceptions. He's run for 176 yards.
"Each week guys come after me," Young said. "Philadelphia is a great defense, but we've played the Jaguars, who have a great defense, and the Baltimore Ravens. So to me, whatever they try to do, just go play our game. Everybody has a great defense. It's just how you go out and be patient and let the game come to you and go from there, and don't let them get the best of you."
While McNabb and Young get most of the attention, the possible return of Albert Haynesworth is an interesting sidebar. Haynesworth, a mammoth defensive tackle, was suspended five weeks by the NFL for kicking Dallas center Andre Gurode in the face with his cleats in Tennessee's loss to the Cowboys on Oct. 1. He returned to practice Wednesday.