In a matter of two weeks, Philadelphia's outlook has completely changed. On Nov. 23, Baltimore absolutely dismantled the Eagles, 36-7 -- dropping the Eagles to 5-5-1 overall, 0-2-1 in their last three and to the edge of postseason life.
Then Philly smoked Arizona on Thanksgiving night and followed that win up by beating the Giants in New York. As it stands now, if the Eagles win their final three games (including over Dallas in Week 17), a loss by either Tampa Bay or Atlanta would send Philadelphia to the playoffs.
Cleveland's outlook is not nearly as optimistic. The Browns have lost three straight -- not reaching double digits in any of those games -- and are now feeling some heat from Cincinnati for third place in the AFC North.
Answer me these three questions:
1) Will the Browns play hard tonight, or have they completely packed it in with Romeo Crennel's job likely in serious danger?
2) Can Brian Westbrook, with more than 330 total yards in Philly's last two wins, keep rolling at his current pace?
3) How many times will Tony Kornheiser and the Monday Night Football crew reference Brady Quinn, even though he's not suited up?
Players in the spotlight: Cleveland QB Ken Dorsey must at least give off the impression that he's an NFL quarterback -- I know, I know, that's like asking for the Reno to give off the impression that it's Las Vegas, but unless Dorsey protects the ball and occasionally completes a downfield pass, the Browns are toast.
It's too easy to put Donovan McNabb here, but it's Monday and I'm allowed to take the easy road on a Monday. As long as McNabb keeps playing like old-school McNabb, instead of "Why don't you retire"-McNabb, the Eagles should be fine.
Cleveland's path to triumph: The best thing the Browns can do is actually play hard. All, and I mean alllllllllllllllllllll, the pressure is on Philadelphia. If the Eagles lose, their season is essentially over. The Browns, on the other hand, has nothing to play for but pride -- both their own, and Romeo Crennel's.
Cleveland can't stop the run or the pass, really, but the Browns have to try and slow one aspect of the Eagles' offense. Like so many other teams, they'll try to take Brian Westbrook out of the equation, or at least prevent him from catching passes out of the backfield. Do that, and the defense could have a shot.
Offensively, the Browns must somehow protect Dorsey. But they also must get the running game going, with or without James Harrison (questionable).
Philadelphia's path to triumph: Show up? I mean, it's easy enough to win when everyone's already given up on you. Now, Philly is at home in front of the unforgiving Eagles fans, in a must-win game and are heavy favorites. So the Eagles need to jump on Cleveland early and often.
Without a doubt, the Eagles will blitz Dorsey early and often, possibly sticking seven or eight guys in the box to force Cleveland to pass. On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia just needs to stick to the script -- let McNabb get out of the pocket and get the ball to Westbrook frequently.
FanHouse Preview: Browns vs. Eagles originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 15 Dec 2008 18:26:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.