It's a must-win Sunday for the Eagles

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy runs against the Redskins defence in Landover, Md., Oct. 16, 2011....

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy runs against the Redskins defence in Landover, Md., Oct. 16, 2011. (JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:08 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Forget about the winless trio of Indy, Miami and St. Louis facing a must win. If you haven’t won by now, there is no must about it for those teams this weekend and beyond. Besides, they are all in the running for the ‘Suck For Luck’ Derby and a win would simply spoil their shot at drafting the Stanford QB with the No. 1 pick. So, they’re not after a win, they’re up for another loss. Teams that need it bad this weekend are teams that came into the season thinking playoffs and Super Bowl and find themselves on the verge of being knocked out of contention before they hit the half pole. Of those teams, the Eagles at 2-4 top the list and they have no picnic this Sunday when they get to play host to the Dallas Cowboys. The second half of their season is no piece of cake and when you figure you have to do no worse than finish 10-6 to either win the division or advance in as a wild card, a loss on Sunday would drop the Eagles to 2-5 and in a precarious position. So, who do they have over the final nine weeks — to start with, they have three games left within their division with two of them on the road in games against the Giants and the Cowboys. Outside their division they face tough contests against the likes of the Chicago Bears, the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The thing about the Eagles is that they have the talent to run the table. Getting that talent to show up every week has been the problem.

THREE GAMES YOU’LL WANNA WATCH

PATRIOTS AT STEELERS

At least one of these two teams has played in eight of the past 10 AFC title games (Patriots five appearances and Steelers five), including facing each other in the 2001 and 2004. New England returns from the bye week riding a three-game winning streak. Pittsburgh has won three games in a row after a 2-2 start and has tightened up its defence as they rank first in pass defence allowing 171.9 yards per game. The Patriots counter that by having the No. 1-ranked passing attack as Tom Brady has them averaging 350.5 yards per game. Steelers’ fans beware; Brady’s lifetime record against the Steelers is 6-1. That includes a 4-1 record against Ben Roethlisberger.

COWBOYS AT EAGLES

This is a big division rivalry and gives the Cowboys a chance to pretty much bury the Eagles for the season as a loss would drop the ‘Dream Team’s’ record to 2-5. However, all is not lost for the Eagles as they enter the game coming off a bye week. Under the direction of head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles and Reid have gone 12-0 coming off the bye. The Eagles will also be boosted by the return of OT Jason Peters and defensive end Trent Cole to the lineup. The Cowboys will be attempting to run the ball down the Eagles’ throat. Last week rookie DeMarco Murray set a club record with a 253-yard performance.

LIONS AT BRONCOS

Wherever Tim Tebow goes, the eyes of admirers and critics will follow. This week Tebow is at home and will face a much tougher task than last week’s outing against Miami which resulted in more Tebow-mania. Trailing 15-0, Tebow rallied the Broncos to two TDs, including running for a two-point conversion, in the final three minutes of regulation to tie the game. Denver won it in OT. The Lions have lost two in a row after winning their opening five. They need this one to regain some much-needed confidence before entering next week’s bye. Lions QB Matthew Stafford suffered an ankle injury in last week’s loss to Atlanta but will probably make the start. They need him.

ENCORE, ENCORE?

— Last week against the Rams, Dallas backup running back DeMarco Murray had turned in what will probably be the game of his career as he rushed for a club-record 253 yards. It was also the 10th-best rushing game in the 92-year history of the NFL. Making the start in place of the injured Felix Jones, it didn’t take Murray long to prove he belonged as he bolted for a 91-yard touchdown on his very first carry of the game, the second-longest rushing touchdown in Cowboys history. In the first half, Murray ran 10 times for 112 yards. He didn’t slow down in the second half as he piled up an additional 141 yards on 15 carries. The previous Cowboys rushing record was 237 yards set by the great Emmitt Smith.

— Speaking of amazing performances, just how does Saints quarterback Drew Brees follow up on his game last week against Indianapolis when he was 31-for-35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns. How often does it happen that a quarterback throws more TD passes than incompletions? How about never. To make his stats even more eye-popping, Brees did not play in the fourth quarter. Before he turned the ball over to backup Chase Daniel, he led the Saints on scoring drives — Brees put points on the board on all eight of the drives he engineered — six touchdowns and two field goals. Now he gets to go against another winless team in the 0-6 Rams.

BE A SURVIVOR

We’ll assume that by now the big boys have been taken and that list includes New England, Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, San Diego, Detroit, the Giants, the Jets and New Orleans. I know that’s 10 teams over seven weeks but they are the teams that will have been picked the most by this point of the season and it’s time to move on from there. One team that is looking better each week is the San Francisco 49ers and this week they are at home and coming off a bye week. They will be playing the Cleveland Browns who haven’t beat anybody of note this season. So, San Fran looks good here. The Carolina Panthers have won just two games — but in their five losses they have yet to be blown out. This week they are at home against the 1-6 Vikings, so look for Cam Newton to notch his third win. The Tennessee Titans are at home and playing the terrible Indianapolis Colts. But I wouldn’t touch this one. The Colts were humiliated 62-7 last week by the Saints and may come alive here. Beware.

BY THE NUMBERS

9 — Buffalo’s plus turnover differential which ranks second in the NFL this season.

0 — The number of fumbles lost by the Bills in 2011. Buffalo is the only team to have not turned the ball over on the ground this season.

7 — The number of sacks allowed by the Bills this season — six on Ryan Fitzpatrick and one on Brad Smith. It represents the fewest sacks allowed in the NFL this season.

100 — Buffalo’s red-zone scoring efficiency through Week 7. In 21 trips inside the red zone, the Bills have produced 16 touchdowns and five field goals.

16 — The number of takeaways by the Bills defence this season which ties them with Green Bay and the Jets for tops in the league.

HEAD TO HEAD

Bills DE Marcell Dareus vs. Redskins OT Jammal Brown

This will be another good test, another schooling for the Bills rookie first-round pick. Dareus was the third player taken in the 2011 draft and the Alabama star is back healthy after some minor ankle issues. In facing Brown he hooks up against one of the best. A former first-round pick himself — in 2005 by New Orleans — Brown was a Pro Bowl selection in both 2006 and 2008. He was acquired by the Redskins in a trade in June of 2010.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Steelers pass defence

The Gronk was gushing apologies and blushing like a bride this week after adult film star BiBi Jones put out pictures of her and the Patriots tight end on her Twitter account. He was shirtless in one while she wore his jersey in both. Big deal. On Sunday the Steelers defence will attempt to stick as close to Gronkowski as Jones did in the photos. That could prove to be a tough assignment. On the season, Gronk is quarterback Tom Brady’s favourite receiver not named Wes Welker.

Eagles DE Trent Cole vs. Cowboys OT Doug Free

Trent Cole is back in the lineup following a three-game absence and that spells trouble for the Dallas Cowboys. When Cole is healthy and playing, the Eagles are a quarterback-hunting dynamo. When he is out, the pressure isn’t applied. In the four games that Cole played, the Eagles totalled 15 sacks, three of them by Cole. The past two games, the Eagles have managed just three. It will be up to Free and whatever help he gets to keep Cole off QB Tony Romo.


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