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InsideThe Eagles is pleased to announce that Steve Olenski will be joining the crew here to write a weekly column on the Eagles . Welcome aboard Steve. Look for his Pre-game comments shortly
Read Steve's bio.

Pre K
Game 5... Eagles vs Carolina
By Steve Olenski

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.”
Paul Gauguin, Post Impressionist Painter (1848-1903)

For the Eagles and their fans, life ended on January 18, 2004 and since that time, many of us, players included have dreamt of exacting revenge on the team that ended our collective football lives that fateful Sunday.

Unfortunately for the Eagles and their fans, exacting revenge on the team that ended their season has become all too commonplace.

For the 3rd straight year, the Eagles will look to avenge a loss from the previous years’ NFC Title Game. Not to throw salt into the wound, but we all know how the last revenge game played out.

The Buccaneers came into The Linc for the first regular season game to be played there and proceeded to “knock out” the Eagles with Rocky himself in attendance, 17-0.

This Sunday the Eagles will once again get a chance to extract a little revenge and gain a measure of satisfaction as they host the very team that ended their season on that fateful Sunday in January of this year, the Carolina Panthers.

On paper it surely doesn’t seem like much of a game.

The Eagles enter the game as the only undefeated team in the NFC at 4-0 whereas the Panthers limp in at 1-3, having lost 2 straight. The Eagles will enter relatively healthy, save for injuries to FB Jon Ritchie and first round pick OG Shaun Andrews. The Panthers meanwhile will enter without one of their starting wideouts, Steve Smith and possibly without either of their starting tailbacks, Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster.

The Eagles enter with their new stars firing on all cylinders with Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse each living up to their well publicized hype. The Panthers will come in counting former Eagles G Doug Brzezinski and former Giants LB Brandon Short among their off-season acquisitions. In fairness to the Panthers, they signed both DE Kavika Pittman & LB Jessie Armstead LB in the off-season, only to see them both become injured and lost for the season.

The Eagles will enter with the 3rd ranked offense in the entire NFL. The Panthers will check in at #21.

So on paper, there really doesn’t seem to be much to worry about, right? Well I did some checking and sure enough it turns out Goliath said the exact same thing when he read the scouting report on that guy named Dave.

Now I am quite sure there is some completely useless statistic that reads something like this:

If a road dog is a 3 point or more dog and on the road vs. the same team they beat the year before and that game was on a Sunday and this game is in October and the loser of the 1st game is 4-0 with a new receiver named Terrell and the visiting team’s running back named DeShaun just broke his collarbone, take the points as they are 10-0 vs. the spread.

There are people at MIT right now working on less complicated formulas but you get the point.

What is the point, you ask?

Well first off, I am no big fan of statistics. Let me rephrase that. I am no big fan of statistics that when attempting to decipher the meaning therein causes one’s head to explode. Secondly, while we joke about these kinds of ridiculous statistics, there are countless numbers of people who literally live and die with them. Lastly, numbers are just that. Numbers. There is no number nor formulaic calculation that measures a person’s will or desire or heart.

The conclusion here is that the Eagles will win. My only warning for the Eagles would be is to stay focused on the big picture. More often than not, revenge blinds the eye of reality causing one to lose focus on the business at hand.

Okay, so the Eagles will win.

But why? And how?

All Good questions.

On Offense look for the Eagles to establish the run, much to Coach Reid’s chagrin. The Panthers come in as the 31st ranked-team in stopping the run, allowing 159 YPG via the ground. It will be important for the Eagles to set up their potent passing game via the run as for as bad as the Panthers have been in stopping the Run, they have been equally adept at stopping the pass, entering the game ranked 4th in the NFL, allowing 176 YPG via the air.

Now one could argue that the Panthers defensive statistics are askew due to the fact that teams are simply not throwing on them very much thereby giving that false sense of stability. While that may be true, the X Factor in this is Panthers Head Coach, John Fox.

Much like Lovie Smith of the Bears, Fox is a former defensive coordinator so expect the Panthers to throw some wrinkles the Eagles way on defense. If you recall, the Bears did an excellent job in forcing the Eagles to get away from their game plan by essentially shutting down the Birds running game. Fortunately for the Eagles they were playing a team in the Bears that was decimated by injury in their secondary and were relying on a journeyman quarterback. The Panthers will not be as hospitable.

Expect some eight-man fronts; some stunts along the defensive line; corner blitzes and more than likely, Donovan will have a shadow.

Defensively the Eagles will face a depleted Panthers Offense, especially if Davis is unable to go. If he does in fact play, he will pose a major threat as it will signal a return to the style of play that was so effective for the Panthers last season, and that is to pound the ball with Davis and effectively wear down the opposing defense throughout the course of the game. Think of it as a butcher tenderizing a piece of meat. The meat will put up a good fight initially but after a while, like in the 3rd Quarter, it simply cannot take the constant pounding and eventually gives in and the next thing you know it’s on the grill with baked potato chaser. Yes, 3rd Quarters are not good to fillets and the like.

If Davis does not play, it will force Panthers QB Jake Delhomme to go to the air more than he likes. Last season the Panthers finished 21st in Passing Offense as compared to 7th in Rushing Offense. This team is like Greyhound. They prefer to travel on terra firma.

Additionally if Davis does not play it will be basically giving Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” meaning expect JJ to try and cross up Delhomme with various blitz packages all the while knowing they (the Panthers) have no real ground game to speak of or to fear.

The bottom line is the Eagles will need to remain focused. They will need to remember that last year is just that: last year. That nothing they do on Sunday can replace what happened last year. Given Reid’s history for keeping his team grounded, I will be quite surprised to see anything but a fully focused Eagle team come Sunday.





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