Michael Vick is back.
Cue "Ode to Joy."
OK, so Vick hasn't been that good this season, and Vince Young wasn't as bad as some have suggested - he did engineer an 18-play, game-winning drive against the New York Giants last month.
But if the Eagles are to have any chance of closing out the 2011 season with four straight victories, they need the 2010 Vick, specifically the one from the first half of last season.
We've seen glimpses of that quarterback this season. There was the 49ers game, when Vick threw for more than 400 yards and ran for another 75, and then the Cowboys game, when he finally put all that preseason talk about recognizing blitzes to use.
For the most part, however, he just hasn't been the same quarterback. In fact, he has regressed. He's leaving the pocket too early, he's turning the ball over too much, and his team isn't winning.
Last week, Vick vowed to finally start sliding, or diving, or whatever it takes to not endure the type of hits that have caused him injury over the years. Skepticism remained. Even Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg didn't sound convinced.
"Well, we've discussed that since day one," Mornhinweg said, "so we'll see."
Nevertheless, having Vick back in the lineup - and possibly wide receiver Jeremy Maclin - should elevate the offense against the Dolphins and down the stretch. Momentum into next season is key, but Vick has to remind the Eagles why they gave him all that money four months ago.
Here is how the teams match up:
The Eagles have an NFL-worst 22 interceptions, but not all of have come from Vick. Young had an astounding eight picks in three starts, but even he can't be blamed for all of his errant throws. Eagles wide receivers just haven't been as sure-handed as they should, and a few picks have come from passes that bounced off hands. The Eagles won't have any excuses if they cough up the football against Miami. The Dolphins have caused only 11 turnovers this season. Their 3-4 defense is sound, especially against the rush, but only pass-rushing linebacker Cameron Wake (61/2 sacks) has been able to bring consistent pressure.
Once again, the Eagles face a defense that screams for the offense to favor the pass. That doesn't mean they should. When you have LeSean McCoy there is no need to always play it by the book. And yet that's what the Eagles have done for most of the season, sometimes even when teams have dared the Eagles to run. McCoy has taken the neglect in stride, and despite all that is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,134 yards. The Dolphins' fifth-ranked run defense will likely make stopping the running back its top priority. The Dolphins have allowed only 93.2 yards a game on the ground and just 18.3 points per game. Inside linebacker Kevin Burnett (team-high 71 tackles) is Miami's top run-stuffer.
Since Chad Henne's season-ending shoulder injury, the Dolphins have gone 4-4 under Matt Moore's stewardship. The career backup quarterback isn't going to wow with his arm, but he's a solid game manager. Over the last five games he has completed 64.3 percent of his passes, passed for eight touchdowns, and thrown only one interception. Brandon Marshall (63 catches for 910 yards), as one would expect, has been his top target. Once again, a receiver-cornerback matchup calls for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to have Nnamdi Asomugha play man-to-man. But don't expect to see Asomugha exclusively on Marshall.
When Reggie Bush signed with Miami in the offseason, some expected the former Saint to experience a significant decline. His production was already slipping in New Orleans. Instead he has become a dependable ballcarrier and has already set a career mark in rushing yards with 667. Last week against the Raiders he ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. With running back Daniel Thomas (504 yards) as a strong complement, expect Miami to go right at the Eagles' porous run defense, which, with the exception of the Redskins and Giants games, has allowed 4.7 yards a carry.
The Dolphins are sound on special teams. They have punter Brandon Fields, whose 49.1 average is third- best in the NFL. They have notable return men in Davone Bess (punts) and Clyde Gates (kicks). And they have above-average cover units, especially on punts. The Eagles lost a key special-teams performer when Colt Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury Dec. 1 against the Seahawks.
Miami has won four straight at home despite playing in almost-never-near-capacity SunLife Stadium. The Eagles, on the other hand, have had more success on the road this season, winning three away from Lincoln Financial Field. After two straight losses, a home game in front of anxious fans would probably not be advantageous for the Eagles.