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Eagles-Broncos scouting report

Recent history: The Eagles lost to the Broncos, 49-21 on Oct. 30, 2005. The Eagles lead the series, 6-4.

Recent history: The Eagles lost to the Broncos, 49-21 on Oct. 30, 2005. The Eagles lead the series, 6-4.


Eagles: 364.6 yards per game (10th)

Broncos: 336.4 (17th)


Eagles: Donovan McNabb had multiple interceptions last week for just the second time this season. His 72.2 passer rating was his lowest in a complete-game win since the 2005 season. That said, he's still having one of the best seasons of his career.

Broncos: Kyle Orton is a solid game manager. He's smart, reads coverages well, has an above-average arm and enough mobility to buy time in the pocket when he needs it. But he needs a productive running game to maximize his skills and strengths. He's not somebody you want throwing the ball 35-40 times a game.


Running back

Eagles: Brian Westbrook is expected back this week after missing seven of the last eight games, but probably will get a limited amount of touches as the Eagles ease him back in. During their five-game win streak, Eagles have run the ball on 45.8 percent of their offensive snaps (142 of 310).

Broncos: Rookie Knowshon Moreno and ex-Eagle Correll Buckhalter give the Broncos a solid 1-2 backfield punch. They've combined for 1,834 yards from scrimmage. Both can run inside or outside. Both have good hands. Moreno, a stop-and-start type runner, has a little more avoidability than Buckhalter.



Eagles: The Eagles have five different players on pace to catch at least 40 passes this season for the first time in the Andy Reid era. DeSean Jackson and TE Brent Celek clearly have become the go-to guys. Thirty-one of Donovan McNabb's 62 attempts the last two games have been targeted for them.

Broncos: Brandon Marshall is one of the best wideouts in the league. He caught 104 passes last season and already has 93 this year. He's big (6-4, 230), strong and fast with outstanding hands. He has great leaping ability and is an excellent yards-after-the-catch guy. Eddie Royal is an excellent compliment to Marshall.


Offensive line

Eagles: The Eagles' line is gelling at just the right time. LT Jason Peters, who was nicked up much of the early part of the season, finally is healthy and playing at a Pro Bowl level. The Eagles didn't allow a sack last week and have given up just five in the last four games.

Broncos: This unit played better in the first half of the year than the second. Losing athletic RT Ryan Harris weakened them up front. Also, LT Ryan Clady isn't playing nearly as well this year as he did as a rookie. C Casey Weigmann, 36, is a technician who historically has worn down as the season has progressed and his weight has dropped.



Eagles: 315.9 (11th)

Broncos: 294.4 (3rd)

Defensive line

Eagles: Rookie Antonio Dixon has replaced Trevor Laws in the Eagles' three-man DT rotation with Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson on first and second down. Sean McDermott likes to use the 330-pound big-body against smaller centers that he can get push on. So he should get quite a bit of work Sunday against the Broncos' 285-pound snapper, Casey Wiegmann.

Broncos: NT Ronald Fields and defensive ends Ryan McBean and Kenny Peterson aren't anything special. They're your typical lunch pail-type 3-4 linemen, which means they tie up blockers and let their linebackers run, but aren't going to make many plays themselves. Vonnie Holliday (four sacks) and Darrell Reid (four) sub in in the Broncos' nickel package.



Eagles: The No. 1 priority will be to stop the Broncos' ground game. Look for the Eagles to use their base package on first and second downs. Key question is who will play on the strongside. Chris Gocong didn't play a defensive snap last week. Rookie Moise Fokou played SAM on the few occasions they went with 3 'backers.

Broncos: ROLB Elvis Dumervil has blossomed as a pass-rusher in Mike Nolan's 3-4. He's got 15 of the Broncos' 35 sacks after having just five last year as a 4-3 DE. Like the Eagles' Trent Cole, he's an athletic, high-motor guy. Has speed, but is more of a counterpuncher, who gets his man upfield and then comes underneath.



Eagles: The Eagles' 23 interceptions are the third most in the league and the most by an Eagle defense since 1999 (28). Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown have 13 of those 23 picks. They'll face a major challenge this week in Broncos WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.

Broncos: Champ Bailey still is one of the league's top corners, but teams seem to be willing to throw in his direction more than in the past. The Broncos' other corner, Andre Goodman has a team-high four interceptions. He doesn't have great foot speed, but knows how to play. Nickel man Ty Law is running on fumes and hanging on because of his experience.


Special teams

Eagles: DeSean Jackson leads the NFL in punt returns with a 17.3-yard average. Over his last four games, he's averaging 29.0. On Sunday, he'll be taking aim at a Bronco punt coverage unit that is ranked 26th in the league. Eagles' punt coverage unit is one of the best in the league, but they are 24th in kickoff coverage.

Broncos: KR/PR Eddie Royal is one of the league's top returners. He's already got two TDs on returns this season. PK Matt Prater has made 16 of his last 17 field goal attempts. He's got a strong leg. Also has an AFC-high 22 touchbacks. Broncos' coverage units have been a liability. They are 26th in punt coverage and 17th in kickoff coverage.


Key matchups

1. Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Broncos ROLB Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil has an NFL-high 15 sacks, but just 5 in the last 8 games. After a slow start, Peters has played at a Pro Bowl level the last 3 games. Advantage: Eagles

2. Eagles CBs Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel vs. Broncos WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Samuel and Brown have combined for 13 interceptions. Marshall and Royal have combined for 130 receptions. Advantage: Broncos

3. Eagles RE Trent Cole vs. Broncos LT Ryan Clady. Cole is having his best all-around season. Clady, an '08 first-rounder, isn't playing as well ins Josh McDaniels' system as he did in Mike Shanahan's. Advantage: Eagles

Hot and not


Eagles: LT Jason Peters. He has put three strong games together and has solidified the Eagles' line.

Broncos: WR Brandon Marshall. Has 41 catches for 453 yards and 4 TDs in the Broncos' last 4 games.


Eagles: LB Chris Gocong. Was benched last week and didn't play a single down on defense vs. 49ers.

Broncos: WR Eddie Royal. Has just 6 catches for 63 yards in the Broncos' last 4 games.

Domowitch's prediction

Eagles 27, Broncos 17