Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Thursday Factor


NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles traveled to Seattle for a Thursday night game back in December of 2011. Trevor Laws predicted that his team was poised to “blow out” the Seahawks but it went the other way on him, as Seattle cruised to an easy 31-14 win at CenturyLink Field.

Recognizing the difficulty of playing all the way across the country on a short week,  the NFL established new guidelines for scheduling Thursday night games following that season. With the exception of an occasional divisional matchup, teams are no longer asked to travel more than one time zone to play a Thursday road game.

Dallas is just a time zone away but the Eagles still have to hop a nearly four-hour flight for their Thanksgiving showdown with the Cowboys this week. The fact that Dallas played in New York on Sunday night should help balance the travel factor out some, but it’s a challenge nonetheless.

The Eagles hope that they are designed to deal well with the quick turnaround, particularly as it applies to physical recovery and game-plan installation.

It is difficult for a player to get his body right in a matter of just four days, but the Eagles seem confident in their ability to bounce back because of the methods used inside the NovaCare walls.

“They’re taking care of us for this short week in terms of monitoring our bodies, knowing what guys are nicked up and bruised up, giving us the right protocol,” said Nolan Carroll, who leans on epsom salt baths, the steam room and massages to to recover. “Every single guy has their own little different recovery thing that they’re doing [this week] to make sure that we can get our legs back and get ready for Thursday.”

Added Mark Sanchez: “Right after the game you have to start taking care of yourself and the faster you can recover, the better you can potentially be the next week. It’s not a shoo-in. We still have to do all our mental prep and stuff, but having the physical part down and the way they do it, they’ve got it down to a science here – literally – so that makes it good for the players…I don’t know if it gives you a distinct advantage but it 100 percent can’t hurt.”

When it comes to scheme, the coaches have to strike a balance between not overloading their players and staying away from being too vanilla. Billy Davis doesn’t see that as an issue for this group.

“The system that we put together has a lot of carryover every week,” said Davis. “We pick different tools and different ways that we’re going to run similar things, or exchange somebody’s responsibilities to make it look different for [the opponent]. But it’s easy for our players to say, ‘Oh, that’s just that blitz or that coverage,’ we may combine them together but we don’t invent anything every week. It think our players are growing and getting faster in the scheme because the scheme is not changing for our players but some of the presentation to the opposition, they’re getting a different look but we’re not struggling to teach it. So this short week is no different than a long week for us.”

The home team has won eight of the 12 games played on Thursday so far this season. The home-field record isn’t quite as dominant (25-19) when you look back at every Thursday game played over the last three years, however. And when it comes to Thanksgiving games, the road team has split with the home team, 14-14, over the last 10 seasons.

So while the odds aren’t exactly in the Eagles’ favor, they’re not totally stacked against them, either.

WHAT YOU MISSED

An All-22 look at how the Eagles will try to stop the Cowboys’ potent ground game.

Jeremy Maclin has moved on from agent Ben Dogra; Riley Cooper continues to make strange comments.

Sheil offers his game review of the defense and offense with an eye towards the Cowboys.

Kapadia gets you more familiar with Dallas. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Former Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti says that each of the Eagles’ opponents in the NFC East has tried to hire him as a consultant.  From the Oregonian:

“I have been asked by everybody in the NFC East…” the retired Aliotti said on Monday. “The Giants asked me to come back when Chip got the first job. I didn’t feel right doing that. Some teams have called when they’re getting ready to play the Eagles and they call and have certain questions on the thing. Unless I know the guy and he’s a good friend, I don’t get involved with that.”…

Aliotti, who coached alongside Eagles head coach Chip Kelly saw the offense every day in practice. He turned down the requests, he said, but Aliotti said he’s talked scheme with some of his coaching friends such as USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who played under Aliotti.

On Monday, Bennie Logan said that the Cowboys’ offensive line is nothing special. Those comments made their way into the Dallas locker room.

COMING UP

We’re heading to Dallas. We’ll roll out our predictions for Eagles-Cowboys.