Eagles-Falcons: What we're watching

Posted: December 04, 2009

Each week, Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch will tell you the things he will be keeping his eyes on during that week's game:

1. What to do about Gonzo: Tight ends have been a problem the Eagles haven't been able to solve this season. In their last eight games, opposing TEs have 55 receptions for 634 yards and seven - count 'em, seven - touchdowns. Now, they might have to figure out a way to neutralize Tony Gonzalez without the services of linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee). Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer who has a club-high 61 catches and five TDs.

2. Pressuring Redman: With Matt Ryan sidelined with a toe injury, Chris Redman will make just his 11th career start and fifth in the last 7 years. He was sacked five times by the Bucs last week after replacing Ryan; the Eagles, who have just four sacks in the last three games, need to get pressure on him.

3. Third down: Last week, the Eagles almost lost to the Redskins because their defense couldn't get off the field on third down (Redskins were 8-for-17) and their offense couldn't convert them (5-for-15). This week, they're playing a team that has a pretty good third-down offense (8th in NFL with 42.3 conversion rate) and a very, very bad third-down defense (31st, 47.0).

4. Finishing the red-zone job: The Eagles converted just one of four red-zone opportunities into a TD vs. Washington and are 23rd in the league inside the 20 (14-for-30). Donovan McNabb has completed 63.1 percent of his passes outside of the red zone, but just 46.7 percent (14-for-30) inside of it. Eagles have converted a disgraceful 11 of 17 goal-to-go situations into touchdowns.

5. The Avant factor: The best slot receiver in the NFL is the Patriots' Wes Welker, but Jason Avant is making a pretty good case for himself as the second best. He has 17 catches in the last three games, and with DeSean Jackson not expected to play and tight end Brent Celek nursing a sprained thumb, Donovan McNabb will be looking for him a lot in the middle.

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