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Eagles Preview: Five on the Jets

The Jets have never beaten the Eagles in the regular season, losing 11 consecutive times over nearly a half-century

PHILADELPHIA — The Jets and Eagles met for the first time in 1973 and the legendary Joe Namath was set to pilot New York's other football team until his knee started acting up in pre-game warmups forcing then-Jets coach Weeb Eubanks to turn to Al Woodall at quarterback.

It seemed like New York was persevering at first, holding a 17-0 edge before a pick-six by John Outlaw helped turn the tide and lead to a 24-23 Eagles' comeback win.

In the ensuing 48 years, the Jets have never beaten the Eagles.

The two franchises, of course, are familiar from meeting each year in the preseason each year and maybe even more so in 2021 because they added a pair of joint practices in Florham Park, N.J. to the August tradition unlike any other but the two clubs rarely meet when things count, only 11 times over that near half-century.

The bookend to that Namath game is Nate Gerry's pick-six from another backup QB in 2019, the overmatched Luke Falk, who was sacked nine times at Lincoln Financial Field in a 31-6 Eagles' laugher.

In between those two contests were nine more Philly victories which add up to an 11-0 all-time mark against the NYJ, currently, the most wins without a loss by any NFL franchise in a head-to-head environment.

"I saw that," Jets rookie head coach Robert Saleh said when asked about the 0-11 mark. "That's history."

History that has nothing to do with Saleh or his coaching staff and another rookie in quarterback Zach Wilson.

Other than the fact history tends to repeat itself.

ZACH ATTACK

Starting out at No. 6 overall, the Eagles had a lot of interest in Wilson back in April's draft but it became evident early on that old friend Joe Douglas, the Eagles' former VP of player personnel before he became the Jets GM, had a firewall set up and Philadelphia wasn't going to get the opportunity to draft the BYU product.

Instead, Howie Roseman moved down to 12 and then back up to No. 10 to draft DeVonta Smith and add another 2022 first-round selection in the process, a masterstroke but one that will always pale in comparison to what might have been if Wilson becomes a superstar.

To date, Wilson has not played well and missed some time with a PCL injury.

The book on the rookie is that he is capable of making brilliant off-platform throws but struggles with the more mundane aspects of the position that will help keep an offense on schedule.

Wilson has completed only 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards, four touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in seven games. He missed four games with the PCL sprain and the Jets have been forced to use four QBs so far this season, including Joe Flacco, who they re-acquired from the Eagles.

“We did a lot of work on him and a lot of study on him,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said when discussing Wilson. “We thought he was a really good player. He did a lot of good things in college. He was able to throw the ball from different arm levels."

FLACCO EFFECT

Often the thought that a player moving from one team to another in the NFL will result in some CIA-like intelligence gathering is overblown, to say the least.

Unless it's a quarterback because that position demands that the signal-caller understands the entire offense and that's what's in play this weekend at MetLife Stadium with Flacco.

Flacco was traded back to the Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick on Oct. 25, and the 36-year-old veteran has seen and done it all in this league. Sirianni realizes that it could be an issue for his offense but is ready to put in some poison pills so to speak.

"There are a lot of times where you go to these great lengths to change verbiage and you screw yourself up," the Eagles coach said. "But then, there is a fine line in saying, ‘Hey, we can really get them with this.’ So, you know, it’s just – my experience is you go in there and you throw them off a couple times, and then they got to be – maybe all the defensive linemen will come back to Joe and be like, ‘That's not what that is.’

"And so, you do enough to throw them off. I think you don't go overboard to where you screw yourself up."

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BIG OLE' JET AIRPLANE GETS GROUNDED

The Eagles are banged-up when it comes to their top-ranked running game with Jordan Howard ruled out with a knee sprain and Jalen Hurts very uncertain with an ankle injury.

Boston Scott also didn't practice all week with a non-COVID-19 illness and Miles Sanders plans to play but couldn't get through last week's game with his own nagging ankle issue.

The hope is Sanders and Scott can make it through with a bye week-respite on the horizon. If not, expect a heavy dose of rookie Kenny Gainwell in the backfield.

As for Hurts, not getting his earmarked production on the ground would be a big blow. Backup Gardner Minshew has some mobility but it's more of the functional variety.

The Jets, though, have been bottom-five in stopping the run in almost every statistical category. They are dead last when it comes to rushing touchdowns allowed with 20, 31st in the league in explosive runs permitted with 10 of 20-plus and No. 27 overall as a rushing defense.

YOUNG SECONDARY

If Hurts goes but his ankle limited his effectiveness running the football or Minshew is forced to play, putting a larger emphasis on the passing part of things, the inexperience in the Jets secondary could help.

Over the past two weeks, the Jets have started players that are either rookies or second-year players, including safety Elijah Riley, a Douglas favorite who was plucked from the Eagles practice squad on Nov. 9.

Also in the mix have been cornerbacks Bryce Hall (fifth round, 2020), Michael Carter (fifth round, 2021), Javelin Guidry (undrafted, 2020), and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted, 2021), and safety Ashtyn Davis (third round, 2020).

The young group has actually held up well, allowing just 189.5 yards passing over the last two weeks, a big improvement over the first 10 weeks where that number was nearly 100 yards more.

BIG Q

Quinnen Williams, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has arrived, ranking first among all AFC interior defensive linemen in sacks and stop percentage this season.

He also ranks third in ESPN's Pass Rush Win Rate metric behind only Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald and the Eagles' Javon Hargrave.

Williams will be a big test for the Eagles' interior which will be relying on a banged-up Jason Kelce at center and their fourth right guard of the season in Nate Herbig.

PREDICTIONS:

John McMullen (9-3, 7-5 vs. spread) - I could regale you with scheme and strategy or hand-wringing about the health of Hurts, Kelce, and Sanders evening the playing field against the Jets but all of that would be white noise,

The Eagles will beat the Jets because they always do.

EAGLES 24, JETS 19

Ed Kracz (6-6, 6-6 vs. spread) - The Eagles should be tested by the Jets, ut it's a test they should pass.

EAGLES 23, JETS 17

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.