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EXPLOSIVE EAGLES BOAST DYNAMITE DEFENSE

The series

Eagles lead, 4-1, winning all four games played in '80s. Bills' only victory was somewhat of a gift: Tom Dempsey missed a 26-yard field goal on the final play of the game leaving Buffalo a 27-26 victory at Rich Stadium Oct. 7,1973. Last time Eagles visited Orchard Park, in 1984, Lackawanna's Ron Jaworski passed for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead 27-17 victory. Last meeting: Randall Cunningham guided Eagles to 17-7 victory in regular-season finale at Veterans Stadium in 1987.

Bills on offense

As impressive as it was scoring on four of seven possessions in the loss at Houston, the Bills offense will find stiffer opposition against All-Pro end Reggie White and the Eagles, who have the second-best run defense in the NFL and have allowed the lowest completion rate (47.8 percent) in the league. Giants gained 108 yards on ground last week, but 51 came on one Dave Meggett run after issue was decided. . . . Bills thought the Oilers' front seven was the best they've faced since the Raiders, but Philadelphia's is even better with White, Mike Golic, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons on the line and Seth Joyner, Byron Evans and Jessie Small at linebacker. The LB crew may be NFL's best this season. They are young, strong and very active. Joyner, who leads team in tackles, deserves Pro Bowl selection. He stays in game on passing downs. . . . Eagles' weakness is pass coverage of secondary, but few opponents have time to exploit it. . . . Bills probably won't do anything fancy. They will try to establish the run to keep the Eagles honest and chip away with short passing game. Even though they didn't roll up big yardage with run in Houston, it was enough to keep Oilers guessing. If Bills are forced out of balanced game it will be difficult to keep pass rush off Kelly. Philly has 31 sacks and a reputation for knocking out quarterbacks, especially when teams come at them with open formations. . . . Buddy Ryan doesn't use as much 46 defense as he used to but Eagles will crowd line of scrimmage and blitz a lot. It not only pressures passer but disrupts running game.

Eagles on offense

Led by quarterback Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia is third in NFL in total offense and second in rushing. Cunningham tops Eagles with 607 rushing yards in 87 carries. However, Heath Sherman and Anthony Toney have 805 yards between them at one of the running back slots. Keith Byars, who starts at the other RB spot, runs infrequently (21 carries for 90 yards) but plays multi-faceted role as receiver (60 receptions, 651 yards) and a blocker from FB, H-back or TE spots. . . . Eagles took time to adjust to system designed by new offensive coordinator Rich Kotite and have recently added some new dimensions. One is development of Sherman, who has run for 100 yards two of last four games. The other is week-by-week improvement of rookie wide receivers Calvin Williams and Fred Barnett. . . . Bills problem is to pressure Cunningham and contain him in the pocket at the same time. Some tight pass coverage would help. Whatever the strategy, Buffalo DBs did not have a banner day in loss to Houston, making only one play in pass coverage. That was a breakup by dime back David Pool.

Bills update

Secondary still isn't in best of shape. It's been four weeks now since starting corner Kirby Jackson has been able to go distance with no guarantee he will be ready this week. Also, CB Nate Odomes and dime back David Pool were nicked in Houston game. . . . DE Bruce Smith rested tender knee during week, but is expected to be ready to go full bore. DE Leon Seals and LBs Ray Bentley and Carlton Bailey will be happy to face Eagles. They hardly played against Oilers because Bills used extra DBs so often to counter run n' shoot. . . . Longest run (22 yards by Lorenzo White) and longest pass completion (43, Warren Moon to Drew Hill) of season against Bills both came in Houston game. . . . K Scott Norwood only 10 of 14 inside 40, but did nail 43-yarder in Houston. . . . Bills now second in league in kickoff coverage, allowing 16.4 yards per return. New Orleans (13.9) leads league. . . . Buffalo is tied for seventh among least-penalized teams with 57 and fifth in least penalty yards with 422. Miami (50 penalties) and Minnesota (348 yards) are leaders in least-penalized categories.

Eagles update

Loss of DT Mike Pitts messed up Eagles' rotation of defensive lineman. Mike Golic, who used to be relief man who kept inside players fresh, is starter now. . . . Besides two rookie WRs, Eagles start No. 1 draft pick Ben Smith at LC. He began season at free safety, but moved to left corner in Week Seven at Dallas when Izel Jenkins was injured and has held job. Wes Hopkins, who is having standout season, became full-time player at free safety. He was being used primarily as specialist in run situations. . . . Ex-Patriot Jeff Feagles is punter. He played at University of Miami (Fla.) where Bills' punter Rick Tuten began his college career. . . . Kicker Roger Ruzek has hit 15 of 19 field goals, but is 12-14 inside 40. . . . Punt returns have been problem all season (three muffs and two fumbles) for Eagles, who have tried four different return men. Right now job belongs to backup WR Anthony Edwards. Thomas Sanders, ex-Chicago Bear, being used on kickoff returns since he was signed as free agent Oct. 25. He was waived by San Diego, which had signed him as Plan B free agent last March. Sanders joins two former Texas A&M backfield mates, Toney and Roger Vick, on Eagles roster.

Outlook

Forget Giants and 49ers, Eagles are playing best football in NFL. They have won last five, longest current winning streak in league . . . Beating them would be monumental achievement for Bills, who would have to be at their best. Even at their best, Bills could lose to a tough, talented team. PREDICTION: Eagles, 24-14. -- MILT NORTHROP

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