Stick with the smallest bag possible. My last flight on this aircraft I managed to keep a laptop sleeve and that was it. Simply no room for much more. I also notice some changes in these cabins even from plane to plane so each one can be slightly different.
As to that runway at Newark... as you drive out of New York City, over the 14-14c NJ turnpike extension, you can sometimes watch the planes going straight in there.
I have always been able to fit my messenger bag with my laptop in it in the overhead of the embraers. And that runway the small planes sometimes use at Newark is interesting...kind of looks like you are in a car on Rt 78 and all of a sudden you've landed. Just remember to tell your husband to duck when he walks into the plane
Those are the least comfortable commercial aircraft I've ever been on. Small (thin) bags will fit in the overhead, but nothing with wheels or more than about 10" thick.
Not to go completely off subject, but since I travel so much i notice how folks are now bringing suitcases on that are basically full size and it amazes me when they get mad because it won't fit in the overhead......