November 25, 2015
Maybe it's a good thing the Eagles are playing early on Thanksgiving Day this year.
At least this way, you'll have something to change the conversation to when your xenophobic and somewhat racist grandfather starts talking about how sending all the Syrian refugees to Ferguson could've solved two problems at once.
I mean, Adele can only save you so many times, right?
So when the topic gets a little dicey -- and if you're family is anything like mine, it always does -- you'll at least be able to distract all the men at the table by talking about the Eagles-Lions game.
If the Eagles win, you'll be able to discuss the game without losing your appetite. And if they drop their third game in a row, you won't need to waste time breaking down the "why" behind it; you should be able to get everyone's attention by asking one simple question.
"So, do you think Chip Kelly is going back to college?"
But if it looks anything like last week's performance against the Buccaneers, maybe just let the old man finish explaining why Donald Trump is the best choice for president before asking him to pass the stuffing.
In the meantime, here are five over/unders for the Eagles Turkey Day matchup against the Lions.
That's the total currently being offered by topbet.eu. According our staff predictions, however, we're projecting a total closer to 48 points -- Jimmy (51 points), Rich (44 points), Matt (48 points) -- although only two of us are actually picking the over.
The Lions are near the bottom of the league in scoring (29th), and until last week, the Eagles defense looked pretty stout. However, they just surrendered 45 points at home to a Tampa team that had scored an average of 17 points in their three previous games. The Lions defense is also 29th in points, but in their two games since the bye week, they've held their opponents to 29 points combined (14.5/game). In their four games prior to their bye, however, Detroit allowed an average of 37.25 points per game.
Which Lions defense will show up Sunday? Hopefully the one that started the season last in points allowed, and not the one that held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just 16 points two weeks ago. But that may depend on which Eagles offense shows up -- the one that's scored 18 points/game in the last two weeks, or the one that averaged close to 30/game in their four previous contests.
Last week, I focused entirely on the offense in the over/unders, and missed on three of the five. And since Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder) has cleared the league's protocol, practiced fully on Wednesday, and hasn't yet been ruled out for the game, it's hard to predict just what the offense is going to do on Thanksgiving.
Hell, it's been hard enough to predict their production even when we know who is going to be the starter.
Considering participated in practice all three days this week -- and their season is very much on the line against Detroit -- I get the feeling Bradford is going to play.
Over their last four games, it's been feast or famine for the Eagles front seven. Against the Dolphins and Cowboys, the defense combined for eight sacks (four in each game), but against the Panthers and Bucs, they were only able to manage one sack in each game. Both of those last two teams have big, more mobile quarterbacks than tradition pocket passers, which is what the Eagles will face in Lions QB Matthew Stafford.
On the season, the Eagles are averaging about two and a half sacks each game (24 in 10 games). Stafford, meanwhile, has been sacked 26 times this year, 17 of which came in his last four games. Actually, it was only three of the their last three games. Take a look at the number of sacks they've allowed since Week 7 against the Vikings:
• Week 7, vs. MIN -- 7 sacks allowed
• Week 8, at KC -- 6 sacks allowed
• Week 9 -- BYE
• Week 10, at GB -- 0 sacks allowed
• Week 11, vs. OAK -- 4 sacks allowed
I think the Eagles defense will come out with something to prove against the Lions after being torched for five touchdowns by rookie Jameis Winston last week.
Calvin Johnson is not having his best season, to say the least. He's hasn't caught double-digit passes since back in Week 2, and has only surpassed 100 yards receiving once. Furthermore, he's only found the end zone three times this year after averaging 10 TDs/year over his last seven season (basically his entire career except for his rookie season. On the year, he's averaging just under six catches per game.
The Eagles, however, have struggled against big, physical wideouts this season.
In Week 1, they allowed Julio Jones to go for . Two weeks later, Jets WR Brandon Marshall torched them for 10 receptions, 109 yards and a TD. Against the Cowboys, Dez Bryant caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, which also freed the much smaller Colt Beasley to catch nine passes for 112 yards and two scores. And last week against the Bucs, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson were doing pretty much whatever they wanted against the Eagles secondary and finished with a combined stat line of eight receptions, 119 yards and two touchdowns.
If that trend continues Thursday, Johnson could have a big day. But second-options, like Beasley and Jackson, have been able to shine against the Birds, and with Golden Tate as a more than qualified No. 2, I expect him to steal some more targets than usual from Megatron.
If you're wondering why I had to clarify that, it's because the only turnover the Eagles have created in the last two games belongs to the offense -- against the Bucs, Brent Celek recovered a fumble forced by Zach Ertz after DeMarco Murray fumbled on his first carry of the game.
That's shocking considering neither opponent was particularly skilled at protecting the ball while the Eagles defense had seemingly been able to create turnovers at will through their first eight games of the season. They were so good, in fact, that despite the recent drop off, they still rank third in the league with 21 turnovers.
Against the Lions, I think the defense gets back on track in this regard. After all, the Lions are 31st in the league with 21 total turnovers, and their 13 interceptions are third-worst in the NFL, one spot behind the Eagles.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin