December 23, 2017
After three straight road games – and four of five dating back to their bye week – the Eagles are finally home for Christmas. And while the forecast is calling for a chance of snow on Monday morning, by the time the sun sets over Lincoln Financial Field, it's going to be a Black Christmas in South Philly.
That's right, the Birds are breaking out their black alternate uniforms for Monday night's game against the Oakland Raiders.
The last time the Eagles broke out the all-black gear was for their Week 9 dismantling of the Broncos, when they held Denver to just 226 yards of total offense. For Eagles fans to get their Christmas wishes fulfilled this weekend, another performance like that one could go a long way toward ensuring that happens.
It would also go along way toward reassuring fans that the subpar defensive performances they've seen recently – at least by the standards Jim Schwartz's unit set for itself with stellar play earlier in the season – aren't going to linger into the playoffs. After allowing 373.7 yards on average during their recent three-game road trip, they'll have to get back on track against a Raiders offense that's struggled to find any a rhythm this season but remains a threat nonetheless.
As for the Eagles offense, the Birds will look to remain on track in Nick Foles' second start of the season after he threw for four touchdowns against the Giants in Week 15. He's only faced the Raiders once in his career – yes, it was that record-setting seven-touchdown game back in 2013 – but if the defense does its job on Monday night, the Birds won't need to rely solely on St. Nick to take care of Oakland this Christmas.
TV: ESPN | STREAM: WatchESPN | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles (-9) | TOTAL: 47 (via Bovada)
On Friday, we took a look at how other local and national writers see this week's game playing out. You can check that out, here.
The Eagles struggled mightily against Eli Manning and the Giants' quick passing offense a week ago, and now they'll face a quarterback in Derek Carr who is second in the NFL in "snap-to-throw" time, at an average of 2.44 seconds. Still, the Eagles are the superior team and have an eight-game winning streak at home. The defense has to wake up at some point before the playoffs begin, right? We'll see.
There are a number of scenarios in which the Raiders will be eliminated prior to this game, the most likely of which is if the Chiefs beat the Dolphins, and the Ravens beat the Colts, both of which are highly likely. I'd buy the 8.5-point line before it jumps when the Raiders know they are officially out of it.
If you’re looking for a game that will test Nick Foles before the playoffs, this isn’t the one. The Raiders rank in the bottom third of the league in a lot of pass defense categories, and this late in the season it’s not a trend you’d expect them to buck.
Will the defense bounce back? That’s a different story. Its fallen off a cliff over the last month, allowing good and bad offenses alike to carve them up. So while Oakland is having a disappointing year moving the ball, I don’t know that it means Schwartz’s unit is out of the woods.
But Oakland is playing on the opposite coast, in the cold on Christmas. I’ll take the Eagles and not think twice about it.
Even without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are the better offense in this one, which is a crazy thing to say since they're playing an Oakland team that many back in September believed to be a contender for the AFC title, in large part because of their explosive offense.
Well, that never really came to fruition in 2017, as Oakland has been mediocre on both sides of the ball. But their offense can still put up points, especially if the Eagles defense comes out playing like it has over the last few weeks. Back at home for the first time in a month, I expect to see a bounce-back performance out of Jim Schwartz's crew – at least they better bounce back, as their running out of time to do so before the postseason rolls around. Derek Carr is still dangerous, despite a down year. As are Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who despite being on pace for his fewest receptions since 2013, is just one touchdown shy of matching his career high.
The Eagles defense has allowed an average of 15.2 points per game at home this season, and just 12 PPG in their last three at the Linc. The Raiders, on the other hand, have been held to just 17 PPG on the road, compared to 22.4 PPG at home.
Offensively, I'm not expecting Nick Foles to put up another seven touchdown performance like the last time these two teams met, but I also don't think he's going to need to.
Of course, this can all get thrown out the window if the Vikings lose to the Packers on Saturday...
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