September 07, 2019
On Sunday, all the waiting finally comes to an end. The Eagles will be playing football again and all will feel right in the world. Unfortunately, we're not quite there yet.
But don't worry, we've got you covered to get you through until kickoff with some matchups to watch, a breakdown of the latest injuries, and our predictions for Sunday's game against Washington. And, as we do every Saturday throughout football season, here's a look at some numbers to keep an eye on in the form of our five over/unders...
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and after watching the Packers and Bears on Thursday night in Chicago, it's hard not to want to hammer the under here. Washington looks to be somewhat offensively challenged this year, and the Eagles defense should be able to more than hold their own against Case Keenum at the Linc — just look at what happened the last time he played there.
On the flip side, you have the Eagles offense, which is expected to be explosive and quite high scoring this season. But for Carson Wentz and Co. this is essentially preseason game No. 1, as Wentz and several other starters on offense have yet to play this summer. And the ones that have, they played just a handful of snaps in the third preseason — with Cody Kessler and Josh McCown at quarterback. It's part of the reason why, in my Week 1 prediction, I took the Eagles to win but not cover the spread. And that is also reflected in my total points, which are just 39.
Don't worry, the Eagles offense will be just fine this season. It just might be a little slow going at the start.
Without looking it up, what was Carson Wentz's passer rating last season? I'll even give you a hint: As a point of reference, his passer rating in 2017, when he was an MVP candidate, was 101.9. So, it was probably pretty low since he had a down season right? Got a guess? Good.
Did you guess that it was actually higher than it was in 2017? Because, believe it or not, it was.
That's right, last season, despite his knee still not being 100 percent early on and later being forced to play through a stress fracture in his back, Carson Wentz's passer rating (102.2) was actually better than it was the season the Eagles won the Super Bowl. And yes, I totally set you up to get that question wrong.
What does all that have to do with Sunday, especially since this stat hardly tells the whole story? Well, it's just a reminder that over the last two seasons, Wentz's passer rating was over 100, despite all the talk of a "down year" in 2018. There's no question that Wentz was a different quarterback last season — not as mobile, missing some throws he would've made the previous year, etc. — but maybe, just maybe, we overreacted to Wentz having, by his standards, a down year. But don't forget that he still managed to throw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in 11 games and again limited his interceptions to just seven.
That being said, those passer ratings are totals for the entire season's worth of stats, and it's a lot harder to play up to your averages in Week 1 without any preseason action. I think Wentz throws for a pair of touchdowns and comes close on Sunday, but I think he falls just short of hitting the century mark.
This one might be of more interest to fantasy owners, but it's a question I've gotten from nearly every Eagles fan I've talked to this summer: Who will get more touches, rookie Miles Sanders or veteran free-agent acquisition Jordan Howard. And to me, and many of those who have been down at training camp this summer, the answer is quite obvious. It's going to be Miles Sanders.
The rookie has looked better in nearly every facet. And he's looked good enough in protection — both of the quarterback and of the ball — to give the Eagles confidence heading into the regular season.
In Week 1, the touches might be a little closer than we'll see as the season goes on and Sanders begins to solidify himself as the team's No. 1 option, but I think the team knows what they've got in their second-round pick, and I think you'll see that reflected on the field on Sunday.
If this category looks familiar to you, that isn't surprising. This has been a mainstay in the over/unders throughout the preseason and dating back to last season. In large parts, because it's part of the reason the Eagles struggled at points last season.
In 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, the Eagles defense averaged nearly two forced turnovers per game. Last year, that number was essentially cut in half. And that's not going to get the job done in 2019. The offense can certainly help with that, by getting out to some leads and forcing opponents into passing situations or more risky play calls to try to catch up.
While I don't see that happening on Sunday — we've already talked about a potential slow start for the offense — I do see the Eagles defensive front wreaking havoc on Case Keenum without Trent Williams there to protect his blind side. There will be at least one strip sack in this game, and one Keenum pass that floats in the breeze after he was hit on throw and gets picked off a la Chris Long and Patrick Robinson in the NFC Championship Game.
Jim Schwartz's defense needs to get off to a good start in 2019, and I think they do that on Sunday.
Last year, Zach Ertz set a new NFL record for receptions by a tight end in a season with 116 catches. Helping his case was the fact that he was targeted a whopping 156 times, nearly 10 times per game. Between the weapons the Eagles added, like DeSean Jackson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and the emergence of second-year tight end Dallas Goedert, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Ertz receives that many targets again.
Consider this: Ertz's had more receptions in 2018 than he had targets in any previous seasons.
It's nothing against Ertz. He just broke the record last season, and it would silly to expect him to do it again the following year. It's more likely Ertz finished with numbers somewhere between last season and his run from 2015-2017, which is still incredibly impressive. Maybe somewhere around 125 targets and 90 receptions? That's still a hell of a season for a tight end.
As for Sunday, you could see Wentz target him slightly more than some of the other receivers, as there's already an incredible amount of comfort and trust between those two players and this is just the first game of the season. Last season, Ertz averaged 7.5 catches per game, so we set the number slightly lower to make it a little more difficult. I think I'm still going to take the under here, but I'm not very confident.
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