October 05, 2019
After beating the Packers at Lambeau Field last week — and having a few extra days to prepare — the Eagles will return home on Sunday to face the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field.
It's been an up-and-down start to the year for the Birds, but after the first quarter of the season, Doug Pederson's team finds itself at 2-2 and just a game behind the Cowboys for the NFC East lead. Now, they face a winless Jets team that will be hoping for its third-string quarterback to lead them to their first win of the season as nearly two-touchdown underdogs.
Can the Eagles take care of business at home before embarking on a tough stretch of three straight road games? 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 honestly, we think it might be a little tough for the Eagles and Jets to hit that number on Sunday. Why? Well, it likely won't be the Eagles' fault, as they're currently among the top 10 in points scored (27.5 PPG) — and the bottom 10 in points allowed (26.3) — this season. And while nearly every one of our writers thinks the Eagles will hold up their end of the bargain on offense, it really comes down to their defense and how they're able to limit third-string QB Luke Falk and the Jets offense.
We'll have more on Falk and the Jets offense in a minute, but for our purposes here, all you need to know is that the Jets are last in the NFL in total yards and second to last in points scored, averaging just 11 points per game. It's really hard to feel confident in the over this week.
With the exception of the Falcons game, when Wentz appeared to be laboring after taking a few big shots early on, the Eagles quarterback has been exceptional this season. On the whole, he has a 95.3 passer rating, but he's been right at or above that average in three of his four games this season, including a 113.2 passer rating last week against the Packers and a season-high 121.0 rating in the season opener against Washington. Interestingly enough, that first game was the only one in which Wentz had his full complement of receivers, and the Packers win was the second closest he's been to that.
While Wentz won't be getting DeSean Jackson back this week, he should now have a 100-percent Alshon Jeffery after a lingering calf injury was clearly slowing down the Birds No. 1 wideout last Thursday. Going up against a Jets defense that has allowed the fifth most passing yards per game, Wentz should have a solid performance on Sunday. And if the Eagles can build a nice lead early on, something they've struggled with through the first quarter of the season, Wentz won't be asked to pass a ton in the second half when forced throws can really tank a QB's rating.
Through their first three games, the Jets have scored one offensive touchdown — and no, that's not a typo. The Eagles defense has given up their fair share of offensive scores, but most of them have come through the air, and unfortunately for Jets fans, Luke Falk likely isn't going to scare the Eagles into playing conservatively. After a solid debut against the Browns in which he completed 20 of 25 passes for 198 yards, Falk struggled mightily against the stout Patriots defense, completing just 12 of 22 passes and failing to reach triple digits through the air. He was also sacked five times in that game, and although the Eagles defense isn't as good as the Patriots — and they've struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks — this could be the week they break out.
We don't have any real concerns about the Eagles run defense — more on that in a minute — so if they can turn the Jets into a one-dimensional team dependent on their ground attack (which is pretty much what they are already), it's going to be incredibly tough for them to move the ball. And if they do make it into scoring territory, they'll have to face an Eagles defense that is currently eighth in the league in red zone defense this season and is seemingly getting better each week.
As weird as it is to say, if the Jets score a touchdown, it's probably not going to be on offense. While their offense has only found the end zone once this season, their defense has three touchdowns through three games.
There was a point in time, not all that long ago, when Le'Veon Bell was among the most-feared ball carriers in the NFL. Now, in his first season with the Jets, he's quickly becoming an afterthought. Although, given the current state of his team — down to its third-string QB — it's not entirely his fault. In his five matchups to watch for this week, Jimmy Kempski broke down Bell's season so far on a game-by-game basis, and it hasn't been pretty on the ground.
On Sunday, Bell will have the same things working against him that have been there all season. First, he's running behind a less-than-stellar offensive line. He's also playing in an offense where the passing game isn't really much of a threat, allowing opposing defenses to key on Bell and the Jets running backs. Finally, that struggling offense is causing the Jets to fall behind in games, and in turn forcing them to throw in order to try to climb back.
Now, on Sunday, you can add to that the fact that Bell and the Jets will be facing one of the best run defenses in the NFL, and one that's been able to make that claim for a few years in a row. Here's a look at their current ranks against the run:
But the Eagles' numbers get even more impressive when you look at what they've been able to do to their opposition's starting running backs.
None of these things bode well for Bell, who not only leads the Jets in rushing but receiving as well. And that might be where the Eagles need to be the most careful against New York. As for their rushing defense? I think they'll be just fine.
Surprisingly, despite all their struggles and their 0-3 record this season, the Jets have actually been one of the better teams in the NFL at protecting the ball, turning it over just three times through their first three games. The Eagles, on the other hand, have been very hit-or-miss when it comes to creating turnovers this season. In two of their games, they didn't generate any. In their other two games, they totaled five takeaways. Coincidentally, both those goose eggs came while playing at the Linc, while the other two came on the road.
So, can the Eagles not only get their first home takeaway of the season on Sunday, but get two of them? Well, given all the injuries to the Eagles secondary, it's going to be tough, even against Falk. If he had been a turnover machine in his first two starts, this number would likely have been set higher, but given his team's relative success protecting the ball, it's only at 1.5.
That being said, I think the Eagles get a pair of turnovers on Sunday. One interception and one fumble recovery — and I'm thinking a strip-sack may be in order for the latter. The Eagles were able to get one against Aaron Rodgers last week. It'd be nice to see them go it again in front of the home crowd.
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