September 18, 2016
In last week's edition of my Eagles' over/unders, I decided to focus entirely on Carson Wentz's NFL debut. It just seemed like the right thing to do given that much of the conversation the week leading up to their Week 1 game against the Browns revolved around the rookie's first start.
They weren't great, but given that we only had 39 preseason snaps on which to judge Wentz, they weren't all that bad. And I'll continue to mix Wentz-related over/unders in each week, but there are plenty of other areas on this team that deserve our attention as well.
With that in mind, let's get right into this week's picks:
That's the current over/under being offered by topbet.eu -- and is just one point higher than the 41 points projected last week when the Eagles faced the Browns. Even though the total in that game was slightly below (39 points), I think they'll hit the over this week against the Bears, largely due to the fact that they're facing a much more dangerous offense.
No, the Bears aren't going to score at an astounding rate, but Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey are certainly a dangerous combo against an Eagles defense that will be missing starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin. In our weekly predictions post, I picked a final score of 27-24. As you can see, I really like the over in this one.
After showing an uncanny ability to generate turnovers in the preseason, Jim Schwartz's defense was only able to force one out of the Browns in Week 1 – a Robert Griffin III pass that was deflected twice before landing in the outstretched arms of a diving Rodney McLeod. Even though McKelvin will be sidelined, I think the Birds can hit the over here, especially if their front seven is able to generate the kind of pressure on Cutler early that they were unable to sustain against RGIII until later in the game.
The Eagles finished with three sacks (and five QB hits in total) in Week 1, but if Fletcher Cox and Co. can get in Cutler's head early, they'll get at least one interception. And given that Cutler has a tendency to put the ball on the turf while trying to avoid a sack, I'll be pretty surprised if there aren't multiple turnovers by the Bears in this one.
In his first action after missing the entire preseason with a knee injury, Matthews was far and away Wentz's favorite receiving option. He was targeted a team-high 14 times, twice as often as the next closest Eagle, Zach Ertz. Matthews finished with a game-high seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The immediate reaction to this number is to take the over, given his high volume of targets and almost immediate chemistry with Wentz. After a few drops early, the two seemed unstoppable for most of the game. And now with Ertz out for Monday night, it would only make sense that some of those targets go Matthews' way.
Not so fast.
The Bears are going to be keyed up on Matthews. At least that's what I would do if I was their defensive coordinator -- try to take away the rookie's favorite target and not only do you possibly take him out of his comfort zone, but you force less talented receivers to beat you. Getting Matthews the ball may not be quite as easy this time around. And with a underrated Trey Burton expected to return after missing the opener, there may not be as many of those Ertz targets to go around. I still think Matthews has a good game, just not quite the same level of production as he had a week ago.
Wentz was credited with a fumble in the Eagles opener on a botched handoff attempt to Darren Sproles – luckily it wasn't a turnover as Sproles was able to fall on it. And, as you likely know by now, the rookie didn't throw an interception against Cleveland. The Bears defense is better than the Browns, but not by much. The one thing that did scare was the fact that he had a few passes batted at the line of scrimmage, and if those were tipped in a slightly different direction, he may already have an interception on his ledger. Hopefully, it won't cost his team, but I think Wentz throws his first this week. He has to eventually, right?
Before the game even starts on Monday night, there's going to be some drama on the Eagles sideline. Malcolm Jenkins said on Friday -- and explained his reasoning to PhillyVoice on Saturday -- that he and some of his teammates are planning a symbolic gesture during the playing of the national anthem at Soldier Field. The unquestioned leader of the team's defense, Jenkins wouldn't say specifically what they had planned or who exactly would be involved, but given the veteran safety's presence around NovaCare – and head coach Doug Pederson's endorsement of said gesture – there's a good chance that you're going to see more than a handful of guys participating.
Do I think it will be the entire team? No, but that's hard to say for certain until we know just what they have planned. Do I think it will be the majority of the team? Again, probably not, but the more people Jenkins gets on board, the less this becomes a potential distraction and the more likely it is to be something that bonds the players. If I had to guess, I think you'll see a majority of the defense involved, but after that, it really depends on how they plan on protesting the "social injustice" that Jenkins spoke about when explaining why he feels the need to make a statement.