August 08, 2019
The wait is over. NFL football returns to Philadelphia on Thursday night when the Eagles play host to the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field.
That's the good news. The bad news is that many of your favorite players likely won't be on the field for the preseason opener as teams continues to shift away from playing all their starters, even for a little, in this first game.
But that doesn't change the fact that you'll be able to turn on your radio and listen to Merrill and Mike call the action live. So what if you've never heard of half the players they're talking about? Football is back and you have every right to get excited.
As we do every week to preview the Eagles' upcoming game, let's take a look at five (mostly) made up over/unders that are worth watching in this one. But first, let's start with the only real one of the bunch...
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and it seems pretty spot on for a preseason game because — let's be honest — no one really has any idea what's going to happen at the Linc on Thursday night. In fact, we hardly know which players are going to see the field (more on that in a few).
The over/under for first half points, per Bovada, is 19.5, and if you're going to bet on anything in tonight's game — again, there's really no reason for anyone to ever bet on preseason football — it's probably better to go with the first half total, since you'll at least know some of the guys out on the field.
But, if you do insist on betting on the total points in this one, taking the over might not be the worst idea in the world. In the Eagles first two preseason games last year, there was an average of 51 total points per game.
This has been the real question heading into the preseason opener: Will Carson Wentz play?
The thinking here is that no, he will not play in this one. The Eagles, predictably, played it extremely close to the vest this week regarding Wentz's status for their game against the Titans, but many figured that would be revealed on Wednesday, following the team's walk-through. By that point, since it isn't a current injury but rather fear of a new one that could potentially keep Wentz off the field, the Eagles clearly already knew who would be starting for them against the Titans.
The fact that no info leaked out of NovaCare ahead of the opener suggests that Wentz will sit this one out. If he was going to play, there would be no reason for the Eagles to keep it quiet. However, if he is indeed not playing, the Eagles likely would opt to keep that quiet until as close to kickoff as possible. Why? Because they wouldn't want it to be a storyline heading into the game, and Wentz not playing would likely diminish some fan interest in the game.
That being said, he'd only see a handful of plays if he did suit up, so no one is really missing much of anything — although it would've been nice to see Wentz take a deep shot to DeSean Jackson on the opening play like Donovan McNabb did with Terrell Owens in their first preseason game together.
Wentz and DeSean gonna have their own McNabb to T.O. moment tonight? pic.twitter.com/IugUwPuh4T— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 8, 2019
Maybe Wentz gets a series in front of the home crowd, but putting him out there would simply be fan service. At this point, there's no reason to stick him out there for a couple plays and risk him getting hurt in the first preseason game. Sure, he can get some reps in Games 2 and 3, but is it really worth it for a couple snaps in Game 1?
On a related note, if Wentz does indeed sit this one out, he likely won't be the only starter on the sidelines. In fact, we're betting on most of the starters being inactive on Thursday night. After consulting with Eagles writer Jimmy Kempski, it's probably easier to give the list of Eagles starters who we're pretty sure WILL play: Isaac Seumalo, Dallas Goedert (if the Eagles start two TEs), Nelson Agholor (if the Eagles start 3 WRs), and one of Jordan Howard or Miles Sanders. And that's it. Brandon Brooks is injured, so if you want to consider Halapoulivaati Vaitai a starter for the time being, that works too.
That means these healthy starters are likely to sit out, at least by our estimation: Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz.
Here's where that leaves us:
*In place of injured Brandon Brooks.
Maybe it's time to reconsidering taking the over in total points...
But looking at that chart, if you count Vaitai as a starter for this exercise, the Eagles will have four offensive starters playing, meaning seven will be sitting out. But since Brooks is also a starter and he will be sitting as well (albeit due to an injury), we'll have to add a half point for that. And that leaves us right at 7.5
If you've been reading our Eagles coverage on a regular basis, you know we're high on second-round pick Miles Sanders and his standing on the depth chart actually made the above tally slightly more difficult. See, even though he's a rookie, we view Sanders as the Eagles starter at running back after watching him at training camp. He's the more explosive and complete running back, but he'll have to beat out Jordan Howard, who is currently listed as the starter on the Eagles unofficial depth chart.
What Sanders does in preseason — especially in terms of blitz pickup and ball security — will go a long way toward determining his role in the Eagles' backfield. Duce Staley has a history of rotating the running backs, and that will likely continue this season, but if Sanders can separate himself from the pack, there's no reason to think Staley wouldn't tweak his formula to get Sanders more touches. After all, he could turn into the Eagles best back since LeSean McCoy and it would be criminally negligent not to make sure he gets his touches.
He should see a few of those tonight when he makes his NFL debut. Unfortunately, as we just outlined above, he's going to be playing behind an offensive line that will likely be without four of its five projected starters. That's never good news for a running back.
However, since Sanders won't be getting a full game's worth of touches, one decent run can skew this whole yards per carry thing. And after all the hype we've given Sanders during camp, it wouldn't be fair for us to bail on him right now. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he does break a 20-plus yarder against the Titans and that will be enough to help him hit the over here.
If you last any longer than that for the first preseason game, you either really love football OR you didn't listen to my advice and you gambled on the game.
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