September 21, 2019
The Eagles will welcome the unbeaten Detroit Lions into the Linc on Sunday for a game that could have some big implications for the Birds, who are looking to avoid falling to 1-2 before a short week that ends on Thursday night in Green Bay.
A loss here could send the injury-ravaged Birds into a tailspin, but a win could put them right on track as they head into a tough stretch that has them playing away from home in four of their next five games. The Birds are the favorites in this one despite coming off a loss to the Falcons last week, but it won't be an easy one for Philly, as they'll have to deal with Matthew Stafford and a Lions offense that is eighth in total yards heading into Week 3.
Can they bounce back from their heartbreaking loss in Atlanta and take care of business against Detroit? Here's a look at some numbers to keep an eye on in this one in the form of our five weekly Eagles over/unders...
That's the current line being offered over at Bovada. It's about the same as the Birds' season opener, and with Washington scoring more points than expected in that one, they scored way more than the projected 44.5 points. However, in Week 2 against Atlanta, the two teams fell well short of their plus-50 over/under.
So will the get back to hitting the over this week? The number sure is low enough, but the problem now becomes that the Eagles will be playing through some injuries and will already be without DeSean Jackson (and possibly Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert as well). We saw last week against the Falcons that those absences have a big impact on the Eagles' ability to score. Combine that with the fact that the Eagles defense has been much better at home over the last two-plus seasons — they've allowed 17.5 PPG at home since the start of 2017 (17 games) compared to 22.6 on the road — and it's beginning to look like this could be a game to take the under.
However, if you look at our staff predictions, while none of us predicted a total reaching 50 points, four of our six writers have this game hitting the over, while one has it hitting 45 points on the nose. The only one that has it hitting the under? You guessed it.
In Week 1, the Eagles new-look backfield had a solid, if unspectacular, day. Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles combined for 123 yards, but the biggest surprise was that Sproles led the team in rushing yards. He was also tied with Sanders for the most touches on the team (12). Then, last week in Atlanta, despite being without three of Wentz' top receiving options, Doug Pederson completely abandoned the run. The Eagles running backs carried the ball just 18 times in the loss, and Sproles, who had nine carries in the opener, didn't receive a single hand-off. And Howard, who looked good in limited action in the opener, again failed to reach double-digits in carries.
That seems to be the story of the Eagles' running backs in Duce Staley's rotation. You never know which back is going to be featured or when, and sometimes Pederson makes it so it's none of them.
So far this season, their struggles on the ground are at least partially influenced by the Eagles' slow starts in games and the fact that they're so consistently playing from behind. If they can shake that habit — and Doug Pederson said this week that he's going to go back and look at film from 2016-17 when they were much better at scoring early in games to see what was working — the Eagles ground attack should improve. Call me crazy, but I think the Birds find a way to buck the trend and get on the scoreboard early in this one and, thanks to a Lions defense that's allowing 5.2 yards per carry (26th in NFL), they'll ultimately hit triple digits on the ground. I don't think they'll shatter this number, but I think they'll pass it.
Usually I include at least one Carson Wentz over/under each week, but with so many of his receivers sidelined or playing through injuries, we've decided to take this number off the board because it's just too hard to predict. Instead, let's look at what we can expect from the guy who will likely line up on Sunday as Wentz' No. 1 option at wide receiver...
Nelson Agholor actually led the Eagles in receiving yards against Atlanta and had a solid stat line in Week 2 with DeSean and Alshon out: eight receptions (on 11 targets) for 110 yards and a touchdown. But, as is often the case, the stats don't tell the whole story. That's because it was the one(s) that Agholor let slip through his fingers that hurt the most, like this would-be go-ahead touchdown pass from Wentz to Agholor in the fourth quarter:
That was just one of Agholor's three drops in the game, all of them costly, but this category isn't about how many drops he'll have. It's about the receiving yards he can post if he's the Eagles only healthy starting receiver.
Sure, no Jackson or Jeffery (if he can't go) puts a spotlight on Agholor and likely means he draws extra attention from the Lions secondary, but what other options does Wentz have on the outside? Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside didn't inspire a ton of confidence in Week 2, but they were forced into expanded roles at the last minute without enough time to prep as the top wideouts. I think Agholor has at least one long reception on Sunday — like he almost did against the Falcons — and gets a big chunk of these yards on one play.
Through the first two games, Matthew Stafford is averaging 303 yards per game through the air. Meanwhile, the Eagles are allowing an average of 340 yards per game through the air, second worst in the NFL to only the Raiders through two games. And Oakland just gave up 467 passing yards last week to the Chiefs.
Could another poor performance from the Birds secondary force Howie Roseman to go out and get Jalen Ramsey? We might just find out on Monday after Stafford, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones come through town...
For the last year-plus, I've included Eagles takeaways as the defensive stat to watch, and I said I'd continue to include it until the Eagles finally got back on track with turnovers. Well, after the got three last week (in a losing effort), we're going to shift our focus slightly to another area in which Jim Schwartz' defense has been lacking: QB pressure.
Through the first two games, the Eagles have exactly two sacks. That number, like their passing yards allowed, is also the second worst in the NFL. Funny how that works out.
One of the ways the Eagles defense can prove me wrong on the passing yards prediction is by getting some pressure on Stafford, who was sacked three times in the opener when he dropped back 48 times but not once in Week 2 when he only passed 30 times. Get a lead, force Stafford to through, and let your front seven pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. That's always the plan, it's just something the Eagles haven't been able to execute to this point in 2019.
The Eagles still have Fletcher Cox, but he hasn't been 100 percent, and without Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, they might struggle again to get pressure with just the front four. Schwartz was able to dial up a few well-timed blitzes in Week 2 before the last one cost the Eagles the game. Will he be gun shy against Detroit? He might not have that option if his line again struggles to get to the quarterback on their own. I think there will be some decent pressure from the Birds, but this category isn't just about generating pressure, it's about getting to the quarterback and taking him to the ground. And they've struggled at that so far in 2019.
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