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November 04, 2017

Five over/unders for Eagles vs. Broncos

Eagles NFL

We're halfway through the Eagles season and it still seems somewhat hard to believe that Doug Pederson's team is 7-1 and in control of the NFC playoff race.

On Sunday, they'll face the Broncos in their final game before heading into a well-deserved bye. Denver, once a team many thought would be sitting near the top of the AFC when it traveled to Philly for this one, got off to a hot start but lost three straight, the most recent of which led to a change in quarterback.

However, their defense is still one of the best in the NFL, and is capable of keeping the Broncos in the game whether it's Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler or whoever at quarterback. And that will be the real matchup in this one: Carson Wentz vs. the Broncos defense.

With that in mind, here's a look at five over/unders for Eagles-Broncos:

Total points: 42.5 

The current number being offered over at Bovada is 42, but I bumped it up a half point just to make it a little more interesting. It didn’t matter whether I moved the line up or down because either way, I’m taking the under here. Just take a look back at our predictions post from Friday – Jimmy Kempski (32), Kyle Neubeck (37) and I (37) all believe this game is going to stay under, and it’s not really even close. The reasons are fairly obvious. And if they aren’t already, they will be by the time you’re done reading our four other over/unders.


Carson Wentz pass attempts: 29.5

The Broncos are No. 1 in the NFL in total yards allowed and No. 2 in yards per rush, holding opposing offenses to just 3.04 yards/carry. Unfortunately, they’ll present problems for Carson Wentz through the air as well; they allow just 188.1 passing yards per game, sixth best in the league. 

So how will Doug Pederson and the Eagles choose to attack the Denver defense? If past performance is any indication, it will likely be a more balanced game plan. Wentz hasn't thrown more than 32 times in a game since Week 2 of this season. 

That being said, Wentz has attempted at least 30 throws in seven of eight games this season. 

One wrinkle in this is the addition of Jay Ajayi – we'll have more on him in a bit – and specifically how his presence could impact the way in which the Eagles attempt to avoid the Broncos’ dangerous pass rush, including Von Miller and his seven sacks. Without Jason Peters, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and the rest of the line will need to step up, and Ajayi’s pass protection has been questionable in the past. But one way he could help is in the passing game. 

A healthy dose of screen passes and quick, three-step drops could be a way to keep Wentz upright and get the Eagles' running backs the ball in space, something that won't come easy against this Denver defense. 


Broncos sacks: 2.5

You might be surprised to learn that the Broncos have 17 team sacks, especially considering Miller has seven on his own. But that doesn't mean they aren't capable of getting to Wentz in this one. Wentz has been sacked 22 times this season, and that number could be higher if not for his seemingly uncanny ability to escape tackles. 

More than anything, the outcome here will depend on the outcome of the previous over/under. That, and how quickly Wentz is able to get the ball out of his hands. He's been known to hold on to it too long, so limiting his throws may be the best way to keep him out of harm's way. Still, I think they get to him three times.

Jay Ajayi carries: 8.5

On Friday, Doug Pederson wasn't even willing to commit to Ajayi being out on the field Sunday. But reading between the lines, it sure sounds like the Eagles coach wants his new running back to be available against the Broncos, even if he's not up to speed on the entire offensive playbook.

"He's done a nice job," Pederson said of Ajayi's progress learning the Eagles offense. "He's a smart guy. He comes from an offense that uses very similar terminology, so he's familiar with that. He's picked it up. He's had some extra meetings with [Eagles RBs coach] Duce [Staley] this week. We're trying to get him up to speed as fast as he can and we can. He's done a nice job."

If Ajayi's active on Sunday – signs point to that being the case – you'd have to assume it's because Pederson intends to use him. 

"He's a violent runner. He's aggressive," Pederson said. "When I say 'violent,' he's aggressive. He's got a great one-cut move back to the inside. I think he's got tremendous vision. He can hit the hole extremely fast. Even in the open field, he's got the speed to run away from defenders."

I think he plays. And I think he gets double-digit carries. Now it will be interesting to see whose carries suffer because of it.


Eagles takeaways: 1.5

The Broncos have turned the ball over 17 times this season, second-worst in the NFL. The Eagles defense meanwhile, is eighth in the NFL with 14 takeaways this year. That's not an incredibly high number – and the change at QB in Denver is the big wildcard here – but the fact that the Broncos have turned it over 11 times in their last three games, including five times against the Chiefs on Monday night, is impossible to ignore. 

It may be difficult imagine anyone being much worse, but this is Brock Osweiler we're talking about after all.


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