October 08, 2016
We've arrived at Week 5 of the 2016 NFL season, and things are looking pretty good for the Philadelphia Eagles. On Sunday, they'll face a team that hasn't fared as well through the first month, but one that's dangerous nonetheless, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Yes, Calvin Johnson is retired and starting running back Ameer Abdullah is injured, but Theo Riddick is a solid backup and Matthew Stafford hasn't had much trouble putting up points (for the most part). However, he hasn't faced this Eagles defense, one that's completely different from the defense that the Lions dropped 45 on last Thanksgiving.
Let's take a look at what to expect:
That's currently the line being offered at Bovada. And while I can easily envision the final score hitting the over, I think the Eagles defense is good enough to keep the Lions below 20 points. And because of that, I think the under is the better play. Especially when you consider the fact that Stafford and the Detroit offense was held to 16 or fewer points in two of their last three games. I predicted a 31-13 win for the Birds, so I'm going to stick with the under here.
It has to happen eventually, right? I feel like I've written that more than a few times this season. And while I very much believe that it's going to happen sooner rather than later, I actually don't think this is the week. The Lions, who have only managed one interception in four games, have several defensive backs on the injury report, and with an extra week to prepare – plus the offense-friendly conditions of Ford Field – I think Wentz puts up his fourth straight clean sheet.
This is slightly below their average through three games, and they've recorded multiple sacks each week, including a season-high four against the Steelers. With an extra week to prepare, expect Jim Schwartz's unit to really get after Stafford early and often. The Lions offensive line isn't great, and that doesn't bode well against a defense that is more than capable of getting pressure with just the front four. He only blitzed two or three times against Pittsburgh, and if he decides to do so more often on Sunday – when starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin returns after missing the last two games with injury –Stafford and Co. better look out.
Speaking of players returning from injury – Wentz will get tight end Zach Ertz back on Sunday. In his only game of the season, Ertz finished second on the team with six receptions on seven targets. Trey Burton was inactive in that game, and his presence could cost Ertz a couple targets, but if Doug Pederson continues to allow Wentz to throw more and more, there should be plenty to go around. The targets will be there, but in order to make me look smart here, Ertz is going to have to be able to haul them in.
Just like Wentz is eventually going to throw an interception, the Eagles defense is eventually going to allow a passing touchdown. And while I think Wentz's streak is safe for at least another week, I think this one ends on Sunday, sort of. How about this one? Stafford to Riddick on a screen pass, he breaks a tackle or two and takes it in for a 35-yard score. And my fantasy team rejoices.
But that's all he gets.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin