Of course, the team will once again be playing without its two best wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson. This is a game that the Eagles should win; however it is also the type of game that you could see them loose. With that being said, there are some important things that the Eagles must focus on if they expect to come out with a W.
Here are my Five Keys to the game:
1. RUN THE BALL
The Eagles ground game has pretty much sucked thus far in 2019. In fact, after two games they have the 23rd ranked rushing game (52 Attempts-172 Yards-3.3 Yards/Att).
During the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl season, the team faced a similar situation going into week #3. The Eagles had been terrible running the ball and many fans and pundits had called out the team. Of course, week #3 the team committed to the run and the rest was history. The 2017 Eagles ended the year with the leagues' 3rd ranked rushing attack and their success with the run directly enhanced their passing game while establishing the play action pass.
The teams mounting injuries in their wide receiver corps has made the running game all that more important. If the Eagles are going to find success, they absolutely must commit to the run. Furthermore, the team has to start to feature running back Jordan Howard. Feed this man the ball. Howard had a ton of success with Chicago, and he is one of those backs that gets better with more carries.
I know that Doug Pederson's MO is to pass the ball. However, the key will be his ability to once again listen to the voice of reason and get back to the bread and butter of NFL lure. Ground and Pound. Running the ball will also keep pressure off of Carson Wentz. Run the ball first and with that things will open up in the passing game.
2. Bring the Heat
Its no secret that putting pressure on a quarterback is an important key in any NFL game. However; when it comes to Matt Stafford, this key is even more of a highlighted bullet point. When Matt Stafford is given too much time, he can absolutely pick a team apart.
Stafford has actually had a ton of success against the Eagles in the past and much of this can be attributed to him not getting rushed or hurried. In 4 games against the Eagles he has a 3-1 record, 979 Passing Yards, 9TD's-1INT, and a rushing TD. In 3 out of the 4 games, the Eagles pass rush failed the eye test.
With the team missing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, they are already missing their inside push. The team is going to need Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett to step it up and make plays. Whether Jim Schwartz dials up the blitz again, or if he instead goes back to his conservative approach, the team cannot afford to have a quiet game from their defensive line.
Defensive stalwart Fletcher Cox has been hampered by injury. Today is the day that he puts aside the lingering injury bug and absolutely dominates the game. If Cox cant get back to All star form, this team is truly in trouble. Put pressure on Matt Stafford and then he will come apart at the seams. This is the key to the game on defense.
3. Protect Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz looks like he is back to his 2017 form. However; if the offensive line plays like it did last week, it will not be long before Carson is once again roaming the sidelines watching another backup under center.
The offensive line played a terrible game last Sunday. This is one of the teams greatest strengths. Howie Roseman has constructed this roster with an emphasis on the trenches. That is what makes last weeks performance even more dissapointing. Dominate the line of scrimmage and you create pockets for Carson Wentz to make plays.
Today is the day that guys like Jason Peters and Lane Johnson can earn their money. The weak link on the line is Isaac Seumalo who needs to put last week in the rearview mirror. I think a change in pace and balancing the run/pass ratio could also be a key to stabilizing the offensive line play. You have to protect your franchise QB or else it will be a very long season moving forward.
4. Limit Secondary Mistakes
One of the eye sores of the Jim Schwartz era in Philly has been the team's susceptibility to giving up the big play. Last week we saw a number of these issues and that ultimately cost the Eagles a W. Its understood that the team has gone with an extremely young group of corner backs. With youth comes mistakes.
However; part of Schwartz's job as the defensive coordinator is to identify these mistakes and correct them. In my opinion, this has not happened as the same players continue to make the same mistakes.
Giving up the big play on defense is the equivalent of a major league closer giving up a game tying or winning home run. It takes the wind out of the teams sails. The Eagles need to focus on limiting these big plays in the secondary if they hope to win this game. Matt Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the NFL and he loves to throw the deep ball. Time for Ronald Darby to take off the training wheels and bring his A game. If not this game could get ugly real fast.
5. Create Turnovers
Last week the Eagles intercepted Matt Ryan three times. In 2017, the Eagles were one of the better teams in creating turnovers. Of course last season, they were one of the poorest in this same area.
This is as close to a must win game for the Eagles as they have had in awhile. If the defense can make some big plays it could be the key to turning this game around. I think the game being at home in front of the Lincoln Financial faithful could help the team in creating these turnovers.
The #2 key to the game rush the passer could directly influence key#5. If the team can get in Matt Stafford's grill, he could force some errant throws and the team could capitalize with an interception. Lets go one step further...When was the last time the Eagles had a pick six? Talk about a tide turner folks. Win the turnover battle and you win the game.
Those are my five keys to the game. As mentioned...this is a must win game for the Eagles in my opinion. With the short week and the upcoming game against Green Bay on Thursday, the team cannot afford a let down. Its time to put last week in the past and put today in the forefront. With that being said...here are some of my stat predictions for todays matchup:
FINAL SCORE- Eagles 27- Lions 23
Carson Wentz- 24/37, 345 Yards, 2TD's-1INT.
Zach Ertz- 9 Catches, 85 Yards, TD
Nelson Agholor-6 Catches, 115 Yards, TD
Jordan Howard- 13 Carries, 97 Yards, TD
Matt Stafford- 26/41, 415 Yards, 3TD's-2INT
Kenny Golladay- 10 Catches, 167 Yards, 2TD's
Fletcher Cox-4 Tackles, 1 Sack, Forced Fumble
Derek Barnett- 2 Sacks
Sidney Jones- 8 Tackles, 2INT
Well...its almost game time folks. So put on the game, grab a beer, and get your popcorn ready!! #FlyEaglesFly