The Arizona Cardinals may have been the stiffest test Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had faced this season. Now this Sunday, the Detroit Lions will challenge the Birds defense like no opponent since Week 4.
Philly’s D has gone eight consecutive games without giving up more than 21 points, a streak that will be in serious jeopardy against the NFL’s second-ranked offense. Coincidentally, the league’s No. 1 offense was the last group to eclipse that margin when the Denver Broncos obliterated the Eagles back in September.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis had no answer for Peyton Manning and the quarterback’s armada at the time of their meeting, and Denver cruised to a 52-20 victory. No offense has come close to humiliating the Eagles like that since, but then there aren’t many units nearly that potent either.
The Lions won’t be mistaken for the efficient Broncos anytime soon, but they sure can pile up numbers. Matt Stafford is on pace for another 5,000-yard passing milestone, running back Reggie Bush ranks fifth among all players with 1,302 yards from scrimmage and Calvin Johnson may be the single-most dominant human being in the NFL—at wide receiver or anywhere else.
If the Eagles can hold Detroit to 21 or fewer, there may not be another team left on the schedule capable of surpassing it. And seeing as Philadelphia own the league’s third-ranked offense, that would likely result in a win, too.
The pressure is on the Birds to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East—plus a win this weekend might leave them into another postseason. That and more in this week’s edition of "What Eagles Fans Need to Know."
NFC East Standings
|Dallas Cowboys||7-5||2W||W vs. OAK||@ CHI|
|Philadelphia Eagles||7-5||4W||W vs. ARZ||vs. DET|
|New York Giants||5-7||1W||W @ WAS||@ SD|
|Washington Redskins||3-9||4L||L vs. NYG||vs. KC|
Eagles fans might scoff at the idea, but that was a quality win for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The Oakland Raiders were really taking it to Dallas for the first 28 minutes or so until Tony Romo led a two-minute drive to cut the deficit to seven before halftime. It was the first of four unanswered scores as they calmly crushed the life out of a lesser team like a Boa constrictor wrapping around its prey.
That said, a fair criticism of the Cowboys might be they often play down to opponents such as the Raiders, but then they’ve played up to the level of the Denver Broncos this season as well. Such a difficult club to get a read on.
With the win over Arizona, the Eagles now own the inside track to the NFC’s second wild-card spot should San Francisco falter. As it happens, they draw a tough matchup this week in 11-1 Seattle, and should the Niners lose, Philadelphia could actually become the front-runners for that playoff berth.
Of course, that’s provided the Eagles aren’t in sole possession of first place of the division after Sunday, which is as simple as a "W" against Detroit and a Dallas loss. Regardless, it’s always important to know the alternate route no matter the destination.
It will be interesting to see if 70-year-old Tom Coughlin returns next year for an 11th season on New York’s sideline. Newsday columnist Neil Best believes it’s unlikely the organization would give him the boot after two world championships, most recently in 2011. Coughlin only has one year remaining on his contract, though, so unless he decides to coach as a lame duck, something’s got to give there.
Now would probably be an appropriate time to remind everyone that the Redskins don't have a 1st round pick.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) November 17, 2013
This Week’s Opponent: Detroit Lions (7-5)
Despite possessing the league’s second-ranked offense, the Lions can be extremely erratic. That’s largely due to the 29 giveaways the unit is responsible for—only two teams have more.
That places a greater burden on a defense that allows 23.9 points per game—not bad considering, but not quite good enough to compensate for all those mistakes. As a result, Detroit has not been able to piece together more than two wins in a row all season. They’ll be looking for No. 2 on Sunday.
The Lions can rack up all the yards they want. Other than points, no statistic correlates more with winning than turnovers.
|LB Najee Goode||Hamstring||Left Game Week 13|
|WR Jeff Maehl||Head||Left Game Week 13|
|S Earl Wolff||Knee||Inactive Week 13|
The Eagles continue to experience almost miraculous good fortune when it comes to injuries. Only three players are on our preliminary report this week, and two of those are reserves/special teams contributors.
The key absence is rookie Earl Wolff, who had established himself as the starting safety over Patrick Chung before the knee struck. Chung has been a liability however, and worse yet, a danger to his own teammates. The fifth-year veteran has caused three violent collisions with friendlies in two games while filling in for Wolff, two of which sprung long touchdowns for the opposition.
As of Monday, head coach Chip Kelly had no update on Wolff’s availability for the week ahead.
Chung offers few redeeming qualities to make up for his recklessness, and I can only imagine what will happen when he tries to tackle Calvin Johnson or Reggie Bush if he’s in the lineup again on Sunday—nothing good, I’m sure. Get well soon, Wolffman.
What Must Improve: Finishing Games
Very little has gone wrong for the Eagles over the past month, but they have had quite a bit of trouble putting the last two games away despite sizable second-half leads.
Both Washington and Arizona turned three-possession gaps into one, making for some tense finishes the last two games. It’s an issue that actually dates all the way back to season opener, which means it’s one of the few details Chip Kelly seemingly hasn’t quite figured out in his first season as an NFL head coach.
During his day-after news conference, Chip was asked why it’s been such a struggle to finish off opponents when they’re leading late. This is what he had to say, as transcribed at PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
We had four drives in the fourth quarter. First was a six‑play drive, next was a five‑play drive, and a six‑play drive, and the one to finish it. But we're moving the ball. Then we get a penalty or, at one time we had a miscommunication up front and two guys went the wrong way. Then all of a sudden on a 2nd and 5, it turns into 3rd and 9, so now you're playing backwards. It's all the little things, but it's part of being a good football team is you have to learn how to finish games.
I think what happens is everybody in the stadium knows you're going to run the ball, so they're playing zero coverage. If you do throw it and it's incomplete, you stop the clock. If you run it, even if you don't gain a yard, you're still running 40 seconds off the clock. So there is kind of a catch 22 there. But people aren't playing the normal defenses they normally play in the first, second, and third quarter. They're putting an extra guy on the line of scrimmage. If you bring in a extra tight end, they're going to have two more than you. One for the quarterback and one for the extra player. That is a difficult situation to run the ball against.
The answer is easy. Hey, throw it. If you throw it and it's incomplete, the clock stops. It's kind of that catch 22.
It’s worth pointing out that just a few weeks ago in Green Bay, the Eagles managed to run out nearly 10 minutes of clock to get to the final gun while closing out the Packers. And while they’re certainly making things interesting, the important part is the Birds ultimately put their opponents away.
That, of course, was Kelly’s biggest takeaway.
"I'd like to every week be in that situation because that means we're up."