Why Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles Will Ice the Lions in Week 14

Mark CrystelContributor IIIDecember 6, 2013

The Lions are hot but are 4-33 outdoors in the North since 1996. Nick Foles and the Eagles are ready for them.
The Lions are hot but are 4-33 outdoors in the North since 1996. Nick Foles and the Eagles are ready for them.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Nick Foles and Calvin Johnson have been hot lately.  

But this weekend in Philadelphia, something has to cool off. And it might be the Detroit Lions.  

Coming off a two-game home stand that included a seemingly forgotten loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but a remembered big win on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions will head into territory that has proved historically uncomfortable. From San Francisco to Kansas City to Carolina, in the second half of the season, Detroit is 4-33 in outdoor stadiums in the northern half of the country since 1996 (research courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/).

Two of the most recent wins came by a total of just three points, with the latest coming in Chicago courtesy of a missed two-point conversion in the final seconds.

The entire country watched Ndamukong Suh flex his muscles with the rest of his defensive front on Thanksgiving, but Philadelphia will be no place for the unit to become complacent. The last nine times that the Lions held opponents to 13 points or less, they gave up an average of 30 points in the next game.

And while the country also saw Matthew Stafford light up the Green Bay Packers defense for 40 points, the last eight times that the Lions did that, they scored an average of 17 points in the next game.

Calvin Johnson, not long removed from 329 receiving yards vs. Dallas, has also been hot. Since then, the Lions star has caught six touchdown passes, including one in the impressive 30-point win over the Packers.

The Lions offense is ranked second behind the Denver Broncos. One of the main keys for the Philadelphia Eagles will be to contain Johnson, but you can at least count on the unit to be prepared.

After all, the Eagles have been doing their homework.

Following the Redskins' loss at Philadelphia where they were held scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter, Robert Griffin III said it seemed as if the Eagles defense knew what was coming before the ball was snapped.

They did.

"Actually a few of the plays I called them out before they happened," said linebacker Fletcher Cox, per CSN Philly. "It all came from studying film and knowing when things were going to happen before they happened.”

Every team studies film, but this team isn't just studying it. It is comprehending it.

While the Eagles rank 31st in defense, giving up 412 yards per game, their four worst games came in the first quarter of the season.

At the mercy of a scheduling glitch, the Eagles started the season having to play three games in 14 days. The fourth was the tough task of a road game at Mile High Stadium against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Since the game at Denver, the unit has given up no more than 21 points in a game. 

Calvin Johnson is arguably the best receiver in the league, but can he and Matt Stafford continue the heat in Philadelphia?
Calvin Johnson is arguably the best receiver in the league, but can he and Matt Stafford continue the heat in Philadelphia?Leon Halip/Getty Images

While Detroit's offense ranks second, the Eagles are right behind the Lions in third place.

Between Nick Foles' quarterback rating of 125.2 and an improved defense that is diligently studying and understanding film during the week, this is a focused team. 

But there's even more to like about the Eagles right now.

Sometimes the little things can make the biggest difference, and this is the fundamental theme that Chip Kelly has employed since his arrival in Philadelphia early in the year.

It started with nutrition and followed through with travel.

From personalized smoothies to fruits and vegetables, Kelly totally revamped the team's cafeteria and catering to promote healthier eating. 

He took similar discipline on the road.

Realizing that nearly all of his players are millionaires in their 20s, on road trips he has the team arriving the night before the game instead of 48 hours prior. This lessens down time and the urge that players may have to engage in behavior that can potentially break concentration on game day.

With four consecutive road wins and tied for first place in the NFC East, Philadelphia is starting to see these details pay off. 

Foles has suddenly become one of the league's elite quarterbacks. With 19 touchdown passes and no interceptions, the emerging QB has energized Philadelphia fans with two consecutive wins followed by a 10-game home losing streak.

The offense will need to remain focused but also stay strong against a powerful Lions defensive front that bullied the Packers offense and sacked Matt Flynn seven times. The Eagles had some success early in the Cardinals game against Patrick Peterson and the Arizona secondary, so mirroring that performance should be feasible against the weaker Lions cornerbacks. 

Foles' outstanding quarterback rating may not last forever, but expect the Eagles to take advantage of their home field and send the Lions back to Detroit with another road loss.

Excluding the expansion Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, the Lions are the NFL's worst team in December since 1990 with a 33-60 record. 

Exposed to the elements and removed from their home dome of Ford Field, the Lions will freeze down the stretch in Philly and then head back to Detroit for a two-game home stand—and perhaps a trip to the outfitter for thermal underwear.   


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