The Philadelphia Eagles face arguably their toughest test of the season to date when they host the explosive Detroit Lions on Sunday. Winners of four straight, the Eagles are surging and looking to keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys in the suddenly competitive NFC East.
That means slowing down an attack of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush that can put up 40 points on a team and not look back.
Meanwhile, second-year quarterback Nick Foles will need to continue his MVP-caliber play to match points with Stafford & Co. Foles has accounted for 21 touchdowns without a single interception this season, and he’s all but won the starting quarterback job for next season. Coming away with a win against the NFC North-leading Lions would cement his case.
Winning the turnover battle is everything in the National Football League.
This season, home teams that win the turnover margin by at least one are 68-6-1. All six losses have been by one score or less. Simply put, protecting the football results in wins, and the Eagles have been masterful in both holding onto the football and taking it from their opponents.
This year, the Eagles are 0-3 when they lose the turnover battle and 6-1 when they win it (1-1 when they tie the turnover battle). That tells you all you need to know about how important turnovers are.
The defense has generated an average of 2.13 turnovers per game during the last eight contests. Matthew Stafford already has 14 interceptions this season, and he’s facing an Eagles defense that has really stepped it up the past two months.
Calvin Johnson can’t be stopped, that’s for sure. But maybe the Philadelphia Eagles can contain him.
No. 1 cornerback Cary Williams has been a pleasant surprise this season, holding Pierre Garcon to just two catches and Dwayne Bowe to one. Last week, Williams rotated between Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, limiting the duo to just two catches for 18 yards on four targets.
Williams will have his hands full with Megatron, a physical freak who rivals Jerry Rice for the most talented receiver to ever walk the planet. Johnson has averaged an 8/160/1.2 line the last six weeks. Those are insane numbers, and he has a quarterback coming off a season in which he threw the ball an NFL-record 727 times.
Simply put, Johnson has the ability to take the game over, and he’s done it before. The Eagles will likely use both Williams and Nate Allen on Johnson, and there’s a chance Johnson will have to fight off triple coverage on some plays. If Philly can leave this game having held Johnson to a single touchdown and under 125 yards, that’s good news.
Nick Foles has been nothing short of magnificent this season. With the exception of the Dallas game, he’s played remarkably every time he’s seen the field.
Foles is 6-1 in games in which he’s seen significant action. He’s running the Chip Kelly offense as well as any quarterback could run it. He’s had more games with a 100-plus passer rating than Tom Brady—and he’s appeared in four fewer contests.
Foles gets a Detroit defense that hasn’t stopped the pass at all this season. Top cornerback Chris Houston is second just to Ike Taylor in receiving yards allowed (762), and he’s been lit up for a 108.4 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Only six teams have allowed more passing yards than the Lions. And if Foles put up three touchdowns and no picks against the Arizona Cardinals, he should be fine with a secondary like the Lions.
Closing football games has been a problem for Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles. The team nearly blew a 33-7 lead to the Washington Redskins in Week 1 and then a 24-0 lead to those same Redskins in Week 11. And last week, a 17-point lead over the Arizona Cardinals got downright scary at the end.
Kelly has been using his hurry-up offense just as much in the fourth quarter, which is puzzling when the Eagles are trying to run out the clock. What Philly needs to do is duplicate the impressive nine-minute drive they had against Green Bay, in which LeSean McCoy ran out the clock in a 27-13 win.
The Detroit Lions have a three-headed duo on offense in Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush that can put up points as fast as they can turn the ball over. The key will be forcing a turnover or two from Detroit while Philly’s offense takes advantage and scores some points.
Special teams have made a big impact for the Philadelphia Eagles recently, notably the outstanding play of punter Donnie Jones.
Jones may just be a punter, but his booming 70- and 69-yard kicks the past two weeks helped the team come away with wins. And last week, DeSean Jackson had a punt return touchdown that would have sealed the game had it not been wiped out by a costly Kurt Coleman penalty.
Detroit has a fine punter in Sam Martin, but former Eagles kicker David Akers has been vastly inconsistent this season. He’s already missed five field goals in 12 games. Then again, Alex Henery hasn’t played his best football this season, and the game could easily come down to a missed field goal either way.