The Philadelphia Eagles are as hot as they've been in more than three years, and they passed a big test with a win over the equally hot Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. But now, another stiff test; this time on the defensive side of the ball as Chip Kelly's team tries to slow down the league's most dominant wide receiver, Calvin Johnson.
Every game is critical right now. The Eagles are tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East, but the tiebreaker isn't in their favor. And they're still a game out of a wild-card spot—which is something they could wind up battling for with these very Detroit Lions.
The margin for error is small, so the pressure's on. Here's our final preview of the matchup from Philadelphia's perspective, along with a prediction...
What Philly Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition
Just don't turn it over. Or at least don't do so more often than they normally do. This Lions defense is very beatable, especially through the air, and Philly has the league's hottest quarterback. As long as Nick Foles doesn't decide to start getting sloppy Sunday, they'll be just fine.
What Philly Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition
Same thing every defense must do against Detroit—limit the damage caused by Johnson, who leads the NFL with 1,299 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He burned the Eagles late in their lone meeting last year, but this team has stronger, tougher corners and a better overall D this time around.
5 Most Important Non-Quarterbacks
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher: Stopping Johnson will be a team effort, but Williams is still the defense's No. 1 corner. He'll have to step it up against Megatron. Fletcher will likely have several cracks at him as well.
Trent Cole and Brandon Graham: The best way to limit Johnson might be to attack Matthew Stafford, who has a passer rating of just 58.0 while under pressure this season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Cole has been their best pass-rusher, especially of late, but Graham has been very effective as well.
Jason Kelce: Ndamukong Suh is the best defender the Lions have, so Kelce will have his hands full in order to keep the pocket from collapsing on Foles inside.
|Nick Foles vs. Lions pass defense|
|Foles||63.3 (11th)||9.7 (1st)||0.0 (1st)||9.1 (1st)||125.2 (1st)|
|Lions||60.4 (15th)||4.8 (22nd)||2.7 (17th)||7.7 (25th)||89.0 (21st)|
|Pro Football Reference|
Injury Analysis, Lions Edition
Everybody except cornerback Darius Slay practiced Friday, according to ESPN.com. Chris Houston has been hobbled, too, so that defensive backfield could have some problems against Foles, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. The important thing for Detroit is that it should have Reggie Bush, who had been limited with a calf injury.
Injury Analysis, Eagles Edition
Rookie safety Earl Wolff continues to sit, which is unfortunate because Patrick Chung has been terrible. Aside from that, though, Philly is extremely healthy.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction: Eagles 30, Lions 27
The Eagles are definitely vulnerable going up against a dude like Johnson, but the secondary has been better and, more importantly, the pass rush is finally delivering in a big way. They'll get after Stafford and let the red-hot Foles go to town on a mediocre pass defense in order to prevail at home, winning their fifth straight game.