By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Eagles suffered one of the most strange, painful losses I’ve ever seen last week in Atlanta. No one on the team looked good and the Eagles definitely didn’t deserve or play well enough to win, yet it still feels like they should have won (Zach Ertz, would it kill you to break a tackle?). But, that’s football.
This week, the Eagles are limping, pun intended, into a Sunday afternoon match-up with the Detroit Lions.
The Lions, much like the Falcons, are one of those teams that are tough to figure out. I think the best way to describe Detroit would be that they will always play to their competition. Whether that is playing down to their competition, like they did week one against Arizona, or playing up to their competition, like they did last week against the Chargers.
Therefore, if anyone is expecting the Eagles to roll over the Lions, they should probably lower their expectations. Especially considering the Eagles are probably one of the most banged-up teams in the history of football after just two games.
Eagles Offense vs. Lions Defense
Just one time I’d like for the Eagles offense to be competent in the first quarter of a game. Just once, that’s all I’m asking. Over the past 18 regular season games, the Eagles offense ranks dead last in first quarter scoring. With the weapons this team possesses, that is just unacceptable.
These slow starts are killing the Eagles. Exhibit A: last week in Atlanta. If the offense is able to muster up more than six points in the first-half last week, the Eagles probably win that game. While the offense was incredible in the second half both last week as well as week one against Washington, they cannot continue to play well in only the second half and expect to win.
Look for the Eagles to start fast this week against the Lions defense. This team is due to play a full, 60-minute game where they look in control throughout. If the team starts slow again, expect the boo-birds to make an appearance. Our fans are knowledgeable, they expect a lot, and they should. There is no way that this offense should be ranked last in the league in any stat.
As aforementioned, the Eagles are dealing with a boatload of injuries, particularly on the offensive side. DeSean Jackson is already confirmed out for this week and next week. Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert may be joining DeSean on the sidelines, as both haven’t practiced all week and missed a majority of Sunday night’s game, much to my confusion.
However, Doug Pederson is yet to rule out Goedert or Jeffery. My thoughts? Don’t get your hopes up to see either of them out there. Expect the makeshift wide receiving core of Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Mack Hollins. I’m hoping beyond prayer that Pederson makes it a point to run the ball this week.
Doug Pederson confirms DeSean Jackson will not play on Sunday, but he is hopeful Alshon and Goedert will play. #Eagles— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) September 20, 2019
As for the Lions defense, they are a solid unit, as their head coach Matt Patricia is a defensive-minded guy. Before crumbling like a cookie dipped in milk in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals week one, they had only given up nine points through the first three quarters. They also held the Chargers high-flying offense to just 10 points last week, thanks to some timely turnovers.
The Lions defensive line is well above average, with run-stuffer Damon Harrison and former Patriot pass-rusher Trey Flowers. The linebackers and defensive backs this team has are some young, raw talent. I think the Eagles could expose their inexperienced linebacking unit with a heavy dose of Zach Ertz and RPO’s. On the outside, if the Eagles avoid stud cornerback Darius Slay, they can pick apart this secondary, even with our young receivers.
Injury Report: Lions at Eagles
Eagles Defense vs. Lions Offense
The Eagles defense kept the team in the game last weekend, there is no denying that. While the cornerbacks were burnt to a crisp once again, that’s pretty much expected at this point. The rest of the unit played well enough to give the offense a chance to win the game, forcing three interceptions from Matt Ryan.
Something that has really bothered me through two weeks, other than the constant headache that is Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones, is the complete lack of a pass rush from the defensive line. The Birds have two sacks through two weeks. One of them came from Timmy Jernigan, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury, and the other came from (*holds nose*) Andrew Sendejo.
Needless to say that the Eagles need to get pass rush from their defensive line if they want to take some pressure off their putrid corners. It’s also worth noting that Jim Schwartz dialed up an all out blitz on the Falcons final touchdown. Maybe he wouldn’t have called that play if he felt his defensive line could have gotten pressure by themselves. Hindsight is always 20-20, though.
Detroit has one of the most average offenses in the league. They are led by a man that models averageness in Matthew Stafford. He’s great at putting up the big numbers, but not so great at putting up big numbers in the stat that matters: wins. Stafford’s stats and productivity have really dipped since Calvin Johnson retired following the 2015 season. With that being said, he is still more than capable of torching the Eagles secondary.
The Lions have some decent receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. Both have big play potential and extremely good ball skills. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson is a very good receiving tight end, but he is very raw, so I’d be surprised if he has a big game Sunday.
Kerryon Johnson is a talented running back who can play all three downs, and is proficient at running as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. He scored on a 40-yard screen pass last week.
Meanwhile, the Lions offensive line is a very underrated part of their team this season. They’ve given up just three sacks and have paved the way for over 800 yards of offense through the first two weeks. Detroit’s offensive line against the Eagles defensive line could be one of the more important match-ups to watch this weekend.
I expect this game to be very close. The Lions play every team fairly evenly, and haven’t lost to the Eagles since the famous Snow Bowl in 2013. I think this is going to be a low-scoring game with a lot of long possessions on both sides. Ultimately, I trust our defense to hold Detroit to field goals in the red zone.
Eagles win, 20-16. The Eagles get touchdowns from Zach Ertz and Jordan Howard, and two Jake Elliott field goals. The game will come down to the last possession, and the Eagles defense gets a stop on a fourth down in the red zone to hold on for the win.
Our offense remains nonexistent in the first quarter, and the boo-birds rain down. Zach Ertz will end this game still having never broken a tackle in his career. Finally, Jason Peters, I need a half-second too early false start from you. You're starting to make me believe you’ve grown out of that habit, and I can’t let you get my hopes up like that.
Jalen Ramsey is an Eagle by Wednesday. Eagles give up a 2020 first-round pick, 2021 third round pick and Sidney Jones.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass