By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Birds are reeling as they travel to Western New York to take on the 5-1 Buffalo Bills. Before the season started, if you were to guess which team would have five wins and which team would have three coming into this game, you probably would have had the two teams reversed.
The Bills are 5-1, and the only team that they have played that has a current record over .500 is the Patriots. They lost that game. The combined record of the other five teams they’ve played: 6-28. Not exactly top-tier competition.
That being said, there is a reason Buffalo is 5-1. In every game this season, the Bills defense has shined. Quite the opposite of the Eagles.
The Eagles are in free fall right now, having suffered two straight blow-out losses where every aspect of the team has looked terrible.
It seems as if the Eagles only shot at getting into the playoffs, especially with the NFC looking strong through seven weeks, is going to be by winning the NFC East. They did themselves no favors last week against Dallas. This game has essentially become a must win for the Birds.
Eagles Offense vs. Bills Defense
Where oh where to start with the Eagles offense. Let’s start at the top: Doug Pederson. His play-calling has been horrendous the past few weeks. It feels like our offense is so easy to predict. It’s the same three run plays, followed by a bunch of short yardage pass plays, and then an occasional deep ball that falls incomplete.
These plays work well if they’re executed well, and are mixed in with successful deep and intermediate plays. The problem with this offense has been that they have not been executing well. The offensive line has struggled in pass protection and receivers aren’t catching the football or holding onto it once they do catch it. Even if the receivers do manage to hold onto the ball, they are being tackled at the first point of impact.
The only person I trust with the football in his hands at this point is Jordan Howard. He continues to run hard and hit the open holes. Even when there isn’t a hole there, Howard is fighting for every yard and is falling forward every time. He should continue to rack up the touches.
However, in order for Howard to be able to get an adequate number of touches, the Eagles need to have a competent first quarter performance. They can’t keep getting in these huge deficits early in the game. The fault falls on both sides of the ball. Through seven games, the Eagles have trailed by double digits at some point in six of the seven games they’ve played. In the simplest of terms, that is not a recipe for victory.
One day the Eagles will show up in the first quarter. Today is not that day— Ski (@matt_ski15) September 27, 2019
With all of these problems offensively, it is no wonder that Carson Wentz has not played his best. Honestly, could you truly blame him? Nobody, except Jordan Howard, has done anything to help Wentz out. Yet, he still finds himself in the top ten in touchdown passes as well as Quarterback Rating. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, and I will continue to say it until Wentz proves me wrong: Carson Wentz is not the problem with this team.
The Eagles offense certainly has their work cut out for them this week. Buffalo’s defense is the strength of their team. The Bills defense ranks third in yards allowed per game (292.67) as well as points allowed per game (15.17). They trail only the undefeated Patriots and 49ers. I’d consider that pretty dang good.
Could Buffalo’s success have something to do with their weak schedule? I’d say so. However, the Bills defense kept them in the game against the Patriots a couple weeks ago, allowing just nine points. If it weren’t for a Patriots special teams touchdown, they could be sitting at 6-0 right now. Needless to say, the Bills defense is for real.
There is not a weakness on this defense. The defensive line is strong rushing the passer and stopping the run. The linebackers are led by studs Lorenzo Alexander and Tremaine Edmunds. The secondary has been lockdown with cornerback Tre’Davious White and ball-hawking safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Buffalo is yet to allow more than 21 points in a game this season, so expect points for the Eagles to be at a premium. Not exactly a good "get right" game for the Birds.
Injury Report: Eagles at Bills
Eagles Defense vs. Bills Offense
Let me start off by addressing the Orlando Scandrick situation. I think that Scandrick is jumping on top of the narrative that the media has created surrounding this team the last two weeks. I think he’s pissed off that he got cut. I would be too if I was a cornerback that got cut from a team that is desperate for good cornerback play. For me, the smoking gun that fully convinced me that Scandrick is talking out of his you-know-what, is this video the Eagles twitter account posted.
Smells like hypocrite in here.
Now, back to X’s and O’s. It’s no secret that the Eagles defense has been abused this whole season. The defensive line can’t generate a pass rush. The run game has looked vulnerable the past two weeks. They’ve been decimated by injuries, much like the rest of the team. And of course, you know the story with the secondary.
I simply don’t know where the Eagles defense goes from here. Jim Schwartz refuses to change his game-plan. Schwartz’s defense revolves around having a dominant defensive line, which is why this defense was so successful in 2017 en route to a Super Bowl win.
This year, that unit has been pitiful. To try and combat that, Schwartz has attempted blitzing seven guys to get pressure at the line of scrimmage. The problem with this strategy is that the Eagles cornerbacks are nowhere near good enough to be left on an island with no help. It is infuriating to watch week after week.
The great thing about blitzing half our defense is that they never get there and then somebody is wide open— Ski (@matt_ski15) September 27, 2019
At this point, I don’t know what the Eagles can do on defense to play better other than to just simply be better. The front four needs to be able to generate push to help take some of the pressure off of the secondary. They are being paid too much money to be this non-productive. The cornerbacks need to stop biting on every double move, and not play ten yards off the receiver on every play. That’s an adjustment Schwartz needs to make.
The Bills offense is fairly one dimensional. Lucky for the Birds, that dimension is not the passing game. The Bills are fifth in the league in rushing yards, averaging 135.83 yards per game. Frank Gore and Devin Singletary head a strong one-two punch, in one of the strangest running back duos of 2019. Seriously, how is Frank Gore still playing, and playing well?
Bills quarterback Josh Allen is really raw. He has far more success running the football than he does passing. He’s thrown just seven touchdowns to go along with seven interceptions. The key to this game is going to be stopping the Bills rushing attack and forcing Allen to throw the ball. That being said, I won’t be the least bit shocked if Allen has a career day against the Birds secondary.
The Bills offensive line is very strong, so don’t be surprised if the Eagles defensive line is non-existent yet again. Some good news for the Eagles is that Bills receiving core is one of the weakest throughout the league. Cole Beasley, Duke Williams, and Tyler Kroft aren’t exactly household names. Not to sound like a broken record, but don’t be surprised if even this unit of receiving targets have productive days against the Eagles defense.
This is a must-win game for the Eagles. If they want to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East and with the rest of the conference in the wild card chase, this is a game they have to have. If the Eagles want to win, they are going to need to force some turnovers and play well on special teams. They're going to have to help out the offense. Despite how uninspiring the Eagles have played, I expect this game to be close.
The Bills have been in close games in all of their first seven contests. As aforementioned, they’ve come out on top in five of those games. So it’s safe to say that Buffalo knows how to win close contests. This game will be no different.
Bills win 20-16. The Eagles start slow again, going down two scores in the first half. Surprisingly, the Eagles defense keeps the team in the game, after being scrutinized under a microscope all week. The offense struggles against this stingy Bills defense, having to settle for three Jake Elliott field goals in Bills territory.
The Eagles finish the road trip winless, and the sky continues to fall in Philadelphia. The seats of Doug Pederson, Mike Groh, Jim Schwartz and Howie Roseman get a little hotter. Please prove me wrong.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass