By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
If the Eagles lose this game, fire everyone. The season will be officially over with a loss this week.
Okay, technically it wouldn’t be, but if Philadelphia loses to this Miami team, who are as close to openly tanking as a team could be, then the Eagles don’t deserve to even sniff the playoffs.
The Eagles are coming off of a loss that was as humiliating as any loss in the Coach Pederson era. While Seattle is a good team, the Eagles had plenty of opportunities to win the game. The defense was spectacular, the offense was anemic.
Label this week’s game a “get right” game for the Eagles offense. Miami is 2-9 and trotting out players that probably shouldn’t even be on an NFL roster; very process Sixer esque.
This is the beginning of a five game stretch that is the softest schedule the league has to offer to close the season. Because of that, as well as Dallas’ ineptitude, the Eagles still have a strong chance to win the division. That won’t matter if the Birds don’t win this week.
Eagles Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
Where do I even start? How do I talk about this offense in a way that will allow me to still be writing for SportsTalkPhilly by next week?
For the sake of my job security, I will not be mentioning the Eagles five turnovers or how three of those turnovers came in Seattle’s territory in situations that were completely avoidable. I will not be mentioning how Carson Wentz played the worst game I’ve ever seen him play.
Instead, I will be focusing solely on this week’s match-up, and not on the fact that I owe my parents' money for a new television. Just kidding, that’s just a joke. Kind of like the Eagles offense (BA-DUM-TSS).
All jokes aside, Philly’s offense has a prime opportunity to get back on track this week. Miami’s defense is pitiful and the Eagles are starting to get healthy. Make no mistake about it, injuries have played a key part in the Birds ineptitude on offense.
Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are both expected to play. That alone will improve the offense significantly. Wentz was under constant pressure last week, which certainly didn't help his inaccuracy issues.
The return of Johnson and Brooks will also help a lot in the run game, as the Eagles seemed to rely on running a lot to the left side last week. This essentially made them one dimensional in their rushing attack. With Brooks and Johnson back, they can be more balanced in the run game.
Coach Pederson also said on Friday afternoon that both Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor were on track to play on Sunday. As disappointing as both have been this season, they are an extreme improvement over Jordan Matthews, who has since been released, and Mack Hollins, who should have been released first.
ESPN football analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky broke down some of the plays from last week’s game that shows how truly awful the receivers were. As he details, there were some throws that looked like Wentz’s fault, when they were actually the receiver's fault. Here’s the video if you’d like to take a look.
A new wrinkle that could be seen from the Eagles receivers this week is that JJ Arcega-Whiteside is expected to start on the outside, the opposite side of Jeffery. Agholor would be in the slot, where he typically plays better.
I like this move from Pederson and the coaching staff. Hollins, who has been in the outside receiver position since DeSean Jackson’s injury, hasn’t had a catch since week four. It baffles me that a receiver who has played significant snaps in every game since week four, in a 2019 NFL offense, hasn’t even logged a catch in that span.
At this point, it was time for a change at that position. So, give your second-round pick an opportunity to show what he’s got. Of all the weeks to make this change, this is a good week to do it. The Dolphins secondary is not good. Hopefully this will inspire some confidence in Arcega-Whiteside.
Doug Pederson says JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a starter at outside WR now— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) November 27, 2019
Your starters could be Alshon Jeffery and JJ on outside with Nelson Agholor in slot
JJ says bye week helped him a lot to study more, get more comfortable. He has longest catch for receiver the last two games pic.twitter.com/YF6lbrJ5oX
As of now, Jordan Howard and Zach Ertz are the only players whose status is up in the air for Sunday. As of Friday, Howard still hadn’t been cleared for contact, so don’t expect him to play this weekend.
Ertz missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time this season, and was limited in practice on Friday. His status is very up in the air, but with the way the medical staff has handled injuries this season, I’d be surprised if he suits up on Sunday.
The Dolphins defense is one of the worst in the league. They are giving up 400 yards per game, third most in the league. They are giving up 31.5 points per game, which is most in the league. They are also giving up the second most rushing yards per game in the league, allowing an eye-popping 148 yards a game.
Expect the same formula the Eagles used against Buffalo to help the offense get back on track: run the dang ball. With the offensive line back to full strength and the receiving corps again depleted, as well as with the Dolphins rush defense more resembling a turnstile than a defense, it seems like a good recipe for success.
Injury Report: Eagles at Dolphins
Eagles Defense vs. Dolphins Offense
The Eagles defense has been the bright spot of the team over the last few weeks. They have suffocated two good offenses in New England and Seattle and given the Birds plenty of chances to win. If they continue to play this way for the rest of the season, the Eagles have a good chance to find themselves in the postseason.
Everything we were begging this unit to do in the beginning of the season they are now doing. They’re stopping the run, they’re pressuring the quarterback and they’re playing well in coverage.
Another big thing that I’ve noticed that has surely helped the defense out has been that they are committing very few penalties. This keeps them in favorable down and distances and gets the defense off the field.
Miami’s offense is very similar to their defense. It’s a bad unit that ranks near the bottom of the league in every statistical category.
The Dolphins are averaging the third-least yards per game (265), third-least points per game (14.8), as well as the least rushing yards per game (63.2).
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is a journeyman who has been employed by a quarter of the league’s teams. The Harvard grad is good enough that he still has a starting job at 37-years old, but bad enough that the team he starts for is the Dolphins. One thing is for sure: you will be entertained watching this man play football. He’s earned the name Fitzmagic for a reason.
Miami’s receiving corps is the best part of the offense. DeVante Parker is a solid receiver who shines on a bad team, but probably wouldn’t be a top receiver on many other teams. Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant are two speedsters who can torch a defense with one big play, but probably won’t make much of a factor otherwise. Tight end Mike Gesicki hasn’t done much in his two years in the league, but is very athletic.
Miami’s running back position has been by committee all season. Don’t be surprised if you see all four running backs on their roster get carries.
The Dolphins offensive line is horrible. They’ve allowed 46 sacks and 46 quarterback hits. That’s an average of four each per game. That’s tops in the league for both stats. Expect the Eagles defensive line to tee off against this unit.
The Eagles should win this game. The 2019 Dolphins are one of the worst teams that the NFL has seen in the past few years. Regardless of how embarrassing the Eagles have looked the past two weeks, the Dolphins are not even close to the level of the Eagles previous two opponents.
That being said, would I be shocked if the Eagles found a way to lose this game? No, no I would not.
Eagles win, 24-7. The Eagles rushing attack gets them back on track offensively as Miles Sanders has the best performance of his young career. The defense performs well yet again, as they dominate the line of scrimmage all day against a putrid offensive line. Wentz has his best game in a few weeks with the return of Jeffery and Agholor.
The Eagles sit atop the NFC East along with Dallas, and my television lives another week.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass