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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions Week 8 Preview

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By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

History

The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions have met 34 times. The record is tied 16-16-2. The Eagles have lost the last three straight dating back to 2015.

What to know about the Lions?

The Lions record does not do the team's heart and effort justice. Dan Campbell and his kneecap taking, caffeine filled coaching style have transcended the team culture and play. They are an 0-7 team that lost three games by one score and two of those games by less than a field goal. It doesn't sound great, but this team has heart and drive! Seemingly different from what we see on a week-to-week basis from our Eagles.

The Lions offense ranks in the bottom half of the league across almost all categories. In fact, bottom third in the majority of these categories. Beyond D'Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson, the offense is downright putrid. They lack wide receivers and the offensive line is giving up top three pressure and hurry numbers.

Where they do rank well and the Eagles don't? Time of possession. They rank 9th in average time per drive and 3rd in plays per drive. This is not great for an Eagles defense who allows the 5th most time of possession per drive to offenses and 13th most plays per drive.

On the defensive side of the ball… well things are no better for the Lions. They are allowing the 5th highest rate of drives ending in a score to opponents at 48.6%. They are also allowing the 4th most yards per play at 6.3. 

Across the board the Lions rank in the bottom third of the league. This includes through the air and on the ground. They also fail to produce much pressure on the quarterback ranking in the bottom ten. 

This all culminates in ranking dead last in the red zone! They allow a touchdown on 84% of red zone attempts. The Eagles rank 6th in red zone touchdown percentage, despite ranking 13th in red zone attempts.

Lions Player to Watch

Two names immediately come to mind when considering players to watch on the Lions. Running Back D'Andre Swift and tight end TJ Hockenson. I'm going to go with Swift on this one. This is due in large part to the really bad rushing defense. 

To say the linebackers and middle of the defense has been the Achilles heel of the Eagles would be an understatement. The Eagles have the fourth most missed tackles in the NFL. This includes a league leading 14 missed tackles by linebacker Alex Singleton. The Four Eagles linebackers who have played at least 20% of snaps this season all rank in the bottom 40 in Pro Football Focus coverage ratings.

Swift on the other hand ranks first among running backs in targets, receptions and receiving yards. He also ranks 15th among running backs in yards per touch. Plus second in yards created. His ability to create for himself and through the air in the short and intermediate where the Eagles are so weak is dangerous. Very much a sign of impending disaster for the Eagles defense.

What to know about the Eagles?

The Lions have become everybody's favorite underdog this week. This should really surprise nobody because the Eagles offense and defense can't play a full 60 minute game together.

The Lions rank 9th in drives ending in turnovers and the Eagles are on a bender forcing interceptions in four straight games. That is about the extent of the positive things on the defensive side of the ball.

They rank in the bottom ten on the ground. Teams are attempting the most rush attempts against the Eagles. The Eagles are giving up the fourth most yards and tenth most touchdowns on the ground. Through the air they have managed to limit big plays, but otherwise have struggled to stop drives. They rank 7th worst in opponent third down conversion. Plus rank 5th worst in opponent red zone touchdown conversion rate.

Offensively, as I alluded to above, I think we might be worse offensively. Siriannis play calling has been an absolute wreck. Ranking 9th worst in percentage of drives ending in a score at 33%. As with the defensive, they rank in the bottom third of the league in drive time and plays per drive.

The loss of Miles Sanders hurts the team, but the Eagles seem to have significant faith in Kenneth Gainwell. Plus with all the rumours swirling about names being talked about in trades, this Eagles team could look very different next Sunday. There is a lot of change that needs to happen with Sirianni and Gannon and their play calling, game strategy and adjustments starting yesterday!

Eagles Player to Watch

Josh Sweat was signed to an extension in-season and fans rejoiced at the potential steal he could be. He has since not done very much to prove he can anchor this front four for the future.

Sweat in seven games has 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. He ranks second on the team in pressures with 19. 

As stated above the Lions are giving up the third most pressures and second most hurries. This is a great opportunity for Sweat to get things going. Gannon puts a lot of faith in his front four with a third lowest in the NFL blitz rate. The front four need to turn up the pressure and make Goff uncomfortable where he ranks 29th among quarterbacks with a 31% completion percentage.

Prediction

This is a lot bigger game than it should be for the Eagles. That's not because of expectations, but rather the Eagles really need to start improving. The Eagles offense and defense have flashed, but have been really underwhelming.

I'm going to take the Eagles over the Lions in this one 24-17. Nick Sirianni and the offense need to prove they can score against this putrid defense and control time of possession a bit more. While the defense needs to create pressure and come up with key stops against a weak offensive line and an offense that lacks significant weaponry.

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