By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Los Angeles Chargers are 7-5 in series history against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles won the last game in 2017 against the Chargers 26-24.
What to know about the Chargers?
The Chargers head into their matchup with the Eagles fresh off back-to-back losses. A heartbreaker to the Patriots last week and a blow out defeat at the hands of the Ravens three weeks ago.
Their defense against the run has been terrible. Which has helped expose a weakness that opponents' offenses are happily exploiting. They have allowed over 120 rushing yards in all but one game this season. The Chargers rank dead last in attempts against, yards against and yards per attempt against.
Through the air the defense has been top five in the NFL. Ranking 4th in attempts against, 5th in yards against and 5th in touchdowns against. Unfortunately for them, they will be down their two starting corners Sunday evening. Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis account for two of the teams six interceptions and six of the teams 17 passes defended. In total, the Chargers defense is a bottom third of the league defense made weaker with these injuries.
While Justin Herbert has been struggling with no more than 210 yards through the air over the last two games. The offense overall ranks in the top 10 in points, yards and plays per drive. Still leaning predominantly on a passing offense ranking 7th in yards and touchdowns. The rushing offense ranks in the bottom third of the NFL despite Austin Ekeler being a high end running back.
Herbert's struggles should not discount the weapons at the Chargers disposal. Especially considering the Eagles weaknesses in the middle of the field! Austin Ekeler and Jared Cook could be dangerous. While Keenan Allen does the majority of his damage in the short to intermediate range. 66.6% of his targets came anywhere from behind the line of scrimmage to nine yards out.
Chargers Player to Watch
With the glaring weakness in the middle of the field for the Eagles, I'd be remiss to not pick Austin Ekeler as the player to watch. He leads the team in total touchdowns, leads the team in rushing yards and is third on the team in passing yards. Sure, the Eagles impressively shut down Swift last week. But this offensive line is better. The overall skill pieces are a lot better. The Eagles defense needs to be able to do what they did to Swift last week, to Ekeler this week. That is one tall order to say the least.
What to know about the Eagles?
Boy did we ever see a different Eagles team against the Lions then we are used to. The Eagles went off for 44 points courtesy of four combined touchdowns from Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. Totaling a season high 236 total rushing yards. Well, if Sirianni watched the film or even reads this preview he will know that this needs to continue this week.
The identity of the Eagles offense is still truly unknown as they remain inconsistent and untrustworthy. They rank in the bottom third of the league across the board in average time, plays, yards and points per drive. They are only scoring on 38.1% of plays, good for 17th. This is largely due to a struggling passing game that ranks 27th in yards and 23rd in touchdowns. The offensive line has also been inconsistent giving up the 9th most pressures and 5th most hurries.
If you believe the rumours out there, the Eagles may not be sold on Jalen Hurts as their franchise quarterback. Which also speaks volumes to the offensive inconsistency. Hurts is often being called a one read quarterback. Seems to only be capable of rolling out in one direction. And vacates fairly safe pockets early because his read isn't there. Uh-oh.
Defensively, I think it is safe to continue talking the trend of inconsistency. Just like the Chargers, the Eagles struggle mightily against the run and in the short and intermediate portion of the field. The Eagles are rushed on the third most, giving up the 10th most yards and 11th most touchdowns on the ground.
While their secondary has been solid, mainly at stopping the big play and keeping receivers in front of them. They are eighth in yards allowed to the pass. This is a major step forward from prior seasons. What is often frustrating is their inability to get off the field. Ranking 6th worst in third down conversion percentage allowed.
The Eagles pass rush came to life a bit last week against what could be called a lifeless Lions offensive line and Jared Goff at quarterback. The Eagles blitz the 5th least in the NFL. However, they continue to rank just outside the top third of the league in quarterback knockdowns, pressures and hurries. The Chargers offensive line will likely give them a tough challenge, but Sweat and Barnett really need to start pulling their weight. To say they are missing Brandon Graham, would be an understatement.
Eagles Player to Watch
I could pick Scott, Howard or Gainwell, because they should be watched giving this should be another run-centric game by the offense. However, I'm going with Devonta Smith. As great as it will be to try and run 40 times again this week, I don't think Hurts and Sirianni will get away with 10 pass attempts if they are going to beat this Chargers offense. Smith has been quiet the last couple games and now that the Chargers are down their top two corners, it's time to take advantage. When the field needs to be opened up, Smith is that guy and needs to start producing like we saw in the early part of the season.
It pains me not to take the Eagles in this one. Do I ever want to be wrong as well. I got the Chargers 27-24 over the Eagles in this one. I think the Eagles will keep it close, but when push comes to shove and you need an offense to put points up on a major drive I got the Chargers. That feels weird to say after the Eagles put up 44. Sadly, the Chargers are not the Lions.