FOX Sports Exclusive
What to watch in Week 4: Eagles
The FOX NFL Game of the Week features the Philadelphia Eagles flocking to the Rocky Mountains to take on the Denver Broncos. Highlighting two high-octane offenses, let’s get the lowdown on each team’s subplots heading into this Mile High matchup:
Click here for the corresponding report on the Denver Broncos.
Five Things to Watch: Philadelphia Eages
Can the Eagles front seven cause inflict chaos?
The Philadelphia defense has quite the undertaking, one that’s been futile for Denver opponents in 2013: stop the vaunted Broncos aerial blitzkrieg. Given Peyton Manning’s triumph this fall, perhaps “impede” is a more reasonable aspiration.
It’s also an attainable goal. The bloated figures (486.7 total yards, 42.3 points – both league-bests) and the Manning hysteria have manufactured an infallible perspective on the Denver offense. Nevertheless, the Broncos do have noticeable chinks in the armor. All-Pros Ryan Clady and Dan Koppen were lost for the season, making an already-vulnerable line extremely susceptible. Considering Manning is not the fleetest of foot, expect this issue to amplify as the season progresses.
Through three games, Denver has yet to face a challenging defense. (Sorry Baltimore fans, it’s the truth.) In Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox, Conner Barwin and DeMeco Ryans the Eagles have enough playmakers to wreak havoc on Denver’s untested line. Philadelphia certainly has issues of its own, evidenced in the admission of 323 passing yards per game, fourth-worst in football, but its firepower in the gaps and capability of hurrying the quarterback negates this woe.
Don’t misconstrue this as condemnation on the Broncos offense. In that same breath, don’t believe it will be smooth sailing for Manning, either.
Which Michael Vick will show up?
The Philly field general was reminiscent of his Madden 2004 iteration in the first two weeks, throwing for 631 yards, running for another 88 and accounting for six touchdowns. The Vick that showed up last Thursday night against the Chiefs? Not so much. Granted, he racked up 99 yards on the soil, and did throw for 201 yards against a tough Kansas City secondary. Alas, he completed just 13-of-30 passes and turned the pigskin over three times. Basically, the same type of play that has led to the Eagles’ pedestrian showing the last two campaigns.
Much ado surrounds Chip Kelly’s arrival in the City of Brotherly Love, but the fruition of the Eagles sits on the shoulders of Vick. If his ball-security issues remain unfixed, any playoff ambitions Philadelphia harbors will be nothing more than pipe dreams.
Matchup Watch: Broncos D-Line vs. Eagles protection
The Denver offense is scoring at a historic rate, but the Philly attack is nothing to dismiss, as the Eagles are second in the league in total offense with over 460 yards per game. The passing game has been relatively effective, quite the accomplishment considering the team lost Jeremy Maclin before the season and its receiving ranks are so decrepit that Riley Cooper is still employed. However, Kelly’s up-tempo scheme is fueled by endeavors on the terrain. Led by Shady McCoy, Philadelphia is averaging a league-best 209 yards per contest, nearly 60 yards more than the next highest output. The rushing game has been efficient too, posting a mark of 6.6 yards per rush (tops in the NFL).
Apropos, then, that the Eagles encounter a Broncos resistance suffocating adversaries to a league-low 43 rushing yards per outing. Von Miller’s shenanigans have garnered much of the attention concerning this group, but Denver is anchored by a formidable line in Derek Wolfe and Elvis Dumervil. It’s a core that, when coupled with the return of Miller, could be one of the best units in the conference.
It’s elementary, really: the more the Eagles run, the more time Manning is stuck on the sidelines. Don’t visualize Philadelphia running wild on such a stout front, yet if the Eagles want to leave Denver (The Sunshine State!) with a victory, execution of this goal is vital.
Speaking of McCoy…
Prediction: Chip Kelly will run LeSean McCoy into the ground
Poor dude. McCoy’s past showcases he’s not the sturdiest of backs, and the up-temp offense tends to lend itself to a higher frequency of infirmary visits. One would think this would encumber Kelly’s utilization of the Philadelphia runner and be predisposed to implementing backup Bryce Brown into the mix. Instead, what’s transpired has been on the opposite end of the spectrum – only Doug Martin and Adrian Peterson have seen more touches than McCoy, while Brown has notched 15 carries. Hell, McCoy already suffered an ankle injury last week.
I know there’s extra pressure on Kelly, trying to revolutionize the NFL landscape and all, and I’m told the Philadelphia crowd is not the most patient of contingents. But if he thinks the heat is up now, wait until he feels the temperature when his best player goes down. And make no mistake, it’s a matter of when, not if, McCoy gets hurt. When he tumbles, Kelly is going to have some ‘splaining to do! (What, no one else watches I Love Lucy reruns? Just me? Oh. Um, ok then...)
The Eagles will win if…
A lot needs to fall Philly’s way: an unwavering Vick, another harvest from McCoy, Manning accidentally thinking it’s a playoff game instead of a regular-season contest. Even then, it’s a stretch to see the Eagles emerging victorious.
However, weirder things have happened. After all, as the Browns’ win proved last week, anything is possible.
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