Eagles-Lions Preview

BY foxsports • November 24, 2015

The Philadelphia Eagles seem to be in disarray following back-to-back home losses, and now they must go on the road coming off a short week.

Amazingly, they could be in first place by the end of it if Chip Kelly finds a way to pull his team together.

It remains unclear whether Sam Bradford will return to help make it happen, though the Eagles do bring the NFL's best Thanksgiving Day record into Ford Field as they try to slow down the Detroit Lions' attempt at returning to respectability.

"We lost two games. I think sometimes people panic and throw the baby out with the bath water," Kelly said. "I think we have a really good football team, and I'm very confident in those football players."

Rumors have swirled that the jobs of Kelly and Lions coach Jim Caldwell could be in jeopardy, though both can gain a lot more security depending on what happens in the next six weeks. Whereas Philadelphia (4-6) is only a game off the NFC East lead held by the New York Giants - who visit Washington on Sunday - Detroit (3-7) no longer has a share of the league's worst record after pulling off consecutive victories.

"Everybody thinks it's magic," Caldwell said. "I think you guys look at it as if there's some huge thing that happened that all of a sudden catapulted this cataclysmic change, and the fact of the matter is, it isn't. It's just playing better football."

The Eagles played their worst football of the season Sunday, losing 45-17 to Tampa Bay. The defense gave up 283 rushing yards - a franchise-worst since 1973 - and let rookie Jameis Winston throw five touchdown passes, while the offense was held to a field goal over the final 36 minutes and committed four turnovers.

Three of those were interceptions by Mark Sanchez and one was returned for a touchdown, leading to an on-field screaming match between him and running back Darren Sproles.

"We both are competitors, we both are trying to win and emotions kind of get going in a loss like that," said Sanchez, who insisted the situation was cleared up.

Yet, doubts about team unity remain prevalent, especially with a report this week that one Eagles player was questioning the effort of running back DeMarco Murray. He's averaging 3.7 yards per carry - one yard worse than his career mark - and is on pace to finish with less than half his 2014 league-best total of 1,845 rushing yards.

"No one is happy about what our record is right now, and all we can do about it is prepare and get ready to play Detroit," Kelly said.

Bradford is preparing to play after passing the league's concussion protocol, though he's been limited in practice. Also with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Bradford missed the Bucs game after possibly having turned the corner in his first season with Philadelphia.

He completed a combined 73.1 percent of his passes for 531 yards in 6 1/2 quarters with two TDs and no interceptions in his last two games - a win over Dallas and a loss to Miami which he left with a 16-13 lead.

"I'd like to be out there, but right now it's going to be in the coaches' and trainers' hands," said Bradford, realizing the short week doesn't help his cause. "... Sunday would have given me three more days to be ready. We just have to see how it goes."

The Lions are the ones who should be more comfortable Thursday with their on-going tradition of hosting Thanksgiving Day games, having gone 35-38-2.

However, it's the Eagles who have flourished the most, improving to 6-0 after beating Dallas last year. They're the only team to have played more than twice on Thanksgiving and won every time.

Detroit defeated Green Bay and Chicago by a combined 74-27 score on the last two Thanksgivings, but those Lions teams were in the playoff hunt and this one is all but out. That doesn't mean the Lions are throwing in the towel, having halted a 24-game road losing streak to the Packers in Week 10 before beating Oakland 18-13 on Sunday.

"We haven't given up yet," defensive end Ziggy Ansah said. "We might've started 1-7, but we're going to finish strong.''

The Lions defense has surrendered only 97 rushing yards over the two wins, but it's the run offense which remains a problem and might struggle to exploit a major Eagles weakness. As Ameer Abdullah, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick continue to share carries, Detroit is averaging a league-low 71.1 yards on the ground and an NFC-worst 3.4 per carry without a 100-yard rusher.

Philadelphia has allowed three in its past four games after previously ranking second against the run.

"We've got to do a better job tackling," Kelly said. "We've got to do a better job in our fits in terms of where we're going to be in gap defense."

The Eagles are 6-1-2 at Detroit going back to 1949. They've won seven of the past eight meetings overall starting with a wild-card playoff win in 1995.

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