Away from the off field drama, the NFC East is somehow still wide open and with the Cardinals and two more divisional games up ahead, the Eagles simply have to win this weekend to stay alive in the playoff race. To do so, they will need to throw some curveballs at the Bills. Here are the three things the Eagles need to do if they are to beat the Bills on Sunday.
Protect the ball:
Against the Patriots, the Offensive Line came up big and now only opened up the running game for the Eagles but allowed just one sack on Sam Bradford..giving him plenty of time to complete his passes and making his life a lot easier. The result was his third consecutive game without a turnover as his passer rating hit at least 99 for three games running.
For the Eagles to beat the Bills, the mentality will have to be the same. Protecting the ball becomes a lot easier when you’re not relying on a pass in every third down scenario but the Eagles have to keep possession and sustain drives to keep Taylor, Watkins and Shady off the field for as long as possible. This will not only keep the Defense ready and full of energy, but tire the Bills Defense out, opening up those big plays that Bradford has began to look much more comfortable in throwing.
Attacking from the off is simply not an option, as it wasn’t against the Patriots. The Bills have 12 interceptions this season and with the Hughes and Williams combo ripping through Offensive Lines, protecting the ball, running it efficiently, protecting the Quarterback and making accurate yet safe reads to play a conservative game to make sure that the Eagles can march down the field efficiently is crucial.
Billy Davis came under a lot of fire in the weeks leading up to last week’s stunning win due to his failure to adapt when Offenses begin to thrive and punish the Eagles for clear and fixable mistakes.
With someone as dynamic as Tyrod Taylor, the gameplan has to change. The Bills caught the Texans out with two trick plays last week and the Eagles have to be ready for anything. McCoy has proven that he can catch the ball just as well as he can run with it and Sammy Watkins will be looking to capitalise on any mistakes or mismatches in the Secondary.
The moment the momentum begins to slip, Davis has to adjust. Whether it’s through rotation or what packages the team show..the Bills seem far too intelligent to ignore the poor form of Alonso, a sub-standard run Defense unit and what could be an inconsistent pass rush.
Blitzing against a running back as dynamic as Shady or a Quarterback who can take off just as he has done for over 300 yards this season is a risk and Davis has to maintain a balance to ensure that Taylor is forced into alien situations.
He isn’t a Quarterback who turns the ball over often, throwing just four interceptions this season. Davis will need to out-smart the Bills Offense to force Taylor into an uncomfortable scenario where he makes a bad throw..the Defense are going to be a huge factor in if the Eagles are able to t0pple the Bills..and an even bigger factor will be Davis’ ability to adjust his gameplan when needed to keep the Offense guessing.
Flick the switch:
The Eagles running game has been wildly hit and miss this season but with Ryan Mathews returning for the first time since week 10, it could well be facing a new coat of paint. DeMarco Murray was effectively benched last week and the result was a balanced Offense that meant the Eagles could finally sustain drives.
We could see much of the same this week, especially if Mathews takes the majority of snaps as anticipated. But what will be key is trying some different things. Swing passes are becoming predictable and the sweep’s are almost too easy to contain at times..regardless of who’s running them.
It’s time for Chip Kelly to take a recently kick started backfield and turn it up a notch by adding some misdirects, more wheel routes and keeping the Bills Defense on edge. This backfield has the potential to be one of the most dominant in the NFL due to the “1-2” punch which finally looked to be coming together prior to Mathews’ injury. It’s time for Chip Kelly bring back the fireworks. Mathews averages over 6 yards per carry when playing alongside Murray.
If this game becomes the first when both are active that Mathews’ acts as the lead back then it makes sense to bring a whole new arsenal entirely. If the Eagles weakness Offensively is predictability, become unpredictable and punish Rex Ryan for preparing for an Offense that sticks to the same 6-8 plays when running the ball.