The Eagles are fresh off of their Bye-week with an intent to remain undefeated under Doug Pederson..if they do so, they’ll be the first team in NFL history to start the year 4-0 with the a rookie quarterback. Standing in their way however is a Lions team that has been overlooked by many and still has plenty of threats, despite missing key players on both sides of the ball. In order to keep momentum in Philadelphia, the Eagles will need big games from some of their playmakers, but also a few names you may not expect.
McKelvin is set to play in just his second game this season after missing the last two with injury. A wobbly cornerback corps held the fort in his absence…but McKelvin won’t be eased back into the lineup. His first task? Stop one of the Lions biggest receiving surprises in the NFL, Marvin Jones.
Jones seems to have found his footing in Detroit very quickly, receiving for 482 yards and 2 touchdowns already. Stopping the former fifth round pick has proven to be difficult for every team he’s faced so far..even the Packers, whom he ran rampant against receiving for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Without Abdullah, the Lions Offense has become incredibly one dimensional and if Stafford is going to look for someone to step up to the plate and elevate an underrated yet stagnant Lions Offense, it’s going to be the former fifth-round pick..and it will be down to the returning McKelvin to keep him at bay. If he can do so, the Eagles secondary has a great chance of success. If not, the pass-rush will be relied on more than it has all season.
The rookie running back has had a quiet season so far..that was until he saw 17 carries against the Steelers and helped establish a previously struggling ground game. 4.6 yards per carry and a touchdown saw Smallwood help the Offense manage the game clock and deprive the Steelers of any opportunity in week 3 while simultaneously aiding the screen emergence of Darren Sproles.
Even though Mathews has had a week to recover from a lingering ankle injury, it’s clear that both lead backs lack the efficiency needed to be utilized in that role, especially when Sproles can be plugged in elsewhere more efficiently and Mathews can punch the ball in at the goal-line. Theoretically, this opens a big window for not only Kenjon Barner..but the rookie who did more than turn a few heads in week 3.
Detroit rank 22nd against the run and after the Eagles were able to blow open the previously tight run Defense of Pittsburgh using the electricity of Smallwood combined with the physicality of Barner, it only makes sense for both to see an increased role with Smallwood at the forefront of the action.
Although he may not start, if Smallwood can hit the ground running just as he did against Pittsburgh, not only will he help the Eagles third down conversion rate improve, but can finally give Wentz a reliable rushing attack to lean on due to so many other options opening.
Wentz has been the talk of the NFL since the moment he stepped on the field..and for good reason. 5 touchdowns, 0 turnovers and a series of accolades and records have seen Wentz become one of the most exciting players to watch..and against a Secondary that has trouble forcing turnovers this season, he should thrive.
Wentz shows great accuracy when airing the ball out, contrary to some criticism he was subjected to during the Bye-week. The Lions pass rush has its strengths despite missing Ansah and the linebackers are capable of deceiving the rookie if given a chance..but if Wentz can attack the Secondary, trust in his receivers and a returning Zach Ertz, then he has a real shot at not only making NFL history, but proving every doubter wrong yet again.
Watching Wentz is incredibly exciting, but he’s the heart of this Offense. From game management to helping out the O-line, calling audibles and keeping his options open, Wentz has to do what he does best against Detroit if he is to lead the Eagles to a fourth consecutive victory..and he’s in a perfect position to do so.
The involvement of DGB in Pederson’s Offense has increased week by week and with seven days away from the field to get the rest of the playbook down, the mismatch nightmare might see his heaviest snap count yet.
The Eagles are starting to spread the ball around much more evenly on Offense and the presence of DGB is intimidating to say the least, especially in redzone packages. The Lions will have their hands full and could struggle keeping Green-Beckham quiet in what promises to be a game where he’s never too far away from the action?
Could we see our first DGB Eagles touchdown tomorrow? It’s possible..but some strong receptions in traffic and an ability to pick up YAC like he’s already shown will be crucial.
The Lions Offense may have taken some knocks, but it’s still lethal in the right circumstance. Jim Bob Cooter has turned Matthew Stafford into an incredibly reliable quarterback since his arrival and without Eric Ebron, he’s going to be forced to look elsewhere. The Lions have shown tendencies to exploit the middle of the field in recent weeks and who could blame them? But this means a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the Eagles linebackers.
“Simba” has already started to show that last year’s sensational rookie campaign was by no means a fluke, assuming a leadership role of the unit and making some impressive plays to start the year. But his coverage skills will be called upon time and time again against the Lions, especially with players such as 6’6, Cole Wick heading in his direction.
Hicks has been excellent in coverage this season so far..but the Lions have a very experienced receiving corps that can unnerve even the most impressive Defense. If given the opportunity to get open in what’s rapidly becoming an Offense that thrives on shorter passes, they will cause huge damage..and that’s where Hicks comes in.
The play of Hicks will become imperative to the overall success of the Defense as the Lions look for ways to outsmart a man they know very well, Jim Schwartz. The second year linebacker will be kept on his toes throughout the game, but if he can come up big and continue to make plays around the ball..the Lions will struggle.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports