Coaching legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi famously stated that “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” It’s a simple and seemingly obvious saying, but one that holds a lot of truth, and a mantra that should be on the forefront of the Eagles’ minds as they head into their virtual hundredth consecutive ‘must-win’ game. This time around, it’ll be the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (10-4) that lie in the way of the Eagles playoff aspirations. With their backs against the wall, the Eagles have one goal on Sunday as they continue their improbable journey back to the postseason following an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the season-win.
A concept not lost on the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Eagles are once again in win-or-go-home mode. Winning, of course, is easier said than done. Victors of ten of their last eleven games, the Texans aren’t simply going to roll over and admit defeat in Week 16. They are a tough, prideful group on the verge of completing one of their most successful campaigns in franchise history. Despite their accomplishments, the Texans are not without their faults.
Pass defense is a major flaw for the Houston-based franchise and one that the Eagles could and should exploit this Sunday at the Linc. Under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Texans have allowed the seventh-most passing yards per game and total passing yards on the season. Additionally, opposing number one wideouts are averaging 82.6 YPG versus Houston. Given the Texans lack of a lockdown corner, Eagles’ WR1 Alshon Jeffery should once again be the focal point in the offense following his 160-yard performance against the Rams.
Houston’s woes against the pass are especially eye-opening considering the number of anemic passing attacks they’ve faced this year. Half of their games thus far have been against passing offenses that rank in the bottom ten in both passing YPG and total passing yards- a whoppingfour of them ranking in the bottom five in both metrics. While the Eagles’ air attack hasn’t been elite this season, they certainly represent a much more formidable challenge than most of the teams Houston has faced so far.
Containing wideouts isn’t the only issue for Crennel’s defense, however, as they also struggle to cover tight ends. Houston is the fifth-worst team against tight ends, as tight ends have been scorching them all season to the tune of 68.2 YPG. Last Sunday against the Rams, Foles wisely decided against force-feeding Pro Bowl TE Zach Ertz as the team had most of the year, but I’d expect them to go back to the well a bit considering the favorable matchup against Houston. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of 12 personnel to get TE Dallas Goedert more involved in the offense and maximize the Birds’ advantage over the Texans linebacker corps.
With the JJ Watt-lead fourth-best run defense expected to stall Philly’s lackluster rushing attack, the fate of the game will likely rest on the shoulders of Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles and the passing game anyway, so there’s no reason not to exploit this mismatch for the Birds. Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, and prepare for an air raid mighty enough to save the Eagles season.
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