After 3-0 Start, Eagles Now Playing with Expectations
Week five of the regular season is upon us and with it comes a Sunday afternoon match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the struggling Detroit Lions.
The Eagles have reached Week 5 with a spotless 3-0 mark, taking down Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The difference now, they are playing with some expectations. Entering the season, people had no idea what to expect when they faced Cleveland. Then it was can they win on the road with a rookie quarterback - they did. Then we heard, well it was only Cleveland and Chicago - lets see the Eagles beat Pittsburgh - they did, handily.
Now fans expect the Eagles to beat a 1-3 Detroit team, losers of three straight, on the road.
Although the Lions are 1-3 coming off a ugly loss to the Chicago Bears last week - they did beat the Eagles 45-14 on Thanksgiving day less than a year ago. But the Eagles beat the Bears and the Bears beat the Lions, surely they stand no chance against the birds, right?
The Lions are missing a huge piece to their offense this season, Calvin Johnson retired this offseason, but they still do have some weapons on offense. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones have connected 23 times for 482 yards and two touchdowns this season. and present challenges.
"It does change how you approach them," admitted Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. "But a lot of it has to do with the trigger man and has to do with the quarterback. He's scrambling probably a lot more than he has in the past. I'm talking about Stafford. He's making some plays with his feet, got a couple big first downs with his feet this year, made some plays there."
"They're a dangerous team 3rd-and-long. Most teams 3rd-and-long don't have very much of a chance. They're converting almost 50 percent of their 3rd-and-11 plus. You can only do that if you have a quarterback that can, number one, stay alive, and number two, that can rip a ball in there."
"But we'll have our work cut out for us. Even though Calvin is not there, Stafford moves the ball around to all the receivers. He doesn't just have one favorite. He moves it around to all the eligibles, uses his [running] backs, can make any throw on the field, and like I said, he's moving in the pocket and scrambling maybe a little more than he has in the past, and it puts a little bit more pressure on the defense. We're going to have to play very well to stop him."
On defense, All-Pro defensive end Ziggy Ansah has been ruled out with a high ankle sprain, and linebacker DeAndre Levy will also miss the game with multiple injuries.
"I just don't put a lot of energy and thought into who's playing, who's not," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson stressed. "We still have to get prepared and take care of our own, and I know they feel the same way. Whoever we line up, they're going play against, and whoever they line up we're going to play against."
Although those injuries to key players would make it easy to overlook this Lions team, Pederson doesn't sound like a coach who is allowing his team to overlook anybody.
"They're excited," Pederson admitted. "Obviously, for where we are, but by no means are they satisfied with just being 3-0. The goal obviously is to win the next game, and we just take it one game at a time, but it's been a good week."
Sunday will be the Eagles first game of 13 straight to the finish line, as road favorites, expectations are there, and we should find out a lot about what kind of focus this team has.
"Energy has been great all week long at practice, been very spirited, which you love to see coming off the bye," Pederson said. "
"We actually had that workout on Monday was good to see them come back and be focused. I think they understand that it's still a long, long season."
I don't see Pederson, Schwartz or Carson Wentz coming into this game unprepared, one thing Pederson most likely learned from Andy Reid is how to get his team ready following a bye week. Reid has a 15-2 record coming off a bye week, there is no reason to think Pederson didn't take notes from Reid.
"I think the number one thing is he has allowed his players and coaches to kind of get away from the building, get away from football; sort of what you do after OTAs," Pederson said. "You kind of get away so you can get fresh for training camp. It's kind of that same mentality."
"I think the biggest thing and what I kind of took away from Coach [Andy Reid] every year being with him is just the consistency of how he approached this week was no different than the Pittsburgh week or the Monday Night week and just staying consistent. We didn't reinvent the offense or defense, we just stuck to our guns, stuck to what's working, and we've had a lot of success. Or he's had a lot of success, just doing that."
The Pick: Eagles 30, Lions 6