Are Eagles Focused Coming Off Their Bye?
Another week in the NFL, another new opponent for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sitting at 3-0 and coming off their bye week and a 34-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, the Eagles now travel to face a familiar opponent at Ford Field in the Detroit Lions.
Philadelphia must now shift focus from a Steelers team that is considered one of the best in the league to a Detroit team that has loss three straight and is dealing with some injury issues.
The Eagles travel to Detroit for just the second straight season, losing 45-14 on Thanksgiving day a year ago. Needless to say these two teams are dramatically different since the last time they played.
"We're different. They're different," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday. "This year we've just got to understand that this is our next game on our schedule. And the best way to erase that memory is to put together a good performance on Sunday."
The Eagles have been one of the surprise teams in the league and have been getting a lot of attention based on the surprise play of their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. It will be interesting to see how Wentz will handle things and play this Sunday after a week off, and being away from football.
"We'll find out," Pederson explained. "Really we'll find out. He was in here again this morning 5:30am [with] the quarterbacks, and he was back on track studying the Lions. He's doing the same things. He came in and had a good work out on Monday. It doesn't seem to bother him right now."
"As we go this week, we'll see more and more. And then ultimately on Sunday how he plays. We just keep him focused. We keep the main thing the main thing and just get ready for the Lions each day."
A string of injuries has left Detroit depleted in certain areas, the biggest could be the possible loss of All-Pro defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Along with Ansah, Dwayne Washington, Marvin Jones, DeAndre Levy, Eric Ebron, Nevin Lawson and Don Carey all did not participate in the open portion of Lions practice Wednesday.
Sitting at 1-3 and coming off a 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Lions are sitting in last place in the NFC North division. The losses have been ugly, this is a Detroit team that really has no identity.
"Last week they had chances to potentially win that football game and be in a better situation," Pederson stated. "But we've got our work cut out for us again and we've got to go to work today."
They have a talented group of receivers in Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate, and running back Theo Riddick is a good pass-catching back out-of-the-backfield, plus quarterback Matt Stafford is still someone to watch.
"I like watching Stafford [Lions QB Matthew Stafford] play," Pederson said. "I think he's a good quarterback. Golden Tate [Lions WR] and Anquan Boldin [Lions WR] is a smart, veteran guy. It can be a situation where if they get on a little bit of a roll it's hard to stop them. And their run game – obviously with any team – becomes really important."
Defensively, they have been one of the worst in the league, giving up 25.5 points per game. They also rank in the bottom half of the league against both the run and the pass.
"Very similar style of defense like we play with those wide defensive ends," Pederson said. "It's a get up the field. It's an attack mentality. The benefit to it is that we see it every day in practice, so we're used to this style. But the same time, they are aggressive and it's something you see from them every week."
Though the Lions may still be trending downward, they do have some talent on their roster that can't be overlooked. In fact, ESPN NFL insider John Clayton has the Lions upsetting the Eagles in this week's 'Insiders Roundtable'.
John Clayton, senior NFL writer: Lions over Eagles. The Lions' wide receivers should put pressure on the Eagles' cornerbacks, and that could open things for Matthew Stafford. Plus, the Lions could be playing for their season. A loss would put them at 1-4.
We all saw what happened on Thanksgiving last season, and while these two teams seem to be heading in different directions now, it seems the Eagles aren't focusing on the past and are catching the Lions at a good time.