The Eagles, coming off their bye week, will look to pick up their third straight win — all against the lowly NFC East — when they travel to East Rutherford to face the Giants on Sunday. And, for the first time in a while, the Birds actually seem to be trending the right way in terms of injuries.
Miles Sanders will be back. So will Alshon Jeffery. Lane Johnson is expected to play as well. In fact, just one Eagles player had an injury designation heading into the weekend. After weeks with their injury list bursting at the seams — it was honestly comical some weeks — the reinforcements appear to be arriving, especially for Carson Wentz. And it couldn’t come at a better time as the Birds’ schedule is going to get markedly more difficult after this weekend’s game.
But first, there’s a divisional game to get out of the way.
We’ve given you some matchups to watch, broken down the injuries, and offered up our own predictions — as well as rounded up some from the local and national media. Now, as we do every week, let’s give you some numbers we’ll be keeping an eye on in the form of our five over/unders…
[A quick reminder for those new to our over/unders: Unless it’s explicitly stated, these are my own over/unders based on how I think the players/teams will perform on Sunday — and the advice that follows is where I would put my money if I had to. They are not all actual numbers you can bet on, but we’ll let you know when they are.]
Total points: 44.5
That’s the current total being offered over at TheLines.com, and it’s just slightly higher than the 43 points these two teams combined for in their last meeting in Week 7. And after watching that game, it isn’t hard to see why they increased the total just a bit. For starters, the Eagles left some points on the field in that game, and probably should’ve scored closer to 30. But it’s more than just that. The Eagles, as we mentioned, will also be getting some of their injured players back, players who were absent from the last meeting between these two teams, like Sanders and Goedert. The latter returned in Week 8 before the bye, but he was absent back in October when the Giants traveled to Philly.
So, will there actually be more points scored on Sunday? If you look at our staff predictions, four of our seven writers are predicting this game hits the under, with scores ranging from 40-44 points. Three of our writers have the over, with scores all in the 50s. And when you average them out, those three are so high that they actually overtake the majority and push the average comfortably in the over range (47 points). That being said, I’m one of the writers who took the under, with a combined total of 43 points. The Giants are actually in the top half of the league in points against, while they’re second from the bottom in points scored. The Eagles meanwhile, are 17th in points allowed and 24th in points scored. That certainly sounds like the makings of a low-scoring game to me…
Carson Wentz TDs: Carson Wentz INTs
In other words, will Wentz throw more touchdowns than interceptions?
It’s kind of amazing that this is where we find ourselves at the midpoint of Wentz’s fifth season, especially when you consider that for the last three seasons, he only threw seven interceptions each year. But, through eight games this season, the Eagles quarterback has thrown just as many interceptions as he has touchdowns, and when you add his fumbles to that list, his total number of turnovers climbs to 16. That’s unacceptable for someone who is supposed to be the franchise quarterback and in his fifth season in the current system.
Sure, injuries at offensive line, wide receiver, tight end, running back — pretty much everywhere BUT quarterback — have made life tough for Wentz. But that’s no excuse for some of the poor decisions he’s making. And it doesn’t seem like the team, specifically Pederson, is even trying to correct it. Of course, we don’t see what happens behind the scenes, but there’s been very little in the sense of gameplan adjustments, a reliance on a run game (when healthy) or even rolling with a dumbed-down version of the offense in an effort to get back to the basics.
Something needs to change, and perhaps it will come in the form of Wentz getting some healthier weapons back around him. But these issues start and end with the quarterback. He’s got all the physical gifts needed to be a Pro Bowl QB — we’ve seen him make every throw there is, whether it’s on the run or in the pocket, and make head-scratching escapes to turn a broken play into a big gain. But it seems to be between the ears where Wentz struggles most. Whether he’s pressing, trying too hard, or just doesn’t see what’s going to happen before committing to a throw, something hasn’t been right with him this season and you don’t even have to look at the numbers for confirmation. Just watch Wentz for an entire game. His inconsistency is maddening, and while most inconsistent quarterbacks oscillate from game to game, Wentz seems go from Joe Montana to Joey Harrington and back again in the course of a single game. One drive he’s crisp, making plays. The next, he’s missing receivers by 5 yards, holding on to the ball too long and throwing into tight windows he has no business targeting. Then he’ll come back and lead a fourth-quarter comeback with Travis Fulgham as his No. 1 wideout. It makes zero sense.
OK, Wentz rant aside, the Eagles quarterback did have his best statistical game of the season when these two teams met a few weeks back, posting 359 passing yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, just one turnover. He’s had an extra week to prepare for them this time around, and the assumption here is that he should have another strong showing on Sunday. Of course, you know what happens when you assume…
Miles Sanders rushing yards: 79.5
When Miles Sanders has been healthy this season — and the Eagles have actually given him the ball — he’s been as good as advertised. In five games this season (one of which he was unable to finish), Sanders is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, 86.8 rushing yards per game and 105 scrimmage yards per game. And he’s done all that on just 83 total touches (16.6/game).
That begs the question of just how healthy Sanders is at this point, and whether or not those touches will increase if he is indeed 100%. He’s had time to rest his knee injury, and the Eagles likely wouldn’t rush him back if he wasn’t.
Sanders was out the last time these two teams met, but the Eagles were still able to rush for 96 yards against the Giants back in Week 7. That’s just above the average the Giants are allowing this season (94.8) and well below what the Eagles are averaging this season (118.6). You have to believe that the return of Sanders will only help the Eagles in this regard.
So then this will just come down to how many touches Sanders gets, right? Not so fast. Interestingly enough, he saw his rushing attempts shrink each week this season, going from 20 in his Week 2 debut down to 11 in his final full game against the Steelers in Week 6. The next week against Baltimore, Sanders had his best rushing output of the season (118 yards on the ground) but did so on just nine carries. He’s run for at least 80 yards in every game but one this season, and despite the Giants having a surprisingly good run defense, there’s every reason to believe he hits this over if he can stay healthy for a full 60 minutes. Plus, a threat like Sanders can only help to open things up for Wentz. Feed him (and don’t stop just because the first three carries only net like six yards).
Alshon Jeffery receptions: 2.5
Well, well, well. Look who’s back. After suffering a broken foot last year, Alshon Jeffery will be on the field on Sunday for the first time this season. And Doug Pederson said on Thursday that they have a plan for the veteran wideout, although he wouldn’t elaborate on just what that plan was.
What Jeffery will look like — and in particular his rapport with Wentz — is anyone’s guess, but the Eagles will still be without their full complement of offensive weapons, perhaps opening the door for Jeffery to get a few more targets than you might expect. Obviously, as we outlined above, we’d love to say Alshon hit the under here simply because the Eagles committed to the run, limited Wentz’s exposure, and didn’t have enough throws to go around. Unfortunately, knowing Pederson’s penchant for passing, perhaps that’s wishful thinking. It absolutely would not surprise this writer if Wentz look Jeffery’s way on the very first play of the game, just to get him involved early and get him back in the flow. They’ve done this in the past with DeSean Jackson and others, so there’s a chance this could hit the over before the first quarter ends. There’s also a chance Jeffery makes two catches on the first drive and then doesn’t make another the rest of the game.
What Jeffery’s return does to this Eagles offense is one of the biggest mysteries surrounding this team at the moment. Is anyone expecting him to return to 2013-14 Alshon Jeffery? No, but could he be 2017-18 Alshon Jeffery? Perhaps, and that would be at least an upgrade for this team. We’ll find out on Sunday, assuming the “plan” Pederson has for him is something other than standing on the sideline while trying not to text Josina Anderson.
Eagles takeaways: 1.5
The Eagles tied a season high with three takeaways against the Giants in their last meeting. But they’ve managed to force multiple turnovers in just three of their first eight games. The Giants, meanwhile, have given the ball away multiple times in five of their nine games, but over their last six games they’re averaging just 1.3 turnovers. Even on the season, the Giants are averaging 1.7 giveaways per game, while the Eagles are averaging just 1.25 takeaways per game. Weird things always seem to happen when these two teams meet, but I’m going to take the under here. I think the Eagles get one, but that’s about it.
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