We’ve been through four Eagles games and last week I was debating whether or not to continue writing and posting my expectations for the team from week-to-week. Some expectations have been spot on and others have been….well, spotty.
As the team sits 1-3 in a weak division that miraculously is still wide open and for the taking, here are my expectations heading into this week’s game against the Saints.
1. The secondary will allow Drew Brees to have a nice game. Brees is coming off a game where he threw his 400th career touchdown pass and he couldn’t feel better about his level of play even though he’s still nursing a rotator cuff injury in his throwing arm. The Eagles passing defense is ranked 24th in the league and the Saints pass attack is ranked 3rd. They’re ranked 7th in total yardage. The secondary, led by Malcolm Jenkins, plays well at times, but they haven’t been able to keep offenses off the field – especially on 3rd down. Expect Brees to throw for at least one touchdown and accumulate over 250 yards passing.
2. Sam Bradford will continue to improve. Bradford threw four interceptions in his first two games and none in his last two. What does that mean? Improvement. His QBR against Dallas was 65.6, the Jets it was 73.2, and last week against Washington it was 122.6. Again, improvement. Fans complained during the first three games about his lack of ability (or desire) to throw down the field. Last week that changed. Once again, improvement. He’s by no means a top quarterback in this league. But from a guy who hadn’t played for close to two years, didn’t have many reps in preseason “real time” games, and continues to learn a new system, he’s heading in the right direction. I’m expecting a touchdown and over 220 yards from Bradford this week.
3. The running game will continue to struggle. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are banged up, yet these veterans are going to play anyway. We’ll see how long they last against the Saints defense. And the running will continue to struggle because of this as well as the overriding theme of the season – the offensive line just isn’t in sync. They haven’t been all season and this kind of play is something the coaches just can’t turn around. Chip Kelly and o-line coach, Jeff Stoutland, would have done so by now. This is on the players. With a quarter of the season already completed, I don’t have high hopes they’ll help the running game too much this week. I expect the very talented running backs to amass less than 90 total yards this week.
4. Bennie Logan, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins will have a great game. Over the past couple of week, these are the defensive players fans have truly enjoyed watching. Why? Because they’ve been the most productive and explosive Eagles on the field. With Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks not playing, again, these three gentlemen will keep the pressure on the Saints offense.
5. The Eagles as a core group will play hard, but we’ll see a loss. As I said on the recent podcast show, nothing the team has done – 3rd down conversion rate (terrible!), dropped balls (awful!), giving up key plays and big yardage (too often!) – leads me to believe they’ll be able to sustain real dives. I wish I was as optimistic as my co-host, Len, was for this game – and he’s not even that optimistic. I think the Eagles lose. The Saints will be the team coming out of this game with a 2-3 record beating the Birds in a 24-16 victory.
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