Tomorrow is a must win for the Birds, there’s no doubt about it.
If they fall to the Jaguars, it’ll put them at 3-5 and three games back in the division if the Redskins beat the Giants. Since 1990, when the NFL playoffs changed to the 12-team format, only nine teams have made the playoffs after starting 3-5.
The Eagles’ season is over if they lose tomorrow — simple as that.
If the Birds want to win and keep their season alive, they’re going to need to dominate in these areas.
- Harass Blake Bortles Early and Often
Let me just start off by saying this about the matchup against Bortles; Besides Eli Manning, Bortles is the worst starting QB we’ll see this season. If he tears our defense apart, I will throw my coffee mug at the wall and punch my television. I’m not kidding. The Eagles CANNOT let Blake Bortles beat them tomorrow.
Through seven games this season, Bortles has nine touchdowns to eight interceptions with a QBR of 46.1, good for 23rd amongst starting QBs. The Eagles have struggled to create turnovers this season, but this could be the game where they finally get out of that funk. Bortles has turned it over at least once in every game so far this year, and I sure as hell don’t want to be the first team this season to not cause him to turn it over.
If the pass rush can get home early and often, there’s no doubt that he’ll throw up a couple ducks for the defense to snag. Schwartz showed his willingness to call more blitzes last week against the Panthers, but he failed to do so for the whole game eventually leading to their fourth quarter collapse. He needs to keep his foot on the gas in this game.
If the defense can disrupt the Jags’ offense and Bortles struggles to get anything going, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got taken out of the game. He was benched in last week’s loss to the Texans and the Jaguars have made it clear that he’s on short leash. Harassing Bortles should be the defense’s number one priority going into Sunday.
- Lane Johnson and Jason Peters VS. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.
“Sacksonville” hasn’t lived up their nickname this year, but they still have two of the better edge rushers in the league. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue both have four sacks a piece and are going to be matched up against two banged up offensive tackles in Lane Johnson and Jason Peters.
Peters is suffering from a partially torn bicep and Johnson has been dealing with a nagging high ankle sprain. Peters and Johnson have struggled this season despite their injuries, so this matchup doesn’t bode well for the Eagles.
Expect Geodert to act as the sixth offensive lineman to help his injured tackles in pass protection. He’s slowly starting to find his role in this offense. He’s been asked to block a lot more than we expected this year and he’s really starting to flourish in the role. It’s imperative that he continues to play well in this game or Campbell and Ngakoue just might take it over.
- Dede Westbrook VS. Jalen Mills
Jalen Mills has been bad this year, like really bad. Last week in the teams’ collapse against Carolina, Mills was targeted eight times and allowed six catches for 92 yards (15.3 yards per catch).
His bug-a-boo all season has been getting beat on double moves and letting up huge plays. Mills has let up the most passing yards of any starting corner in the NFL this season. And while that is a pretty telling stat, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Per ESPN Next Gen Stats: “The Eagles defense as a whole have given up a league worst 1,410 yards to WRs and 8 touchdowns as compared to just 2 interceptions.”
So it’s clear that the Eagles are letting up an abundance of yards through the air, but it’s important to note that even though they are allowing so much yardage that they still rank sixth in the NFL in points allowed. It’s the “bend-but-don’t-break” formula that the Patriots have been using for years.
The Eagles have one of the best red zone defenses in the league as well, and Jalen Mills’ game improves drastically when the opponent gets inside the 20. He leads the league in pass break ups in the red zone with six.
Dede Westbrook isn’t a red zone threat though. He makes plays between the 20s and is the Jaguars’ best deep threat. He’s averaging 13 yards per catch this season and I’m positive the Jags will try to exploit his matchup with Mills.
Mills will most likely let up a few deep passes to Wetbrook, I just hope he can continue to play shut down defense in the red zone.