Thursday, October 12, 2017

Eagles Face Panthers in a Thursday Night Battle of NFC Frontrunners

Given the early Thursday deadline of this week's Eagles game against Carolina, I decided to bypass my normal keys to victory. In its place, I have added the link below to my full game preview and official game prediction as part of my ongoing coverage of Thursday Night Football for

The obvious key to the Eagles winning their fifth game in six tries is to maintain the form that led to last Sunday's lopsided 34-7 victory against Arizona. They played relatively mistake-free football in every phase of the game while taking full advantage of any Cardinals' miscue. Carson Wentz finally connected on the deep ball on a consistent basis and the defense stepped up its game to make Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer a non-factor
in one of Philadelphia's most dominant performance under the guidance of second-year head coach Doug Pederson.

Wentz will need another strong game on the road this Thursday night against a much better defense and the Birds will also need to limit the damage that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton can inflict with both his arm and his legs. Accomplish these two things and finish the game with a positive give/take ratio and Birds are flying back to Philly on the wings of another victory.

This should be a good matchup between two of the hottest teams in the NFC this season. The winner will take their place as one of the early favorites to win the conference title, while the loser will fall back into the ranks of being just another contender try to jockey for position in the crowded pack.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

NFL Week 5 Keys to an Eagles Victory against Arizona

The Eagles moved to 3-1 on the year with last Sunday’s 26-24 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers. Carson Wentz threw for 242 yards and a touchdown while the combination of Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount added another 170 yards on the ground as part of the team’s 214 total rushing yards.

One of my keys to victory last week was establishing the run game right out of the gate, but even more important was Philadelphia’s ability to effectively run the ball at the end of the game while sitting on a slim lead. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Birds are averaging 143 rushing yards a game, which is ranked third in the league.

This week, Philly returns home to host the 2-2 Arizona Cardinals to renew an old-school NFC East rivalry when the team was still in St. Louis. As with every game, I have come up with my three keys to victory for this Sunday’s contest.


The obvious key on offense is to keep the Eagles’ highly productive running game churning. They may need to rely heavily on Blount’s power game on Sunday with Smallwood nursing a bad knee. You may see more of Corey Clement as the team’s only other healthy running threat along with Kenjon Barner, but whichever back is running the ball will have his work cut out for him against a Cardinals’ defense that is ranked 10th in the NFL against the run. My top key this week is Wentz’s ability to connect on the deep ball. If there has been one glaring weakness in his game this season it would be his 33 percent conversion rate on passes of 15 yards or deeper. With Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith in the starting lineup, he has to do a better job utilizing their deep threat ability.


There is a gaping hole in the defensive line with Fletcher Cox ruled out for the second-straight game with a calf injury. The Eagles gave up 347 yards passing against the Chargers partially because they could not keep consistent pressure on Philip Rivers. This Sunday they face another veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer, who also has the ability to carve up the secondary if he has all day to throw the ball. This week’s key is Jim Schwartz dialing up a few new stunts and blitzes that he did not employ in the first four games. If the defense can keep Palmer running for his life, it will help to minimize the deep threat that Larry Fitzgerald brings to the table.

Special Teams

With Darren Sproles done for the season and Smallwood hobbled with a knee injury, the Eagles are going to need someone to step up their game returning both kicks and punts. Barner is the likely suspect since he is listed at the top of the depth chart in both categories, but Clement is also available if the need arises. The Eagles thrived on special teams last season because of big plays in the return game and it may take one or two on Sunday to help cement that fourth win.

Friday, September 29, 2017

NFL Week 4 Keys to an Eagles Victory at Los Angeles

The Eagles needed a near-miracle 61-yard field goal as time ran out to get past the New York Giants last week, but a win is a win in the NFL. One of the main reasons why this game remained so close was Philadelphia’s inability to put constant pressure on Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning. He sliced up the defensive secondary for 366 yards and three touchdown throws including two to Odell Beckham Jr.

This week out on the West Coast, the Eagles face a Chargers’ team that also knows how to move the ball through the air behind veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. He has already thrown for 760 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games. It becomes rather obvious that Philly’s front four will have their work cut out for them this Sunday afternoon if they want to avoid another rough outing against the pass.

Often times, there are one or two key factors in each of the three phases of the game that will have a major impact on the actual outcome. Below are this week’s three keys for the Birds getting out of Los Angeles with a big W against the Bolts.


I might be getting a bit redundant with this painfully obvious key, but the Eagles need to find a way to establish their run game right out of the gate. The offense is actually ranked eighth in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 119.3 yards per game, but that stat is a bit deceiving when you go back and watch the first quarter of Philadelphia’s first three games. The run game did pile up 193 yards on the ground against the Giants last week, but it took some time to get things rolling. Darren Sproles is done for the season, so it will be up to Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount to pick up the slack from the initial running play in the Eagles' first offensive possession of this Sunday’s game.


Along with pressure on Rivers as an obvious key, this Sunday’s game could come down to the Eagles' ability to contain wide receiver Keenan Allen. He has been targeted 28 times in three games and his 19 receptions have added up to 196 yards. Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams have also been a big part of the mix with a combined 20 receptions for 282 yards. By bottling up the Chargers’ top outlets in the passing game, Rivers is likely to put a few balls up for grabs considering that he has also thrown four interceptions this season.

Special Teams

After showing some tremendous leg strength in his 61-yard game-winning boot last week, rookie kicker Jake Elliott adds a whole new dimension to the Eagles’ ability to put points on the board. Head coach Doug Pederson has developed a bad habit of going for it on fourth down in very low percentage conversion situations. Maybe now, he will turn to Elliott when a drive stalls inside his impressive field goal range.

Friday, September 22, 2017

NFL Week 3 Keys to an Eagles' Victory against New York

The Eagles will play their second division game of the season when the New York Giants head into town this Sunday afternoon in a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Linc in Philadelphia’s home opener. The Birds upended Washington 31-17 at FedEx Field in Week 1 before a late-game rally came up short against Kansas City on the road last week in a 27-20 loss.

Each week of the season, I will be posting my keys to victory on offense, defense and special teams and below is this week’s to-do list to keep the Giants winless on the year.


The Eagles are going to have to find a way to run the ball against New York. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Giants are ranked 28th in the league against the run with an average of 133.5 rushing yards allowed. As far as the Eagles’ ground game, they have racked up an average of 82.5 yards per game, which is ranked 20th. LeGarrette Blount was a no-show against the Chiefs last week and Carson Wentz was the team’s leading rusher with 55 yards. Look for Darren Sproles to be the lead back against New York, but do not be surprised if Wendell Smallwood plays a bigger role in the ground game this Sunday afternoon.


My Week 1 key against the Redskins on defense was to keep constant pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins with just the front four and the Eagles executed the plan to near perfection. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham combined for three sacks and Cox’s touchdown on a forced fumble by Cousins late in the fourth quarter sealed the win. The Giants have no running game to speak of with a total of just 97 yards on the ground in two games, so making life miserable for Eli Manning all day long should be a very achievable goal.

Special Teams

I have got such a good feeling that Darren Sproles is going to have a big day against New York that I have him in my starting fantasy football lineup. As mentioned, he appears to be the primary option for running the ball on offense, but I also expect him to do some damage returning punts. Field position is always a big part of the game, but it actually becomes even more important in head-to-head division matchups given just how well each team knows one another.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

NFL Week 2 Keys to an Eagles' Victory at Kansas City

The Eagles pay a visit to our old friend Andy Reid this Sunday in a 1 p.m. start at Arrowhead against the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only will Reid face the same team that he coached for 14 years, he will be pitted against Philly's current head coach Doug Pederson, who served as his offensive coordinator for three seasons in Kansas City before taking on the top spot with the Eagles in 2016. The history between Reid and Pederson when it comes to their mutual stint in Philly actually goes back to 1999 in Reid's first year as head coach. He brought Pederson over from Green Bay as his starting quarterback while Donovan McNabb learned the ropes from the sidelines as the team's top pick in that year's draft.

Coming off last week's huge upset against New England on the road, it is no wonder that the Chiefs are favored to win again this Sunday at home. It will be a tall task for the Birds to pull off a second-straight win on the road after knocking off Washington in Week 1, but if they follow my three keys to victory, it will give the protegee a fighting chance to show up his mentor this upcoming Sunday afternoon.


Last week against Washington, my key to winning on offense was LeGarrette Blount. He did score a touchdown on a short pass play, but he still only gained 46 yards on the ground on 14 carries as part of the team's paltry 58 rushing yards on the day. Running the ball against Kansas City all day long may not be an option giving that the Eagles are probably going to need to score some points to win this game. While Nelson Agholor was able to step up his game last week with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, the key on offense this week is Alshon Jeffrey in the passing game as the team's No. 1 wide receiver. He was targeted seven times last week and he came up with three catches for 38 yards. He should have a chance to put up some big numbers this week with Kansas City's top pass defender Eric Berry lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles.


The Eagles followed my defensive key to a tee last week by keeping constant pressure on Redskins' quarterback Kirk Cousins without the use of multiple blitzes. The strip fumble for a touchdown to seal the win was simply icing on the cake. This week, along with keeping pressure on Alex Smith, the defensive key is to put a lid on rookie running back Kareem Hunt. He went off against New England for 148 yards and a score on just 17 carries. If he is allowed to run wild into the Eagles' secondary this week, it is going to be a long day at Arrowhead on this side of the ball.

Special Teams

Philly's special teams were dealt a major blow last week when place kicker Caleb Sturgis injured his hip. He is out for at least four weeks so in his place the Eagles signed Jake Elliott off Cincinnati's practice squad. The key to this week's special teams play is to avoid putting Elliott in a precarious position of having to win this game with his foot. Hopefully he can kick the ball deep into the end zone to force touchbacks and hopefully the Eagles can score touchdowns to avoid having to settle for field goal attempts.