The Eagles have stunk up the joint(s) two weeks in a row, losing to the Vikings and Cowboys by a total of 45 points. They’ve turned the ball over seven times in those two games.
Given the way they are playing, given their injury situation, given all of the bad juju that is surrounding this team right now, the Eagles are capable of losing to anyone, including the next team on their dance card, the 5-1 Bills.
But that 5-1 record is a little questionable. It’s been built on wins over stiffs like the winless Dolphins and Bengals and the 1-5 Jets. The combined record of the five teams the Bills have beaten is 6-26. Their most impressive performance actually was their only loss – a 16-10 defeat to St. Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
If the Eagles don’t protect the ball better than they have the last two weeks, if their defense once again sleeps through the first half and puts them in another double-digit hole, if they tackle as badly as they did last week against the Cowboys, if they don’t get pressure on Josh Allen and contain him as a runner, they will lose Sunday and limp home with a 3-5 record.
But I just have a hard time believing that’s going to happen. They’ve been embarrassed two weeks in a row. My gut tells me they’re going to come out and play well against the Bills, and I always listen to my gut, unless it tells me to eat a Taco Bell burrito at midnight.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Bills 20
The previous two weeks, I listened to Eagles players and coaches vow that they were locked and loaded and ready to go win a tough game on the road, and I believed them, more or less. I would have taken the Cowboys last week had I known when making the pick that almost all their injured regulars would be back, but, nonetheless, I picked the Eagles and they lost by 27, the week after I picked the Eagles, and they lost by 18.
So this week, what am I doing? Well, I have spent the week listening to Eagles players and coaches vow that they are really serious this time, that they are going to come out Sunday and show us all a thing or two. Am I dumb enough to believe them, yet again?
Yeah, I guess?
It’s going to take an effort along the lines of the Packers game, and even that won’t guarantee anything. This defense is awful right now. With Nigel Bradham injured and Zach Brown released, the linebacking crew makes it hard to maintain the defense’s one strength, stopping the run. And opposite Fletcher Cox, they apparently will be starting Anthony Rush, a rookie defensive tackle who hasn’t played in an NFL game. These are problems resolve and focus won’t solve.
I think it’s going to be up to the offense. I think the Eagles need to run the ball, and throw it to Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Keep their defense off the field. Avoid drive-killing penalties and, of course, turnovers. These are achievable goals, if they aren’t down 14-0 six minutes in, as they were last week.
So, flying on a Buffalo wing and a prayer . . .
Prediction: Eagles 27, Bills 23
The 5-1 Bills have beaten some pretty hapless teams. The combined record of their losing opponents, as Domo noted above, is 6-26. Buffalo has beaten those teams by only a combined 24 points, while the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans and Dolphins have an average point differential of -71.8 points.
The Bills’ most impressive performance, however, came in a loss to the Patriots. They held Tom Brady and company to just 16 points, but could only score 10 points of their own after quarterback Josh Allen left with an injury and backup Matt Barkley was ineffective.
The Eagles would have been clear favorites a few weeks ago, but they’re coming off two ugly losses and are reeling. They have on paper a more talented team. But we can burn that wood. Many of us overestimated the Eagles’ roster, the coaching staff and the overall chemistry of the squad.
The Bills have a power running offense with the ageless Frank Gore. Allen is a factor in the run game, so the Eagles will need to be disciplined on the edges. Jim Schwartz’s run defense had been among the NFL’s best through six weeks, but it got smacked in the face by Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys last week. Linebacker Nigel Bradham is unlikely to play and someone named Anthony Rush will start alongside Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle.
I think Schwartz can get his unit to slow the run, and he’s proven that he can scheme up a rush to pressure young, shaky quarterbacks like Allen.
While I don’t have much faith in the Eagles offense right now, they have enough to get back on track as long as they focus on utilizing Carson Wentz and his two tight ends -- Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert -- in the passing game. I’ve heard others say that Doug Pederson needs to revert back to the run-based attack that helped the Eagles win at Green Bay, and maybe that’ll be the case, but he can’t be too conservative.
I could see this game going either way. I’ll go with the home team on a late, game-winning field goal.
Prediction: Bills 24, Eagles, 23
This is the toughest prediction so far this season, and no, it’s not because it’s the first time I’ll be committing my guess to the written word in this format.
The last two weeks have shaken my conviction on exactly what the Eagles are this season. I think it’s safe to say, at this point, no one really knows. Doug Pederson said the team has practiced angrily, remembering how embarrassing it was to walk off the field at AT&T Stadium having laid an egg for the second week in a row. Maybe it was the wake-up call the Eagles needed, but shouldn’t the drubbing against the Vikings have done that?
It might be foolish of me, but I’m going to use the same logic I used in Week 4 when the Birds trudged into Lambeau Field and handed the Green Bay Packers their lone loss of the season. Flaws and all, they found a way to stay afloat against a good team because, well, they didn’t have much of a choice.
Perhaps I should be more skeptical and learn from what’s happened since then, but I also think the Bills’ record is a bit of fool’s gold, mostly amassed against lackluster opponents. Despite their record being much better than the Eagles', footballoutsiders.com still ranks Buffalo six spots below the Eagles in their rankings and in the bottom-half of the league.
The Eagles will need to force Josh Allen to make mistakes and turn the ball over. They’ll also need to put up points against a respectable defense. But I think they put it together Sunday and stay in the race, at least for now.