Eagles-Raiders scouting report
Scouting the Eagles and Raiders game. A look at the matchups, numbers, and what to watch for.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions in his 2017 debut as a starter, and he could have another good game against the 23rd-ranked pass defense on Monday. The Raiders are allowing 238.6 passing yards per game and have a league-worst four interceptions – all in the last four weeks. They became the first team in NFL history to go past the first seven games of the season without an interception. Avoiding turnovers will be important for Foles, who had seven touchdown passes and no interceptions the last time he played the Raiders, in 2013.
The biggest challenge when facing Oakland's defense is blocking defensive end Khalil Mack, one of the NFL's elite players. Mack has 10.5 sacks this season, including a sack in five consecutive games. He usually rushes from the defensive left side, which means Pro Bowler Lane Johnson would get the assignment. But the Eagles expect Mack to move around and rush against left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The Raiders also get pressure from linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has 7.5 sacks this season.
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery has seven touchdown catches in the last seven games and will be going for his 10th touchdown of the season. Nelson Agholor caught 22 passes in the last three weeks and needs five catches to make it a 60-catch season. The Raiders start David Amerson, T.J. Carrie, and Sean Smith at cornerback, although Amerson is nursing a foot injury.
Running back Jay Ajayi's playing time has increased the last three weeks, and he should continue getting more carries against the 15th-ranked rush defense, which allowed more than 100 yards in each of the last two games. Ajayi is averaging 6.4 yards per carry since coming to the Eagles. He was also involved in the passing game last week and could see more third-down usage. The Raiders' leading tacklers are all in the secondary. Veteran NaVorro Bowman signed with the team in October and has become their starting middle linebacker.
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
At this time last season, Derek Carr was an MVP candidate and on the verge of leading the Raiders to the playoffs before a Week 16 injury. His production has dropped off this season, but he's still one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and can hurt an Eagles secondary that allowed 434 yards to Eli Manning last week. Carr has thrown for 3,113 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions this season. If Amari Cooper plays on Monday, the Raiders will have one of the league's best receiver combinations with Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cooper is dangerous after the catch, while Crabtree is one of the league's most physical receivers. Crabtree is especially effective near the end zone; he has eight touchdown catches this season. That will put a strain on Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, who must play better after last week's outing. Mills is questionable with an ankle injury, but look for him to play. Slot cornerback Patrick Robinson has been cleared to return from last week's concussion. Oakland's leading receiver is tight end Jared Cook, who has 50 catches for 638 yards and two TDs.
The Raiders are missing Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn, leaving rookie David Sharpe to block Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett. The Raiders entered the season with one of the best offensive lines, and Penn has two line mates on the Pro Bowl roster: left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson. The Eagles need to get pressure with their front four, so that matchup will be a big part of the game. Oakland upgraded its rushing offense during the offseason by signing veteran Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 248 yards and 5.95 yards per carry in the last three weeks. The Eagles still have the league's top rushing defense, limiting opponents to 71.5 yards per game. Their tackling will be critical against the powerful Lynch. Mychal Kendricks is questionable with a foot injury.
Pay attention to the Eagles on special teams. They blocked an extra point, a field goal, and a punt last week.
The Eagles had six players named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday: quarterback Carson Wentz, offensive tackle Lane Johnson, offensive guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, and safety Malcolm Jenkins. Wentz, Johnson, Brooks, and Ertz made it for the first time in their careers. Jenkins earned his second bid and the first on the initial ballot. It's the third consecutive year that Cox made the Pro Bowl. The Eagles and New Orleans Saints both had six Pro Bowlers; the Pittsburgh Steelers led the league with eight.
Zach Berman: Eagles 31, Raiders 24
Jeff McLane: Eagles 27, Raiders 20
Les Bowen: Eagles 26, Raiders 19
Paul Domowitch: Eagles 41, Raiders 13