When the Eagles run the ball
The Eagles made a major trade-deadline move Tuesday, acquiring Pro Bowl RB Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins. The Eagles are hoping that the 6-0, 219-pound Ajayi will provide a boost to a run game that has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in the last four games. They rushed for 407 yards in back-to-back games against the Giants and Chargers in Weeks 3-4. But since then, they have been inconsistent on the ground. LeGarrette Blount has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the Eagles' last two games. They're averaging just 3.7 yards per carry on first down in the last four games, which is 18th in the league during that period. They're going to have their work cut out against a Broncos defense that has held opponents to 3.0 yards per carry. Broncos limited the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott to eight yards on nine carries and the Bills' LeSean McCoy to 21 yards on 14 carries. They have yet to give up a rushing TD and have allowed the second-fewest runs of 10 yards or more (14) in the league.
When the Eagles throw the ball
Carson Wentz proved he was mortal Sunday against the 49ers. His 84.2 passer rating was his second lowest of the season, and his streak of 185 passes without an interception was snapped on a miscommunication with rookie Mack Hollins. Wentz is tied for the league lead in TD passes with 19 and is first in third-down passing rating (118.8). He's averaging 9.3 yards per attempt on third down, and eight of his 19 TD passes have come on third down. A year ago, he had three. TE Zach Ertz is his go-to guy. He has 43 catches, seventh most in the league. WR Alshon Jeffery had a 53-yard TD catch vs. the Niners, but his chemistry with Wentz has been slow in developing. He has been targeted 62 times, but has just 28 catches. In the last three games, he has been targeted 24 times and has just eight catches. The Broncos have an excellent secondary and one of the league's best pass-rushers in Von Miller, who will move around. Broncos held the Chiefs' Alex Smith to season lows Monday night in passer rating (77.6) and completion percentage (45.2).
When the Broncos run the ball
The Broncos are averaging 4.4 yards per carry, the seventh-best rushing average in the league. But they are only 20th in first-down rushing average (3.71). C.J. Anderson is 10th in the league in rushing with 469 yards. He rushed for 78 yards on 15 carries in Monday night's loss to the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles isn't the elite runner he was before his knee problems. But he still has some elusiveness. Eleven of his 50 rushing attempts have gained eight yards or more. He's averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Eagles are first against the run, holding opponents to 70.4 yards per game on the ground. But part of that is the fact that opponents are averaging a league-low 18.4 carries per game against them because they're usually playing catch-up. Still, the Eagles are very tough to run on and have held opponents to 2.4 yards per carry on first down in their last six games. Thirty-one of 111 opponent rushing attempts in the last six games have resulted in negative yards.
When the Broncos throw the ball
The Broncos announced a quarterback change Wednesday, after Trevor Siemian's poor, three-interception performance against the Chiefs. They have benched Siemian, and Brock Osweiler will start against the Eagles. In the last three games, Siemian had a 64.1 passer rating. He threw just four TD passes in the last five games. Injuries up front affected his protection. He was sacked four or more times in three of the last four games. Demaryius Thomas, who has had five straight seasons of 90-plus catches and 1,000-plus receiving yards, has just seven catches for 75 yards over the last two games. The Broncos' passing game could get a boost if slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders returns after missing two games with an ankle injury. The Eagles are 29th in passing yards allowed (256.7), but have been very good on third down. Opposing QBs have a 47.1 third-down passer rating. The Eagles have an NFL-high six third-down interceptions, including three by CB Jalen Mills.
Eagles PK Jake Elliott missed a couple of PATs in the wet weather Sunday, but is 16-for-19 on FG attempts this season, including 5-for-6 from 50-plus yards. He has made 14 of his last 15 attempts. Fifteen of Elliott's last 16 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. Kenjon Barner is second in the NFL in punt-return average (14.6). He had a 76-yard return against Arizona and a 22-yarder vs. the Redskins. The Eagles are 11th in punt coverage, holding opponents to 5.9 yards per return. Broncos PK Brandon McManus has struggled a bit. He's already missed 5 of 15 FG attempts, including 29- and 35-yarders, and saw a 53-yarder blocked. P Riley Dixon is just 29th in net average (38.7), but only 11 of his 30 punts have been returned. The Broncos are third in kickoff-return average (26.1) and 16th on punt returns (8.5).
Eagles 20, Broncos 17
— Eagles OTs Lane Johnson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs. Broncos LB Von Miller: Miller, who has seven sacks, lines up on the (defense's) left side 80 percent of the time. But with Vaitai replacing injured left tackle Jason Peters, look for Miller to spend more time than usual on the right side. ADVANTAGE: Broncos
— Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Broncos S Darian Stewart: Ertz, who has 43 receptions and an NFL-high six red-zone TDs, is a tough matchup for both safeties and linebackers. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
— Eagles LBs Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham vs. Broncos RB C.J. Anderson: Kendricks and Bradham are playing the best football of their careers. Stopping the run is paramount Sunday. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Hot and Not
Eagles: LB Mychal Kendricks: Has been a difference-maker for the defense against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer
Broncos: LB Von Miller: Has a team-high seven sacks and 42 total quarterback pressures (sacks-hits-hurries).
Eagles: RB Wendell Smallwood: Just one carry for five yards vs. the Niners. Just nine carries for 30 yards in two games since returning from knee injury.
Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian: Has a 64.1 passer rating in the Broncos' last three games. Threw three INTs vs. the Chiefs on Monday night.