Carson Wentz's return inches closer as the Eagles finish their preparation for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field at 1 p.m.
Wentz, roughly nine months removed from tearing ligaments in his left knee, will do his best to help the Eagles' offense reverse course after two lackluster showings led them to a 1-1 start.
Here's what our beat reporters predict for Sunday's game:
Last year, the Eagles had the largest first-quarter point differential in the league, outscoring teams, 106-48, in the first 15 minutes. In the first two games this season, they have yet to score a point in the first quarter. That needs to change Sunday. With Carson Wentz back in the saddle, they need to get off to a fast start, make Andrew Luck and the Colts play catch-up, and let their front four focus on pressuring Luck and forcing turnovers.
The Eagles are missing three of their top four wideouts, and Darren Sproles probably won't play, either, and who knows whether Jay Ajayi and Jason Peters are going to make it start-to-finish through the game.
The Colts defense is coming off a solid effort against the Redskins. They held them without a touchdown and sacked Alex Smith three times. That said, I think the Eagles will win the trenches battle on both sides of the line, and I think Wentz's return will provide a needed offensive spark.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Colts 16
I am 0-2 in picking Eagles results this season. Doing much better with the rest of the league. So I have no idea what's going to happen against the Colts, with Andrew Luck and Frank Reich coming to town. Carson Wentz might look like he has never played football before. He might just pick right up where he left off last Dec. 10. (Insert shrug emoji here.)
I guess I'll go with the way the Eagles defense plays at home vs. how it played against Ryan Fitzpatrick in Tampa last week. And I guess I'll hang my hat on Wentz's giving the team a strong emotional boost against a decent but not overwhelming opponent. The Reich factor bothers me a little; the Andy Reid Eagles seemed to always play well against Brett Favre. Maybe a win but not a cover?
Prediction: Eagles 20, Colts 16
Carson Wentz is back, but that doesn't necessarily mean the issues on offense will be cured. The Eagles are down three wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins), two running backs (Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles), and a tight end (Richard Rodgers) in a pear tree. There's also legitimate concern that left tackle Jason Peters (quadriceps) might not make it through another game.
Wentz will be an upgrade at quarterback, but there could be rust. He hasn't played in more than nine months, after all. But the Colts don't have an imposing defense. They brought in a lot of new faces up front, including former Eagles linebacker Najee Goode, but they're young in the secondary. Nelson Agohlor will likely see more snaps on the outside with the addition of slot receiver Jordan Matthews. Dallas Goedert should see more snaps than he did in the first two games and could complement Zach Ertz, who might benefit most from the return of Wentz.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles will see quarterback Andrew Luck in his third game back after an extended break. The offense will look familiar with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich now in charge of the Colts. He has eased Luck back in with a lot of short passing concepts. The Eagles' potent pass rush might have trouble applying pressure if the ball's out quickly, so it might be necessary for the cornerbacks to play more press coverage. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby struggled last week, and while T.Y. Hilton is a talented receiver, the Eagles secondary should be able to run with the Colts' other receivers.
It won't be seamless, but Wentz and company should get a "W."
Prediction: Eagles 29, Colts 23
The Eagles didn't spend the offseason planning to have an offense without Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Mack Hollins, and Richard Rodgers, but they could be without all of them Sunday. They have Carson Wentz back, and an elite quarterback can do wonders, but he can't work miracles. Still, the Eagles have enough to win this game.
Corey Clement could take on a bigger role out of the backfield and could take his most snaps since entering the NFL. The Colts have allowed 22 catches to running backs in two games, so the Wentz-Clement connection is one to watch. Jordan Matthews could factor into the passing game, too, which would push Nelson Agholor to the outside. The Colts defense has holes, especially on the back end. The Eagles won't look like they did last October and November, but they'll move the ball.
On defense, the Eagles are so tough at home. Just ask Matt Ryan. I think the world of Andrew Luck, and he'll challenge the Eagles. But my guess is the Eagles get after him and the Colts don't have much in the running game, so Luck will need to drop back often. The defensive linemen must apply more pressure than they did last week. I expect them to do so, and I think the Eagles escape with the win, although they might not the cover the spread.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Colts 17