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Eagles-Colts: Prediction, offensive, defensive previews | Paul Domowitch

The Eagles are getting Carson Wentz back this week, but they'll be missing three of their top four wide receivers, and their top two running backs have injury issues.

With Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles injured, Corey Clement will get the bulk of the action on Sunday vs. the Colts.
With Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles injured, Corey Clement will get the bulk of the action on Sunday vs. the Colts.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

There's a lot swirling around this Eagles-Colts matchup Sunday. Face of the franchise Carson Wentz is back under center, and he'll be facing off against a familiar face: Frank Reich, former offensive coordinator for the Eagles, took over the Colts as head coach during the offseason.

The game will kick off at 1 p.m. Who has the edge?

When the Eagles run the ball

Jay Ajayi injured his back early in the Buccaneers game. He returned in the second half but played just 22 total snaps and had only seven carries for 23 yards. He's expected to play, but it's uncertain whether or how the back issue will affect his workload. Then there's Darren Sproles, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. The Eagles were concerned enough about their running-back situation this week to sign rookie Josh Adams off their practice squad. There's also the matter of left tackle Jason Peters, who has a quadriceps injury that limited him to eight snaps vs. the Bucs.

If Ajayi and/or Sproles can't play, Corey Clement would get the bulk of the work. He rushed for 30 yards on six carries against Bucs, including a 15-yard touchdown run. Ajayi is averaging 6.9 yards per carry on first down, but just 3.9 overall. The Colts have allowed just 83.0 yards per game on the ground in the first two weeks. In their 21-9 Week 2 win over the Redskins, they held Adrian Peterson to 1.8 yards per carry.

EDGE: Eagles

When the Eagles throw the ball

Carson Wentz will make his long-awaited return Sunday. Before he was sidelined in Week 14 last season, Wentz was a top MVP candidate. He had a league-high 33 touchdown passes and led the NFL in third-down and red-zone passing. He had a 14-3 touchdown-to-interception differential on third down and didn't throw an interception in the red zone the entire season. Wentz might have some rust to shake off, and definitely won't have the pass-catching arsenal at his disposal that he had last season. The Eagles are missing three of their top four wideouts, including Alshon Jeffery, who still is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Jeffery had a team-high nine TD receptions last season, including seven in the red zone.

Tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Nelson Agholor have a team-high 16 receptions each but are averaging just 8.9 and 7.6 yards per catch, respectively. The Eagles signed Jordan Matthews on Wednesday, but it's too early to tell whether, or how much, he will play. The Colts have given up just two TD passes in their first two games, but opponents have completed 73 percent of their attempts.

EDGE: Eagles

When the Colts run the ball

Through two games, the Colts are 24th in rushing (89.5 yards per game) and 28th in rush average (3.6). Marlon Mack, a 2017 fourth-round pick, was expected to be their workhorse running back. But the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder was slowed by a hamstring injury in the preseason, sat out the opener, and had just 10 carries (for 34 yards) against the Redskins on Sunday. Rookie Jordan Wilkins leads the team in rushing through two games, with 101 yards on 24 carries.

The Colts strengthened their offensive line in the offseason, selecting left guard Quentin Nelson with the sixth overall pick in the draft and signing veteran right guard Matt Slauson in free agency. The Colts won't have an easy time running the ball against the Eagles, who had the best run defense in the league last season and again are No. 1 through two weeks this season. They've held their first two opponents to 58.5 rushing yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. They've allowed just five rushing first downs in two games, including one to the Bucs.

EDGE: Eagles

When the Colts throw the ball

Andrew Luck's 71.4 completion rate is the sixth best in the league, though he is 28th in yards per attempt (5.93) and already has thrown three interceptions. Two of them came in Sunday's 21-9 win over Washington. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a four-time Pro Bowler with a 15.7-yards-per-catch career average. He had 91 catches for a league-high 1,448 yards and six TDs two years ago with Luck. Luck has two excellent pass-catching tight ends in Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron. Ebron has 114 catches the last two seasons. Doyle earned his first Pro Bowl invitation last year after catching a career-high 80 passes. He has an impressive 75.9 career catch percentage.

The Eagles held the Falcons' Matt Ryan to his lowest completion percentage in seven years in Week 1, then gave up 402 yards and four touchdowns to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs Sunday, including two 75-yard TD passes. Led by All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the Eagles have a solid pass rush. Their d-line already has 37 QB pressures in two games.

EDGE: Even

Special teams

Jake Elliott missed a 42-yard FG attempt against the Bucs but was one of the league's most reliable kickers last year, converting 33 of 38 FGs, including 7-for-7 in the postseason. He had just one miss in 12 attempts last year from 46 yards or longer. Seven of Elliott's eight kickoffs in the first two games went for touchbacks. Punter Cameron Johnston leads the NFL in gross average (53.9) and is second in net average (50.7). Six of his 11 punts have traveled 55 yards or longer. Four of his 11 attempts have pinned opponents inside their  20. PR Darren Sproles has a hamstring injury that kept him out Sunday. Corey Clement and Nelson Agholor handled the PR duties.

The Colts' Adam Vinatieri will turn 46 in December but still is one of the league's top kickers. He was 29-for-34 on FGs last year. His FG percentage since 2011: .892. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez is ninth in the league in net average (43.6). Sanchez also handles kickoffs for the Colts.

EDGE: Eagles


Eagles have won 10 of their last 11 games at the Linc. Their defense plays much better at home than on the road. They've held opponents to 13.7 points per game in those 11 games.

EDGE: Eagles

Domowitch’s prediction

Eagles 24, Colts 16

Key matchups

Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Colts S Clayton Geathers. Ertz has 16 catches in two games but is averaging just 8.9 yards per catch. Geathers is a big-body safety (6-2, 220) but has been hampered by injuries. He played in just five games last season. ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Eagles DT Fletcher Cox vs. Colts LG Quentin Nelson and C Ryan Kelly. Cox played 111 of 128 snaps the first two weeks. He has 2.5 sacks, five QB hits, and six hurries, and has been unstoppable in the middle. Nelson was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft. ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Colts DE Jabaal Sheard. Peters has a quadriceps injury that limited him to eight snaps against the Bucs. Sheard is a solid five-to-eight-sacks-a-year pass rusher. If the quad injury doesn't limit Peters, Sheard won't get close to Carson Wentz. But that's a big if. ADVANTAGE: Even

Hot and not


Eagles: RB Corey Clement — Rushed for 30 yards on six carries and had a 15-yard TD run. Also caught five passes for 55 yards, including three for first downs.

Colts: QB Andrew Luck — After missing the entire 2017 season with a career-threatening shoulder injury, Luck is off to a pretty good start. He has thrown three interceptions but is sixth in the league in completion percentage.


Eagles: CB Jalen Mills — Had a tough game against the Bucs' receivers, giving up an early 75-yard TD to DeSean Jackson and a killer 17-yard pass to Jackson on a second-and-13 late in the game when the Eagles needed the ball back.

Colts: RB Marlon Mack — The 2017 fourth-rounder averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in the Colts' Week 2 win over the Redskins.

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