The Eagles and Jaguars, two struggling teams, will battle Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET) at Wembley Stadium in London. Here are our four beat writers' predictions for the game.
So last week, I boldly professed my faith that the Eagles would both win and cover the spread against Carolina.
Please feel free to kick me if I ever do that again. (Editor's note: Do not actually kick Les. He is old and bruises easily.)
It would be easy to pick against the Eagles this week if they weren't playing another bumbling 3-4 team that also should be doing a lot better. Jacksonville isn't scary right now. The Jags' biggest advantage is that they play in London every year, and have won three in a row there, after losing their first two. The Eagles are among the last four teams who haven't played in London. Of course, that Jags win streak could completely have to do with matchups, and nothing to do with London.
As few healthy weapons as the Eagles are bringing to the fight, I don't like the idea of Jalen Ramsey on Alshon Jeffery. I especially don't like the idea of Carson Wentz trying to force the ball to Jeffery, covered by Ramsey. I do like Zach Ertz against anybody else the Jags have in coverage, though, and maybe the coaching staff will actually scheme a way to get Nelson Agholor the ball in space, downfield, instead of running him at linebackers around the line of scrimmage.
Jacksonville is minus-12 in turnover ratio (the Eagles are minus-4). Blake Bortles has an 80.3 quarterback rating (Carson Wentz is at 108.1). Bortles has nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions (Wentz has 10 and 1). Bortles is part of the narrative on The Good Place (Wentz has faith he is headed for the good place). If I have to hang my hat (maybe a trilby this week, or a deerstalker cap) on something, I guess I'll cling to Wentz being better than Bortles.
Prediction: Eagles 17, Jags 16
The Jaguars have an offense that can't get out of its own way and a quarterback who has no business being an NFL starter.
Many of their best pass-catching weapons are on injured reserve, and their top running back has been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury, and they are 29th in scoring.
And yet, after what I saw from the Eagles defense in the fourth quarter of the Carolina game last week, I have no confidence that they can hold the Jags to fewer than 13 points, which is what I think it's going to take to win this game, because I don't see the Eagles offense getting many chances to do its creative touchdown celebrations against Jacksonville's talented defense.
Then there's the whole London thing. The Jags, who make this trip every year, are used to the five-hour time change. They've won three in a row in jolly old England.
The Eagles say it's no big deal. But when you're struggling like they are right now, everything's a big deal.
If this game were at the Linc, or even in Jacksonville, I'd probably go with the Eagles. But it's not. Yes, Wembley Stadium will be jammed with Eagles fans. But so was Nissan Stadium in Nashville and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Prediction: Jaguars 17, Eagles 13
The Eagles have never played a regular-season game overseas. Sunday will mark the fifth straight year the Jaguars have played in London. They've won the last three years. Is there an advantage in having experience playing across the pond? Probably. But I don't know if it'll make that much of a difference.
Doug Pederson's Eagles had never stayed on the West Coast between games. How did that go last December? They had never experienced the Super Bowl, while the Patriots had in spades. And how did that turn out? Of course, this year's Eagles aren't the same as last year's team. But the same could be said of the Jaguars, who are reeling after losing three straight by a combined score of 90-28.
Blake Bortles is reportedly on a short leash. The Eagles should hope he plays well enough to finish. He might be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, especially without workhorse running back Leonard Fournette. Jacksonville acquired Carlos Hyde, but the former Brown was averaging only 3.4 yards a carry while the other Cleveland running backs were rushing at 6.7 yards a clip. The Jaguars offensive line is below par. You have troubles when Ereck Flowers is your starting left tackle. Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett is done for the season, but Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham should be able to pressure Bortles.
The Jacksonville defense is good, despite what the last three games say. Jalen Ramsey is an elite cornerback. He might shadow receiver Alshon Jeffery. A.J. Bouye is a solid cover corner, as well. Ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue will be a handful for Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. But Carson Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz should be able to exploit substandard cover linebackers (Telvin Smith Jr. and Myles Jack). Ertz has a long history with former Cowboys safety Barry Church, who used to have the upper hand. But that was 3-5 years ago. Ertz is putting up career best numbers and is entering the best-tight-end-in-the-league conversation.
I think the Eagles offense could break out at Wembley Stadium. But there might be enough lingering issues to keep the score close.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Jaguars 20
When the schedule came out, I thought this would be a loss for the Eagles. Jacksonville is a talented team that is used to making the trip to London and has recent success there. But the more I look at the matchup, I like it for the Eagles. They are vulnerable against teams that want to air it out against them, but a ground-and-pound team that's missing pieces on the offensive line is a better matchup for the Eagles.
The key for the Eagles is to get an early lead — yes, I saw what happened in the fourth quarter Sunday — and force Jacksonville to try to pass its way back into the game. Blake Bortles isn't Cam Newton. However, the Eagles could have a hard time against the Jacksonville defense. They won't have much success challenging the Jaguars cornerbacks – I don't expect this week to be a big game for Alshon Jeffery – but the Jaguars are more vulnerable in the middle of the field. Play Zach Ertz in fantasy football this week. The good news for the Eagles? The Jags have been outscored by 57-0 in the first half of their past three games.
I'm not in the camp that thinks this is a make-or-break game for the Eagles when they still have five NFC East games remaining, but 4-4 going into the bye looks quite different from 3-5. The Jaguars can say the same thing. I'll go with an Eagles win, but take the under.