Here is the first installment.
Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Mychal Kendricks.
What do we make of Mychal Kendricks? In Week 1 against the Redskins he had a team-high 10 tackles, two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery, heightening the buzz that followed him out of training camp. That was followed up by a rough outing against the Chargers in which he was taken to school by Antonio Gates. Things did not go much better for him this past Thursday against Kansas City. His eight missed tackles through three games lead all inside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s not good.
The second-year player flashes and fades, flashes and fades. They need more consistency out of him, especially in a matchup like this.
Kapadia: Brandon Boykin
As we pointed out earlier this week, Billy Davis used Boykin in a variety of roles vs. the Chiefs, even having him rush the passer 11 times. When I caught up with Davis earlier this week, I tried to politely pose the question: Why on earth are you having arguably your best cover guy, a 5-foot-9, 182-pounder, rush the QB so much?
The impression I got from Davis was that he looks back and wonders the same thing. Boykin rushing from an outside linebacker position is meant to be a wrinkle, not something the Eagles do that many times a game.
Boykin showed signs in the second half of last year that he can be one of the better slot corners in the league. This week, he’ll face his stiffest challenge of the year in Wes Welker. There’s no shutting down Welker completely, but Boykin has a chance to at least limit him and prove he’s capable of passing a huge test.
By the way, McManus, thanks for pointing out Kendricks’ struggles. I’m sure that had NOTHING to do with the fact that I picked him to be the Eagles’ break-out player when we made preseason predictions.
Prop Bet of the Week: Over/Under for Manning touchdowns — 4. Whaddya got?
McManus: I’ll take the under here. Manning is going to get his, but I’ll say he finishes with three touchdowns on Sunday. I’m thinking his backs could find the end zone a couple times as well. It’s going to take everything the Eagles have to contain No. 18 and the passing game. That may open up opportunities for the running back trio of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
By the way, anyone else in the Broncos running back trap of doom in fantasy? I have both Moreno and Ball. My record is 1-2. These things are not mutually exclusive.
Kapadia: I struggled with this one. Can I predict a push? I think the number is going to be four. But forced to choose, I’ll take the over.
Manning just has too many weapons right now between Welker, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank 27th in the NFL at covering tight ends. Mistakes from rookie Earl Wolff are to be expected, and Nate Allen does not exactly inspire confidence.
I also think the Eagles’ offense will put up some points, so it’s unlikely that the Broncos will be motivated to take their foot off the gas.
McManus: 38-31, Broncos.
From everything I’ve seen and heard this week, the Eagles are going into Denver fresh and loose and excited to test themselves against the best. It would be hard to imagine this just a week or two ago, but Philly’s offense is flying under the radar in this one. Suppose that’s what happens when your last outing was a downer and your opponent is a juggernaut. Look at the stats, though, and you’ll see that the Eagles’ offense is ranked second in the NFL, behind only these Broncos. I believe both teams will put up points.
As I mentioned during our show Thursday, this would be an important win for Kelly if his team can somehow pull it off. Not that I think it would propel them to the playoffs or anything, but a win in Denver could serve as a sturdy brick in his building of a foundation. Year One is all about providing hope — showing his players and the rest of the NFL that this rookie coach is onto something; that the arrow in unquestionably pointing up. A win in Mile High against this powerhouse can help build that confidence.
My guess is they fall just short, but who knows?
Kapadia: 41-31, Broncos.
You make a good point about the offense, T-Mac. The Broncos simply don’t have the same talent on defense as the Chiefs. The Eagles have the best running game in the league, and there have been plays to be made in the passing game each week.
The problem? Protection issues, inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of production from receivers not named DeSean Jackson. Having said that, I really believe there will be a point sometime in the next month when everything clicks and the Eagles move up and down the field scoring 40+.
If that happens Sunday, we’re in for a thriller. But I just can’t seem to come up with a best-case scenario for the defense that results in the Broncos scoring less than 35 points. One area to watch is special teams. If Dave Fipp’s crew can rebound from last week and steal a possession or even some points, the Eagles could have a shot to pull off the upset.
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