The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Lions

THE BIG PICTURE

The Eagles have won four in row and are tied atop the NFC East with the Cowboys at 7-5. They host the Lions before traveling to Minnesota in Week 15. Then it’s a home date with the Bears and the season finale in Dallas. The Cowboys take on Chicago Monday night.

The Lions are coming off a Thanksgiving Day win and are at 7-5 atop the NFC North.

Here is how the Eagles’ offense matches up with Detroit’s D:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Eagles Offense6.1 (3rd)25.0 (8th)18.2% (3rd)
Lions Defense5.6 (22nd)23.9 (18th)-1.7% (15th)

And the Eagles’ defense against the Lions’ offense:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Lions Offense6.1 (5th)27.2 (4th)5.4% (13th)
Eagles Defense5.5 (20th)23.4 (16th)7.6% (25th)

Note: Click here for an explanation of DVOA.

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EAGLES RUSHING OFFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Eagles Rushing Offense4.7 (2nd)18.4% (1st)
Lions Rushing Defense3.7 (4th)-27.6% (2nd)

The Eagles added some wrinkles to the run game last week that better suit Nick Foles’ skill set. Teams were crashing down on McCoy on all zone-read plays, so the Eagles mixed in a sift block with the tight end to account for the unblocked defender.

McCoy carried 19 times for 79 yards against Arizona and is the league’s second leading rusher with 1,088 yards. Detroit uses the Wide-9, but ranks second in the league against the run, per Football Outsiders. It all starts in the middle with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The Eagles have started the same five offensive linemen every week, but Jason Kelce, Mathis and Todd Herremans will have their hands full.

Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is the Lions’ leading tackler.

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EAGLES PASSING OFFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Nick Foles63.3% (11th)9.14 (1st)*61 (1st)*26.7% (6th)
Lions Passing Defense60.4% (15th)7.7 (24th)40 (15th)13.8% (22nd)

* Team stat, not individual stat.

Nick Foles needs two touchdowns to become the only quarterback in NFL history to start a season with 21 TDs and zero interceptions. There’s no doubt that he got some lucky bounces last week. Foles had an INT called back because of a Cardinals holding penalty, and he tried to flip the ball forward on a couple occasions where defenders had him in their grasp.

The numbers speak for themselves. Foles leads the NFL in yards-per-attempt (9.14) and QB rating (125.2). But he’ll need to be especially careful with the ball when the Lions pressure him.

In addition to Suh and Fairley, rookie Ziggy Ansah is coming on strong for Detroit. Rushing off the edge, he leads the Lions with seven sacks overall, including four in the past two games. Lane Johnson has had some growing pains as a rookie and faces a big challenge. Herremans has had issues in pass protection also. Jason Peters has played well.

The Lions like to rely on their front four to get pressure and don’t blitz a lot. Linebacker DeAndre Levy leads the league with six interceptions.

At cornerback, veteran Chris Houston did not play last week because of a foot injury and has been limited in practice. Rookie corner Darius Slay has been limited with a knee injury. The Lions also have veteran Rashean Mathis.

DeSean Jackson had a tough time getting free against Patrick Peterson last week, but should have his opportunities in this one. The Lions rank 28th against opposing No. 1 receivers, per Football Outsiders. Detroit has good veteran safeties in Louis Delmas and Glover Quin.

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EAGLES RUSHING DEFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Lions Rushing Offense4.2 (15th)-8.9% (24th)
Eagles Rushing Defense4.1 (14th)-5.6% (14th)

The Lions feature Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the backfield. Bush has played well, averaging 4.7 YPC (854 total). Bell has 435 yards and six touchdowns.

The Eagles’ run defense has been solid for much of the year. DeMeco Ryans is sixth in the NFL with 105 tackles. Mychal Kendricks had one of his best games of the year as a run-stopper against Arizona, finishing the game with 14 tackles, according to team stats.

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EAGLES PASSING DEFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Matthew Stafford63.3% (12th)7.65 (8th)*52 (3rd)*20.6% (11th)
Eagles Passing Defense61.0% (19th)7.2 (16th)46 (25th)16.7% (25th)

In all likelihood, this is the area where the game will be won or lost. When he’s on, Matthew Stafford can look like an elite talent. But he will turn the ball over, as seen by his 14 interceptions (fifth-most).

The Eagles are healthy at cornerback with Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Nate Allen has played well, but Patrick Chung has struggled.

The only plan for Calvin Johnson (72 catches for 1,299 yards and 12 TDs) is to pay a lot of attention to him. Both corners will get matched up against Johnson depending where he’s lined up. Johnson has lined up in the slot 26.2 percent of the time, according to PFF. The Eagles will almost certainly put multiple defenders on him in those situations.

Aside from Johnson, Stafford spreads the ball around. Five other receivers have at least 25 catches. The linebackers will have to handle Bush coming out of the backfield. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew has 38 catches. And tight end Joseph Fauria has six touchdowns, second on the team.

Up front, the Eagles have gotten seven sacks from their outside linebackers (Cole, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin) in the last two weeks. Detroit has only allowed 15 sacks all season, tied for fewest in the league. A lot of that is because Stafford gets rid of the ball quickly.

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THE ESSENTIALS

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST on FOX. Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the call with Erin Andrews on the sideline. According to Sports Insights, the Eagles are 3-point favorites. And the money is nearly split right down the middle; 51 percent is on the Birds to cover.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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