McManus: Todd Herremans
Alex Henery was college teammates at Nebraska with Ndamukong Suh and says he has been texting with him this week as the Eagles get set to welcome in Suh’s Lions. Henery noted that when he and Suh were at Nebraska the Cornhuskers faced a Nick Foles-led Arizona club in the Holiday Bowl back in 2009. Nebraska rolled 33-0. Henery remembers Suh creating all sorts of problems for Foles.
“I think he was 0-for-20 or something,” said Henery.
Actually, Foles was 6-of-20 for 28 yards with an interception.
This isn’t 2009 and the Eagles aren’t the Wildcats, but Suh can still be a giant pain the neck. The 26-year-old has 5 1/2 sacks on the year and has racked up 46 quarterback hurries and nine QB hits, per Pro Football Focus. Fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley has 3 1/2 sacks, 11 QB hits and a pair of fumble recoveries on the year.
Herremans has played pretty well over the last few games. This will be a big challenge for him and the rest of the interior linemen.
Kapadia: Billy Davis
Alright, I’m cheating a little bit by naming a coach instead of a player. But understand that I wouldn’t do such a thing unless I felt it were absolutely necessary.
The Eagles have a lot going for them defensively right now. They’ve limited opponents to 21 points or fewer in eight straight games. The pass-rush has received a boost in recent weeks. And aside from the Earl Wolff injury, they’re relatively healthy.
But to me, scheme and game-plan are going to be especially critical against the Lions. Detroit has 52 pass plays of 20+ yards, third-most in the league. How will Davis deploy his resources defensively to contain Calvin Johnson and still account for the Lions’ other weapons?
Will he blitz? Matthew Stafford is completing just 50.4 percent of his passes and averaging 5.9 YPA against extra pressure, per STATS Inc. But doing so means less help on the back end.
The way the Eagles play defense, it’s not about one corner shutting down one offensive weapon. It’s about Davis coming up with the right plan and guys staying disciplined with their assignments. That’s what I’ll be watching Sunday.
Prop bet of the week: Nick Foles interceptions — 1. Whaddya got?
McManus: A push is most likely in my mind, but I’ll go over.
We talked about this on our show last night: Foles’ numbers are so ridiculous (19 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.2 quarterback rating), it’s only natural to assume that he will come down from the clouds and re-join us mortals at some point this season. Maybe it will be a gradual descent, maybe it’s a crash landing. Maybe Nick Dynamite, as Brian Dawkins likes to call him, will defy the odds and continue to show off his awesome skills.
Foles’ performance to date has been absolutely impressive. With one more touchdown, he’ll tie Peyton Manning for most TDs to start a season without throwing an interception. When this season is a wrap, his overall numbers will be jaw-dropping even if he does cool off some. No matter how well you’re playing, picks happen in this league. Just seems like he’s due for one.
Kapadia: I understand your choice. There has to be some kind of regression coming in the weeks ahead. If the season ended today, Foles’ 125.2 QB rating would be the best in NFL history. He would be only one of four QBs since 2000 (Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner) to post a 9.1 YPA average. And you mentioned the TD/INT record.
So yes, it’s important to let the season play out and remember that this has been a six-start sample size. But I can’t say this Lions secondary scares me. They’re 15th in the league with 12 interceptions and have some injuries at cornerback. If the offensive line gets manhandled, it could be a rough day for Foles.
But I’m riding the hot hand for now and going with the under.
McManus: Detroit 27, Eagles 23
These teams have similar resumes through 12 games: Both are 7-5. The Eagles are 6-2 in the conference, the Lions are 6-3. Detroit has a plus-39 point differential, the Eagles are at plus-19. Detroit is 3-3 on the road, the Eagles are 2-4 at home.
The Lions are prone to big swings in both directions. They can look dominant or anything but. That makes games they’re involved in a little tough to predict. The forecasters are calling for a wintry mix on gameday, which is another variable. One thing we do know is that the Lions are one of the best teams in the league against the run despite using some of the Jim Washburn Wide-9 that drove fans here in Philly crazy in a former life.
Much of the burden could fall on the shoulders of Foles. While he has proven more than capable, I’ll predict that he and the Eagles fall just short in this spot.
Kapadia: Eagles 24, Lions 23
These teams are pretty evenly matched as far as I can tell. And the game means an awful lot on both sides, which should make for a fascinating matchup.
Offensively, there are things the Eagles can do against the Wide-9 that we saw from opponents in years past: Keep extra guys in to block, get rid of the ball quickly, etc. There will almost certainly be times when Foles gets hit, but he just needs to protect the football and realize a sack isn’t the end of the world. None of that “flip it to McCoy at the last second” stuff we saw on a couple occasions last week.
Defensively, the Eagles will give up some big plays to Johnson, but I think they can keep Reggie Bush in check and force Stafford into a turnover or two. Expect another close game, but the Eagles should have a coaching edge and come away their fifth straight win.