The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Texans
Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the Texans.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
Eagles running backs were productive last week against a stout Arizona Cardinals defense. LeSean McCoy ran 21 times for 83 yards, and Chris Polk picked up 13 yards on three attempts. This week, Darren Sproles (MCL) is expected to return to the lineup.
On the season, McCoy has carried 137 times for 505 yards (3.7 YPC). In terms of run-game efficiency, the Eagles rank 23rd, according to Football Outsiders.
Up front, the Eagles are expected to get Jason Kelce back at center. The most likely offensive line is: Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson. However, Herremans’ status is up in the air. He’s attempting to play with a torn biceps injury and has been a full practice participant all week long.
If Herremans can’t go, his likely replacement will be Andrew Gardner.
The Texans rank 19th against the run. Houston runs a 3-4 with J.J. Watt, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and Jared Crick up front. They also rotate in Tim Jamison. The Texans are talented at outside linebacker with Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed.
Inside linebacker Brian Cushing missed last week’s game with a knee injury and could be out on Sunday as well.
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
It will be all about protecting the football. The Eagles have turned it over on 19.3 percent of their offensive drives. That’s the worst mark in the NFL. The Texans’ defense, meanwhile, has produced a turnover 17 percent of the time, third-best.
Nick Foles is completing 59.2 percent of his passes (28th) and averaging 6.82 yards per attempt (26th). His 3 percent interception rate is seventh-worst. Foles took some hits last week and looked uncomfortable in the pocket, unnecessarily backpedaling at times and shuffling into pressure.
Jeremy Maclin is averaging 90.3 yards per game, eighth-best. He’s averaging 16.2 yards per catch and has scored six touchdowns. Riley Cooper has 29 catches for 305 yards. Jordan Matthews has 29 for 273.
Brent Celek was limited in Thursday’s practice with a back injury, meaning Zach Ertz could have a larger role. Ertz has 24 grabs for 354 yards on the season. He has played 55.7 percent of the offensive snaps.
The Texans have the ninth-ranked passing defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. They’ll start veteran corners Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. At safety, they go with second-year player and big hitter D.J. Swearinger, along with free agent addition Kendrick Lewis. The Texans rotate in Danieal Manning as a third safety and A.J. Bouye as a third cornerback.
Up front, the Texans are 21st in adjusted sack rate, but they have a game-wrecker in Watt. He’ll line up in different spots along the front, making double teams difficult at times. Watt has seven sacks on the season; six other Texans have combined for the team’s other seven sacks.
WHEN THE TEXANS RUN…
This will be a strength vs. strength matchup that could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. Arian Foster is second to only DeMarco Murray with 766 rushing yards. In the past four games, Foster has piled up 519 yards on 83 carries (6.3 YPC). The Texans have run the ball 51 percent of the time; that’s the top mark in the league. Football Outsiders ranks their run game 12th overall.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have been fourth against the run according to Football Outsiders. Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton have been consistent all season. DeMeco Ryans, the team’s leading tackler, returns to face the franchise that drafted him. Mychal Kendricks returned in a limited role last week. He should play more snaps Sunday, but Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho could rotate in on early downs.
On the outside, Connor Barwin does a great job of setting the edge. Trent Cole sets up at the other spot, and Brandon Graham will rotate in on both sides.
For the Texans, left tackle Duane Brown has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and is in his seventh season as a starter. Houston starts Ben Jones at left guard and two-time Pro Bowler Chris Myers at center. Second-year starter Brandon Brooks sets up at right guard, and third-year starter Derek Newton gets the nod at right tackle.
WHEN THE TEXANS PASS…
Ryan Fitzpatrick is completing 63.4 percent of his passes (19th) and averaging 7.74 yards per attempt (10th). He’s thrown nine touchdowns against seven interceptions and has a passer rating of 87.6 (21st).
The Texans have capable receivers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Johnson leads the team with 46 grabs. He’s totaled 551 yards and has 10 catches of 20+ yards. Hopkins leads the Texans with 569 receiving yards and is averaging 15.8 yards per catch. Fitzpatrick will take shots downfield off play-action. According to Pro Football Focus, 57.7 percent of his downfield attempts (20+ yards) have been on-target. That’s the second-best mark in the league.
Former Eagle Damaris Johnson has contributed (11 catches for 181 yards), and Foster (24/166) will see some looks out of the backfield.
The Eagles will stick with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher at the cornerback spots. Brandon Boykin is dealing with a hamstring injury. If he can’t go, Jaylen Watkins could see some snaps at nickel.
At safety, Nate Allen is dealing with a hamstring injury. If he can’t play, Earl Wolff would likely fill in alongside Malcolm Jenkins.
Up front, Houston’s offense ranks 15th in adjusted sack rate. The Eagles have done a good job overall of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Barwin leads the team with six sacks, and Cole is first with 13 hurries. Graham and Vinny Curry have done good jobs in situational roles. Cox has been disruptive throughout.
SPECIAL TEAMS, ETC.
The Eagles rank first on special teams; the Texans are 27th.
The Eagles are last in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 34.78 percent of their trips. The Texans are third in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 48.28 percent of the time.