Three-And-Out: Eagles-Texans Predictions
Player I’ll be watching
Kapadia: Todd Herremans/Andrew Gardner
Just when it looked like the Eagles were close to getting their offensive line healthy, they suffered a setback. Herremans suffered a torn biceps in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss against the Cardinals. We showed this GIF earlier in the week, but take a look at how he tried to block the defensive lineman on the last play of the game:
Credit to Herremans for his toughness. He was a full participant at practice all week, wearing a crazy-looking contraption on his arm. But lining up on the other side this week will be game-wrecker J.J. Watt. Watt is a mismatch against 100 percent healthy Pro Bowl guards. Going up against a player with a torn biceps would seem to be asking for disaster.
We likely won’t know whether Herremans is going to play until inactives are announced Sunday morning. If he can’t go, Andrew Gardner is expected to take his place. A Gardner-Watt matchup doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either.
Blocking Watt will have to be a team effort. That includes the offensive line, tight ends, running backs, the quarterback (getting rid of the ball and avoiding turnovers) and the coaching staff (putting the players in positions to avoid failure). While Watt lines up in a variety of places, whoever is at right guard faces a monumental challenge on Sunday.
McManus: Jason Kelce
If you’re the Texans, you apply pressure to the A-gap between Kelce and Herremans all day, right? We know that Herremans will not be at full strength if he plays. You can make the argument that his limitations are at least partially offset by the return of Kelce to the lineup, but that’s only if Kelce is back to his old form. Considering that he is just over five weeks removed from hernia surgery, I’m not sure how realistic of an expectation that is.
Last week, Chip Kelly just wanted Kelce to tie his shoes right. This week he’s being asked to help fend off Watt and company. Kelce’s agility will be tested, as will those core muscles. The line might be able to deal with a hampered Herremans. But if two-thirds of the interior line is hobbled, that could be disastrous.
Over/under: 102 yards for Arian Foster — Whaddya got?
Kapadia: I’ll take the under. I’m a believer in the Eagles’ run defense. The guys up front – Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton – have played at a consistently high level all season. The outside linebackers are doing their jobs setting the edge, and DeMeco Ryans should have some extra juice going up against his former team.
Foster has been fantastic. He’s averaging 6.3 YPC in his last four games and is second in the NFL in rushing with 766 yards. You’re not going to bottle him up all game long, and Bill O’Brien will feed him throughout. But I think the Birds’ run defense will be up for the challenge.
McManus: I’ll go under as well. The key will be limiting the big runs. Through seven games, the Eagles have allowed four runs of 20-plus yards and zero of 40 or more. I agree with you, Sheil, I think Billy Davis‘ run defense has been very sound. I expect Foster to do some damage — he’s playing out of his mind right now — but I think they keep him under the century mark.
Kapadia: Eagles 24, Texans 21
If I’m being completely honest, I have zero feel for this game.
Offensively, it’s difficult to project what you’re going to get from the Eagles. They moved the ball well against a tough Arizona Cardinals defense, but are turning it over at a higher rate than any offense in the NFL. They will likely get Jason Kelce back, but as mentioned above, right guard is suddenly a big question mark.
I expect this to be a tough, ugly game. Look for a lot of stuff to the perimeter to try to get away from Watt.
Defensively, the Eagles have done a good job against the run, and the pass-rush has been solid for the past four games. Coming off a loss and going up against Ryan Fitzpatrick, I’ll say the Eagles pull off a close victory.
McManus: Texans 24, Eagles 20
A couple concerns that have me leaning towards Houston (though I think the game will be tight throughout): One is the state of the offensive line. The coaches this week mentioned that designing double teams for Watt is very difficult because of how much he moves around. Watt wins most of his one-on-one matchups to begin with. Given the health concerns inside, it’s not inconceivable that the best defensive player on the planet could have his way in this one. That would not be great news for Nick Foles. In order for the quarterback to move past some of his mechanical problems, he needs to trust that the protection is going to hold up so he can set, plant and throw. Not sure this will be the environment to overcome those issues.
Defensively, they could be down a starting safety. Nate Allen did not practice for much of the week because of a hamstring strain he suffered late against the Cardinals. Allen isn’t exactly the fan favorite right now after giving up the game-winning touchdown in Arizona, but he starts over Earl Wolff for a reason. Kelly gave a lukewarm response when asked about the development of Wolff this week. Teammate Malcolm Jenkins mentioned that Wolff needs to get better at taking command of his side of the field and being more decisive in his calls. If Wolff starts, the chances of a big play occurring as a result of a communication breakdown increases (at least in my mind). If Allen plays, he’ll be at less than 100 percent. Either way, not ideal.
Like last week, I don’t expect a ton of points to go up. The Eagles are expected to get Darren Sproles back, which should give the offense and special teams a boost. But I see a couple untimely miscues biting the Eagles in this one.