Three-And-Out: Eagles-Bills Predictions

Tim and Josh make their picks.
Eric Rowe. (Jeff Fusco)

Eric Rowe. (Jeff Fusco)

PLAYER I’LL BE WATCHING

Paunil: Eric Rowe

Tim, you should’ve seen Billy Davis talk about the rookie cornerback after Sunday’s game in Foxborough. When a reporter mentioned Rowe, Davis’ eyes lit up and he acted just like a proud father. Of course, that’s understandable as Rowe allowed just four completions on 12 targets in 61 snaps of pass coverage.

“Obviously, Eric had to step up because losing Nolan [Carroll] was a big blow to us on the defensive side of the ball. And so now, it’s really the whole next-man-up concept,” Kelly said. “But for Eric to step in and do what he did, I was happy for him. He has done it on a limited basis.

“He had the pick in the Jets game, first time he got in, they literally, he’s in and threw it on him. For him to make that play, you hope he gained a little bit of confidence in that. Playing corner in the National Football League is very difficult because a lot of times you are left out on an island.”

However, Byron Maxwell — who allowed only two receptions in 62 snaps of pass coverage — was even better on Sunday. Buffalo will likely make the same calculation as New England and avoid the $63 million guy in favor of the rookie. Why does that matter? Enter Sammy Watkins.

The second-year wideout averages more than 70 receiving yards per game and has six touchdowns in just nine contests. He’s also riding a hot streak as he totaled more than 250 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. The Bills are going to try to stretch the field with Watkins, and Rowe will be tested often down the field.

McManus: Yeah, not sure old Billy D is going to be nodding towards Rowe with fatherly approval after this one. Tough matchup. But if he is able to lock Watkins down, that’s a serious feather in his cap.

Great one to keep an eye on, Josh. But I’ll go with Kiko Alonso. 

The drama has been all on LeSean McCoy‘s side of the table. For all the emotion he’s pouring out, Alonso is showing little (you’re shocked, I know.) He doesn’t seem particularly offended about being traded out of Buffalo, and essentially said he’s just looking forward to playing against some of his old teammates. And that’s all fine and good. Reaction and build-up is not what matters. It’s about results, and to this point, the results haven’t been very good when it comes to No. 50.

Alonso is getting written off by some, but I think he’s a better player than what he’s showing. He hasn’t looked right since returning from a knee injury, which was reported as a partial ACL tear before it suddenly wasn’t. Either way he got scoped, and in the weeks since has not been the quick, instinctual, hard-charging player that led him to high heights as a rookie.

The Eagles need him here. The McCoy/Tyrod Taylor combo is going to put a serious strain on this defense. Davis needs his linebackers to make smart decisions, diagnose quickly and attack when appropriate while maintaining gap integrity.

Excluding the money factor, this has been a one-sided trade so far. Sunday would be a good time to start re-writing that narrative.

OVER/UNDER: 100 rushing yards for LeSean McCoy — Whaddya got?

Paunil: Over.

I think people predicting a 200-yard game from Shady are going a bit overboard — he averages just 79.2 yards per contest — but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t surpass 100. The Eagles’ run defense just isn’t as good without Jordan Hicks — although you could say the same about their pass defense — and they allow nearly 125 rushing yards per game.

Even in yards per attempt, the Eagles rank 24th in the NFL by giving up 4.3 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Bills have the fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL, picking up more than 140 yards per game.

Taylor accounts for nearly 32 of those, but Karlos Williams averages 47 of them. With McCoy’s backup running back out, I expect McCoy to top his season-high of 21 carries. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, he’ll probably be a little bit more motivated on Sunday at the Linc.

McManus: Over.

I just don’t see McCoy being denied in this spot.

The Eagles can’t afford to load up too much to stop him because of the run threat that Taylor poses should they over-commit and the deep threats on the outside if the call is play-action.

Given the balance of this attack, they can’t just sell out and swarm. That’s good news for a back that, as we know, can turn a sliver of daylight into something special.

PREDICTIONS

Paunil: Bills 27, Eagles 21

As well as the defense and special teams played last week, and although Sam Bradford continued to be steady, I simply haven’t seen enough consistency to pick the Birds. Davis baffles me because, in my mind, his two best game plans of the season were for Eli Manning and Tom Brady. But where was that for Jameis Winston?

Although I have confidence in the defensive line and safeties, inside linebacker is a big area of concern. I’m not sure how the Eagles didn’t take out Alonso sooner after he became so tired he literally fell to the ground on Sunday, but that’s not a good sign. You’ll see more Mychal Kendricks — plus DeMeco Ryans if the Birds stay in base more — although none of those guys have been good in coverage.

And of course, you have the offensive line. Jason Peters’ return not only keeps Dennis Kelly off of the field, but Lane Johnson can stay at right tackle, where he is most comfortable. However, Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre are still huge questions marks, particularly in pass protection. At the end of the day, I simply think the Bills are a better and more talented team than the Eagles.

McManus: Bills 30, Eagles 20

The owner fired up the team, Chip Kelly broke out the highlight reel and Bradford got vocal before the Pats game. Just about all the stops were pulled out by an Eagles team in the midst of a free-fall and desperate for a win. To their credit, they got the job done against a Patriots team that is unforgiving, particularly in Foxborough.

While that’s encouraging, I’m not convinced that the winning ways will last. I still have my suspicions about the health of the locker room, the quality of the offensive front, the weapons surrounding Bradford (who I agree is improving) and the coaching on both sides of the ball.

This is a big game. If they’re able to quell the Shady wave and shut down the Bills, it will be a big statement that will light a fire back under this fan base. Definitely not ruling it out, but I need another quality win before I’m convinced that they’re rounding into form.