Three Eagles Numbers That Matter As Philadelphia Prepares To Play The Lions

A statistical preview of the Eagles' Week 5 opponent: the Detroit Lions.

Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. (Jeff Fusco)

Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. (Jeff Fusco)

With Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season in the books, here’s a look at three Eagles numbers that matter. The main focus here is on Philadelphia’s Week 5 opponent: the Detroit Lions.

18 – The number of touchdowns the Lions have allowed to opposing tight ends in their last 20 games (hat tip @AdamLevitan).

This statistic seems especially relevant with the expected return of Eagles starter Zach Ertz. Ertz has been targeted 55 times in his last five games for 41 receptions, 508 yards, and one score.

Ertz isn’t the only tight end Detroit will have to worry about. For the first time this season, the Eagles have all three tight ends healthy. Veteran Brent Celek and secret weapon Trey Burton are bound to be involved in the game plan as well.

Covering tight ends hasn’t been the only weakness of the Lions’ defense this year. The unit as a whole has really struggled. Detroit is allowing 6.3 yards per play, which is the second worst mark in the league.

Another key area where the Eagles could benefit from Detroit’s deficiencies is on third down. The Lions are allowing their opponents to convert on 47.06%. Only one NFL team (Washington) has been worse. That’s good news for an Eagles offense that’s struggled to move the chains at times.  Philadelphia’s offense has only converted 30% of their third down attempts, which ranks 29th.

The Lions have been especially bad at defending against the pass. In fact, Detroit has allowed a league-worst 139.2 passer rating on third down. Carson Wentz currently has a 96.8 rating on such plays.

DeAndre Levy and Ezekiel Ansah, two of Detroit’s best defensive players, missed the Lions’ Week 4 game. It remains to be seen if they’ll be back this week. It’s a significant loss for an already-struggling Lions defense if they don’t play.

5.9 – The number of yards per play averaged by the Lions’ offense. That’s good for the fifth best mark in the NFL. The Lions’ defense has struggled, yes, but their offense is having some success. Through Week 3, Detroit ranked No. 3 overall in offensive DVOA by Football Outsiders. That ranking will likely come down a little after the Lions only put up 14 points against Chicago, however.

As former Lions and current Eagles linebacker Stephen Tulloch noted, Detroit has a number of quality offensive pieces. Quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks fourth in DYAR and seventh in DVOA. The Lions are averaging the sixth most passing yards per game.

The bad news for Detroit is they’ll have to face a tough Eagles defense. Jim Schwartz’s unit has allowed the fewest amount of points in the league (20). They’ve also allowed the sixth fewest passing yards and third least rushing yards.

While the Lions have been able to move the ball fairly well, they’ve struggled to score it just as efficiently. Detroit ranks 25th in turnover differential at -3. The Eagles, meanwhile, rank tied for second at +6. Stafford has thrown four interceptions this season. Philadelphia has recorded three interceptions and three fumble recoveries through three games.

Schwartz will be eager to shut down the team that fired him in his first and only stint as a head coach.

0.5 – The lead held by the first place Eagles over the second place Cowboys in the NFC East. Here’s a complete look at the standings.

1 – Eagles (3-0)
2 – Cowboys (3-1)
3 – Washington (2-2)
4 – Giants (2-2)

The Birds are the only NFC East team who hasn’t played a division game yet. That will change when the Eagles travel to Washington in Week 6.

None of the Eagles’ rivals looked very impressive while Philadelphia enjoyed their bye this past weekend. The Cowboys needed help from the officials to beat a bad 49ers squad. San Francisco is arguably the worst team in the league. The Browns hung in tough with Washington for a good stretch. A phantom fumble from Cleveland aided the Redskins in their victory. The Giants’ offense continued to struggle in a losing effort to the Vikings. New York spent a ton of money on their defense in the offseason but they still haven’t even forced a turnover.

The Eagles have a real chance to increase their division lead this week. Take a quick peek at the Week 5 NFC East schedule.

1 – Eagles at Lions (1-3)
2 – Bengals (2-2) at Cowboys
3 – Washington at Ravens (3-1)
4 – Giants at Packers (2-1)

The Eagles are coming off their bye week to play a Lions team that could easily be 0-4 if not for a late comeback against the Colts in Week 1.

The Cowboys are facing a Bengals team that’s coming off extra rest from having played on Thursday Night Football. Cincinnati is easily the toughest team Dallas has had to play so far.

Washington will be on the road against a Ravens team that’s a one-point loss away from being 4-0.

The Giants have the toughest tilt in the division. They’re playing a road game on short rest at Lambeau Field against a Packers team coming off their bye week.