Eagles Have One Of The NFL’s Toughest Remaining Schedules

Also: Could this week's game potentially be a high-scoring affair?

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

As the Eagles get set to host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, let’s take a look at some of the best articles from around the web this week.

The Eagles have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL, according to Aaron Schatz for ESPN In$ider.

Philadelphia Eagles

Average team winning percentage: .457

Philadelphia has an even tougher slate of opponents than Washington. The Eagles are the only NFC East team to play the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks in 2016, and those are their next two games. However, they do get a little bit of a break with five of their final eight games at home, including matchups against all three NFC East rivals in the final four weeks of the season.

The Eagles are arguably better than their record appears, according to Chase Stuart of FiveThirtyEight.com.

So Philadelphia is inadvertently testing the limits of two football analytics maxims: Good teams win in blowouts, and winning close games isn’t a skill. The Eagles are 0-4 in close games — that is, games decided by 7 or fewer points — which makes them tied with the Brown and Bills for the worst rate in the league. But unlike Cleveland and Buffalo, Philadelphia is 4-0 in games decided by 8 or more points. In fact, since 1970, Philadelphia is just the 4th team to start 4-0 in close games and 0-4 in other games, joining the 2006 Eagles, the 2005 Chargers and the 1991 49ers. Those three teams went 6-2, 5-3 and 6-2, respectively, in the second half of the season.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is ready to make a bigger impact on the defense once again, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think I gotta be better,” Cox said. “I think the main thing is, I had a few chances last week, chances in previous weeks, but I just have to get there. It’s just a thing that I got them early and now I like hit a wall. I think that I’ll be alright. I know I’ll be alright. Just gotta keep pushing and put myself in position to get there.”

Cox ought to get a boost this week with Bennie Logan’s expected return. Logan has missed the last three games with a groin injury, which has allowed offenses to pay more attention to Cox, who said Beau Allen played well and didn’t want to use Logan’s absence as an excuse.

The Eagles have seen a pretty clear uptick in the number of double-teams Cox has faced this season. For many years, Cox was a pretty undervalued player in the league. Now, he has a big contract, a Pro Bowl appearance and the double-teams that follow.

“Yeah, it just comes with it,” Cox said. “I just have to embrace it and find a way to get to the quarterback. At this point right now, the most important thing to me is winning a football game. The sacks, the numbers, all that stuff, I don’t really get caught up into it because those things will come.”

CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco will be carefully watching Jason Kelce‘s performance on Sunday against the Falcons’ defensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are 21st in the league in rushing yards per attempt. That’s not good enough, and should be reason for concern. They’ve had issues on their offensive line, such as the suspension of Lane Johnson and some injury issues. But another problem is that center Jason Kelce, one of the most athletic centers in the game, is having problems with push with down players on his nose. He has never been a power center, but he’s made due with smarts and angles and techniques. Now he seems to be getting beat by the power more than in the past.

On a second quarter run against the New York Giants last week, he tried to block Damon Harrison but he got abused and Harrison helped stop Ryan Mathews for no gain. On a third-quarter run wide right to Darren Sproles, he got a good angle and got out in front of Harrison, but Harrison carried him down the line and was able to disengage and tackle Sproles for a 2-yard gain. There were a handful of other plays where Kelce had problems with his push inside. At 280 pounds, he’s great pulling out to lead sweeps at times. And he can get to the second level. But with power in front of him, that will be a problem — even more so than in the past it seems.

Although the Eagles are in the midst of a two-game losing streak, Gil Brandt of NFL.com thinks the team is holding steady, but have a better chance at rising than falling.


3) Philadelphia Eagles

This team is playing about as well as it can, given the dearth of offensive playmakers on the roster. Drops are killing rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who is otherwise continuing to perform reasonably well after sprinting out of the gate early in the season. The Eagles’ defense has tailed off a bit, but it still ranks in the top 10 and — crucially — has a turnover differential of plus-6. I still think Philadelphia is more on the ascending side rather than the descending side, and there’s a decent chance at securing a playoff berth, but the Eagles haven’t looked very good in their two-game losing streak.

It could possibly be a great fantasy day for Carson Wentz and Darren Sproles on Sunday, pens Matt Franciscovich of NFL.com.

Air Analysis:

Carson Wentz vs Falcons

If there’s a matchup for Wentz to get back on track with his deep ball accuracy and have another high-volume pass-attempt game, this is the week. He’ll try to keep pace with the high-flying Atlanta offense by attacking a defense that has struggled to stop the pass.

The Falcons are on pace to set a franchise record for most passing yards per game allowed with a current mark of 289.6 (the record is 283.8) which is 28th in the league. Atlanta has also allowed more passing touchdowns than any other team with 23. Furthermore, the Falcons rank dead last in the league in red-zone touchdown percentage, 78.8, which bodes well for Wentz’s fantasy outlook in terms of scoring. All of these deficiencies on Atlanta’s defense have resulted in the most fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks this year.

Ground Analysis

Darren Sproles vs Falcons

Sproles should see yet another 15-20 touches in a game where the Eagles will need to score points to keep pace with a high-flying Atlanta offense. Because of his increased volume, Sproles ranks ninth in total rushing yards among running backs over the last two weeks. Oh and that minor detail about Sproles’ main strength as a receiving back … Atlanta has allowed more receiving yards (547) to running backs this season than any other team in the league. Look for Philadelphia to take advantage of that matchup as they try to build confidence in Carson Wentz with shorter passes before they let him unload a few downfield plays.

With the team back at home, Marc Narducci of the Inquirer says it’s something the Eagles want to take a hold of.

“It’s a huge advantage for us,” defensive end Connor Barwin said about playing at the Linc. “Crowd noise makes a huge difference on defense, making opposing teams go on a silent count.”

Of course the home field wasn’t so much of an advantage last season when the Eagles were 3-5 at the Linc.

Safety  says it’s up to the Eagles to keep the fans involved.

“The home field is what you make of it,” Jenkins said. “When you give your fans something to cheer about, that is usually when the advantage comes out.”

This year there has been plenty to cheer about at home, where the Eagles have outscored Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, 84-23.

Kalyn Kahler of the MMQB spent time with Jenkins on Election Day in Philadelphia.

African-Americans make up half of Philadelphia’s voters and were instrumental in supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. “For Obama, there was just a lot of enthusiasm in the minority communities to get out and vote. Everybody felt like their vote mattered,” Jenkins says. “This one is different because I don’t think Hillary [Clinton] has the full support of everybody. A lot of people are feeling like, Oh, I just won’t vote or I’ll vote for somebody else. Usually all of the swing states are based on the minority vote. If the minorities come out in the masses and vote, they usually swing Democratic. If not, they will swing Republican. That is what makes this whole race pretty interesting and closer than people actually would like.”

Clinton didn’t have Jenkins’ full support because of her backing of the 1994 federal crime bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The bill was meant to crack down on the growing violent crime rate and to increase prison funding, but critics say it fueled mass incarceration and disproportionately affected minorities. “I’m still caught up in that,” said Jenkins, who recently did a ride-along with Philadelphia police to better understand community-police relations. “The crime bill basically incentivized the prison system. There were quotas, mandatory minimums, you have to serve 85 percent of your time, so it is guaranteeing that bodies will always be locked up. And that went mostly towards minority communities and poor communities where crime is more rampant.”

Jenkins pulled into his garage to meet up with his wife, Morissa. The two set off on foot to their polling place, Bodine High School on 4th and George Street in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. As they walked through Liberty Lands park, the conversation turned to the election’s impact on the NFL locker room, where Jenkins said political discussions had ramped up over the past few weeks.

This week’s game has the best chance of becoming a shootout, opines Brett Pollakoff of FoxSports.com.

Best chance for a shootout

Falcons at Eagles: The oddsmakers have the over/under for this one set at 50, which seems high until you remember that Matt Ryan and the Falcons are capable of getting very close to that number all by themselves.

Atlanta has scored at least 43 points three times this season, and has registered at least 30 in three other contests.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have scored at least 23 points six times this season, and their defense has stumbled in each of the past two weeks.