There’s a reason backups are backups and right now, the Philadelphia Eagles, due to injuries, are forced to play backups. Despite the favorite line of many pundits that “Player A would be starting on most of the rest of the teams in the league,” there’s a reason he’s a backup on his current team; he’s just not as good as the other options.
That fact is, however, of little consolation to Eagles fans – and quite possible the Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania in particular – as a team that started the year as the clear cut divisional favorite and with Super Bowl expectations fell to 1-2 and is looking up at the hated Cowboys in the NFC East.
A couple of things stood out to me in the game against the Lions. The first one is Detroit is much better than people think. A lot of folks figured it was the same old Lions team that choked away a fourth quarter lead and had to settle for a tie against Arizona in Week 1, but it’s also a team that has now won back-to-back games, on the road, against preseason conference championship contenders. I won’t go much further on this and steal the thunder from my Michigan counterpart, but there may have been a little underestimating going on there.
The second thing is the Eagles REALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLY (I think I have enough L’s in there to emphasize my point) need their starting receiving corps back. For as improved a team as Detroit is, seven dropped passes hindered the Eagles as much as the Lions secondary. Without Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor has been shaky at best as a primary target. With primary options gone, teams can double Zach Ertz coming off the line because they know they can go single coverage on the outside.
Do Things Look Better for the Eagles in Week 4 and Beyond? ?
The third, and maybe the most important point, is that the losses to Atlanta and Detroit show just how good the Eagles actually are. That you can lose five players in either pregame warmups or the first quarter against the Falcons and then still be without three of those players against the Lions… and still only lose by a total of seven points (!) demonstrates the talent level on this Philadelphia squad.
That being said….
Week 4 is the most inopportune time possible to have to play on Thursday night. On the road. At Green Bay.
When the schedule came out, this looked like a battle between two teams that could potentially be 3-0 and two quarterbacks who would be fighting for the MVP award. Well, the Packers are 3-0. The Eagles stumble in 1-2 and are still unsure who Carson Wentz will be throwing to on Thursday. Even if Jackson and Jeffrey are healthy, will they be limited.
My biggest concern is the floating nature of Jackson’s injury. Against Atlanta it was listed as an aggravation of a groin injury that he had at the end of the Washington game. That they pulled him out after 11 snaps for precaution and that the Eagles hoped he’d be back for Detroit. Now, reports are coming out that it’s an abdominal injury and that he is unlikely against Green Bay. I’m not a doctor–I don’t play one on TV and thus don’t get scripts to tell me fancy medical terms–and the first thing they team you in broadcast school is don’t speculate on injuries beyond what you can see with your own eyes. Even with all that, it doesn’t seem good when even reports conflict to even the exact area of the injury.
Eagles Odds Ahead of Their Week 4 Game Against the Packers
The Packers, for their part, have been solid, but not great this season. No blowouts, no lighting up the scoreboard, but a very workman-like effort that has resulted in three wins. The combination of who’s going to play for the Eagles, combined with the Packers steady, but unspectacular performance, makes this an incredibly tough line to bet.
Right now, most outlets have Green Bay giving 4.5 points. Neither of the Eagles losses have been by more than four points, so it’s tempting to give Philadelphia four points off the bat and think you’re in good shape. But this is also the best team the Eagles have played. And its Lambeau in prime time. Betting the spread in this game makes me intensely queasy… and don’t get me started on that Eagles moneyline of +186. What I would be more comfortable with is the over/under of 45. Philadelphia may not win, but they’ve averaged 25.3 points per game and have given up 26 PPG. That’s a recipe for me to take the over in this matchup.
Will the Eagles still hit 9.5 wins? Debatable at this point. Getting back to full strength, it’s a strong possibility. My hopes for them to win the East are fading though, sitting two games back of Dallas with Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott playing as well as they are. It’s still early and there’s time to make up ground, but only if those ahead of you falter.