There are a few uninspiring games going on this week, but the most pitiful of matchups has to be the Eagles at Detroit. It’s uninteresting, if not nearly unwatchable. Having stake in the game might liven it up a bit. Let me present to you the upset and underdog of the week, the Lions.
Calculating purely by box scores and stats, the Eagles win this one. They’re bad, but the Lions are worse, in just about every predictor. But if Detroit is ever going to move beyond the “Oh-and,” the Eagles are the perfect team to do it against.
Jalen Hurts has had a feeble start as a passer. He’s managed to salvage many games (and fantasy value) with his legs, as he has five rushing touchdowns on the season. Watching Hurts throw the football is nerve-wracking and probably a disappointment to Eagles fans. Of course, the Jalen Hurts fans out there may be apt to blame the lack of supportive talent anywhere on field, for his lack of output.
The leading receiver in Philadelphia, Devonta Smith, has a catch percentage of 60.4, that puts him 152nd in the league in that category. Think I’m picking on him with that one? He also has but one touchdown, ranks 75thin yards per target, and his best receiving statistic puts in 32nd in total receiving yards on the season. If the Eagles are so lackluster in the passing game, maybe they make up for it with their running backs? Not exactly.
Philly is ranked 27th in rush attempts this season. Their leading rusher, Miles Sanders, hasn’t had a game over 74 rush yards and hasn’t had more than 56 rush yards since week one. The only rusher they have who has scored more than one touchdown is Kenneth Gainwell, the receiving back. But even Gainwell has yet to have a game with more than 90 combined (rushing and receiving) yards. Without their quarterback, the Eagles’ running backs are averaging 63 rush yards per game.
Now Do The Lions
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Now do the Lions. As I mentioned before, on paper, they’re worse. Even so, they do have the advantage in this game. Viewing Eagles’ losses, I’ve had thoughts like, “Yikes! No wonder you’re losing. You’re lucky you’re not being beat worse than you are.” Watching Detroit is different. I think things like, “Oh man! You’re so close to being half-way decent. Maybe you’ll turn it around next drive.”
Dan Campbell has to be (football) smarter than me. There are three keys to Detroit getting their first win in this game. It’s so doable. I just want to micromanage them to a win, and I’m neither a Lion’s fan or an Eagles hater. But I have faith that Campbell wants it bad and he knows this is the point of no return. This is the “we’re-not-repeating-2008” game. Detroit will win this week with T.J. Hockenson, D’Andre Swift, and by restricting Hurts to the pocket.
Let The Tight End Loose
Playing through an ankle injury, Hockenson has seen a much-needed uptick in production the past two weeks. Utilizing the tight end would be the difference maker in this matchup. Philadelphia is surrendering the most touchdowns to the tight end position over the last three weeks. In turn, they are also ceding the most receptions to tight ends this season as well as over that time frame (hello, PPR fantasy Heaven). If Hockenson doesn’t have his best game this week, something like a 10-105-1 stat line, I would be shocked. All of Philly’s defensive backs are easily outmatched by Hockenson, except for perhaps Darius Slay, and he will be busy looking out for Kalif Raymond.
More than half of Detroit’s offensive touchdowns have come from their running backs, Swift and Jamaal Williams. But, once again, you’d never know that looking at rushing stats. Swift has nearly 400 receiving yards to go with his 262 rushing yards. In fact, Swift is the team’s leading receiver in terms of yards. And what do you know? The Eagles are having a difficult time limiting receiving yards to running backs. They rank 2nd in (most) receptions allowed to the position and 5th in (most) yards allowed over the last three weeks. Suffice to say, the Lions don’t have much going for them other than Swift. It would be unfathomable not to use him to exploit the Eagles.
Get A Handle on Hurts
Is there any hope that the demoralized Detroit defense can keep Hurts under wraps this week? Both these teams’ defenses rank in the bottom ten in sacks per game over the past three games, but if it’s any consolation, Philly is worse (averaging one per game) than Detroit (averaging 1.7). Promising, however, is that the Lions are one of eight teams left that have not allowed a rushing touchdown to the quarterback position. They are only allowing an average of 13 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, and that includes a game against Lamar Jackson.
Perhaps their success against quarterback runs is because they’re so miserable in coverage elsewhere that quarterbacks don’t really have to run against them to score. Still, the Lions haven’t had many opponents that didn’t include top-10 receivers, including Devante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, Marquise Brown, and Adam Thielen. Smith and even Dallas Goddert don’t come anywhere near these in quality. Hurts is already feeling the pressure; there were whispers of Gardner Minschew in the air this week. Will he force plays and breakout or make rookie mistakes under the stress?