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Birdfeed: Vol. 22.9; Ground and Pound…ed

Despite a bit of a sluggish start, the Eagles put away the Texans in Week 9 with minimal effort. However, something of concern may become a significant problem.

I missed the game live, so perhaps I’m projecting a lack of energy on the game, but it did feel like the Eagles slept walk through that one.

For many Philly fans, the football season was put on the back burner for a few weeks. This happened for two reasons. First, the Eagles went bye, Steelers, Texans. That’s three consecutive weeks of low-intensity football. There was never any real doubt the Eagles would drop a game to two of the worst teams in the NFL. Second, the Phillies were in the NLCS/World Series over that span and captured the hearts and minds of the city and Philadelphia phaithful everywhere. All that’s over now. The Phillies are done, the Sixers are painfully predictable and the Eagles will return Monday night against a division rival in front of a crowd ready for an epic run to the postseason. Football season is back on!

As I’ve mentioned, the flaws of an 8-0 football team are few and far between. However, the Texans demonstrated the Eagles are vulnerable defending the run. Not since Detroit in Week 1 has a team gutted the Eagles as consistently as Houston did last Thursday. It was the first 100 yard rusher they’ve allowed in two months and just the 3rd time a team has averaged over 5 yards per rush. Jumping out to big, early leads has certainly protected the Eagles in this area, but those leads may not develop every week, and that could be bad news for the Eagles in the near future.

Beginning in three weeks with the Tennessee Titans, the Eagles will play six consecutive games against teams with a top 12 rushing attack (according to current stats). You could stretch that number to seven if you want to include Green Bay in two weeks. The Packers have the league’s 14th ranked ground game.

Philadelphia’s run defense looked bad Thursday night. Many fans have pointed to the Jordan Davis injury as the culprit for Thursday’s disappointing display. Sure, it’s a factor losing a big body like Davis clogging the middle, but his snap count has remained under 35% for most of the season. The Eagles defense is allowing 120 yards on the ground per game, good (bad?) enough for 20th in the NFL. As I mentioned, the schedule in December and January is a gauntlet of the league’s top rushing attacks. Tennessee is 8th at 142.3 yards per game. The Giants (Eagles will play them twice in this stretch) are 5th (161.5 yds/game). The Bears are tops in the NFL (195.4 yds/game). Dallas and New Orleans are 11th and 12th, respectively (131.5 and 130.9).

Am I suggesting the Eagles are in trouble and the season is about to collapse? Of course not. The Eagles have already beaten top rushing teams like Dallas, Jacksonville (7th) and Detroit (9th). Furthermore, Jalen Hurts and the offense show no signs of slowing down, so those big, early leads should continue. Large deficits are a great way to limit an opponent’s ground game. And finally, Jordan Davis… if healthy… would be eligible to return December 4th, which is right as this test would commence.

Hopefully, Thursday night against Houston was more about the fatigue of a short week and lacking energy than the early signs of the defense’s Achilles’ heel.

*****

Thursday Night Pick; Falcons -2.5

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