I know, I know. Before you start to lecture me in your mind or internet comment sections, I know there is no such thing as a Week 3 “must-win” NFL game. And yet, here are your 1-1 Super Bowl hopeful Philadelphia Eagles hosting the 1-0-1 Wild Card hopeful Detroit Lions.
So why is this game a must-win? Four short days after the game on Sunday, the Eagles travel up to Lambeau Field to face the Lion’s NFC North Big Brothers: The Packers. Winning in Lambeau is never easy. Add in the short rest and that the Eagles will be without their top two receivers, and a win next week looks less and less likely. Which brings us back to why this is a must-win this week. Anyone know the percentage is of 1-2 teams to make the playoffs? How about teams starting 1-3? 25% and 15% respectively.
Many people before the season started, myself included, expected the Eagles to be a top contender in the NFC this year. 11, 12, or 13 wins were all frequently heard predictions for their win totals. If the worst happens and they lose both Sunday and Thursday, they will have to win 10 out of their last 12 games to get to 11 wins. Those games, by the way, include a brutal three game October road trip at Minnesota, at Dallas, and at revamped Buffalo. Then later in the season, the Eagles play Chicago, New England, Seattle, and Dallas at home. Seven very tough games. Realistically going 5-2 in those games would be amazing. 4-3 or 3-4 is more likely.
That brings us back to this Sunday. This game is big. It’s a must-win. It’s as much a must-win as a late December divisional game. The Eagles have to take care of business, especially against inferior teams.
Things to Watch For
Matt Patricia’s Pencil: The Patriots’ Defensive Coordinator turned Lions’ Head Coach is famous for keeping a good ol’ #2 tucked behind his ear. Apparently he has kept one with him at all times since college. His reasoning is simple. “It writes in all weather conditions.” Apparently they had some Sharpie malfunctions in the New England cold and rain, and it reinforced our pencil pushing foe. Let’s hope at least he uses a Dixon Ticonderoga.
Eagles’ Extra Wide Receivers: Look for how many are actually dressed and ready to play. Three minutes into the first quarter last Sunday night, the Eagles had exactly zero reserve wide receivers. Darren Sproles apparently would have played out wide if any more receivers couldn’t go during the game. At the time of publishing this article, the Eagles had not signed anyone or promoted anyone from the practice squad to have a backup receiver on Sunday. It’s a bold move to go into a game with no backup wide receivers. Let’s see what happens.
Josh McCown: Last week when Wentz was being evaluated for a concussion in the Eagles’ way-too-utilized blue medical tent, Josh came in and promptly completed 3/5 passes (the other two were dropped) and was finally moving our offense, until Wentz came back on the field. Don’t get me wrong, Wentz is by far the more athletic and valued QB. But there are a lot of knuckleheads who attend Eagles games, and if the Eagles have first half struggles, you may hear them crying for McCown through the TV.
Keys to Victory
START FAST: I write this pretty much every week. Starting to feel like a broken record at this point. Do you know how Albert Einstein defined insanity? Doing something the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Can you see where I’m going with this? Every time the Eagles win the coin toss, they defer, usually give up some points, then go three and out or get a first down and then punt. Something needs to change. The Eagles must be better to open games.
Isaac Seumalo: Last week Isaac put the offensive in offensive lineman. Penalties, hurries, sacks, and more. If it was a poorly executed play on offense, you can probably find Isaac somewhere in the play, playing offensively. The Eagles’ offensive line is only as good as its weakest member, and right now that is Seumalo. He needs to have a good game.
Running the Ball Effectively: The Eagles’ two best wide receivers are hurt. Only the Eagles’ fourth string running back is hurt. I understand that the Eagles prefer to throw in the beginning of the game to get the lead, then run the ball in the second half to eat up the clock and preserve the victory. This game looks like a golden opportunity for Doug to utilize the running game effectively.
The Eagles will start slow and worry the entire Delaware Valley, but they will take the lead just after halftime and never look back. Crisis averted. They win the must win game.
Eagles 24 Lions 17