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Expect A Quarterback Shootout Between The Lions And Eagles

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Look for Matthew Stafford to throw early and often, like he did in Detroit's 26-23 OT win last year against the Eagles. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
Look for Matthew Stafford to throw early and often, like he did in Detroit's 26-23 OT win last year against the Eagles. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

The Lions and the Eagles will face off this Sunday in Philadelphia in what should be an offensive shootout. Both teams enter Sunday at 7-5 and with at least a share of their respective divisions’ lead—and both have gotten there with their offense.  

After 12 games, both the Lions (27.2) and the Eagles (25.0) rank in the top ten in the league in points per game. They also rank second and third in total yards per game, with the Lions averaging 424.5 to the Eagles’ 403.6. Nick Foles has proven to be a gold mine for the Eagles, as the young quarterback is currently on pace to break Aaron Rodgers’ record for quarterback rating in a season. The emergence of Foles has sparked the Eagles’ offense, and has been a huge factor in his team’s four-game winning streak entering Week 14.  

What this game will ultimately come down to, though, is defense—most notably, how the Eagles intend on stopping the Lions’ offense. The Eagles rank dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (296.8), and Matthew Stafford is not shy about throwing the football. Stafford’s effectiveness has taken a small dive in recent weeks with a spike in interceptions, but this matchup with a porous Eagles secondary could be just what he needs to snap out of his interception streak. Plus, with a healthy Nate Burleson back in the lineup, Stafford will have all of his receiving options at his disposal.  

The Eagles’ rush defense isn’t much better—Philadelphia ranks 19th in overall run defense, allowing 115.5 yards per game. The Lions showed on Thanksgiving that they can put together a fearsome running game, and the confidence of both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell must be at all-time highs. Although the Eagles have allowed only one 100-yard rusher this year, teams have gained an average of 4.1 yards per carry against them. Look for Bush and Bell to go higher than that with the momentum from Thanksgiving, and free the secondary for Megatron and Co. to get open.   

As always, the Lions’ secondary will be likely be the key area of attack for Philadelphia, especially with the way that Foles has been playing lately. If anything will beat the Lions on Sunday, it will be big plays given up by the defensive backs, who have been burned by the likes of Alshon Jeffery and Antonio Brown in recent weeks. Their Thanksgiving Day containment of Jordy Nelson and the Packers receiving corps was encouraging, but until the secondary can perform that way against a quarterback not named Matt Flynn, I would be careful not to read too much into that.  

Philadelphia will also try to use LeSean McCoy and its second-ranked rush offense to set up that passing attack, but may have some trouble doing so. The Lions rank third in the NFL in opponent rushing yards per game (82.7), and haven’t allowed an opposing running back to gain more than 37 yards since Week 5 in Green Bay. McCoy has only topped 100 yards once in his last six games, so look for the Lions to exploit the reasons for his mini-slump.  

All things considered, Stafford and Foles should each put up some strong numbers. With both teams ranking in the lower third of the league in pass defense, and both defenses being prone to big plays, both QBs should throw it deep and let their receivers burn the secondary. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see both teams score more than 30 points—the real difference will be whether or not the Lions’ rush defense can prevent Foles from setting up the passing attack that he wants.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Weather reports are calling for some light snow, and temperatures around freezing. Neither Stafford nor Foles have much experience in cold weather, so we will see how both QBs respond. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Stafford in a glove on Sunday.
  • Stafford has played well on the road this season. In six games away from Ford Field, Stafford has thrown for an average of 292.3 yards, and has 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
  • The Eagles have won two straight games at home following a remarkable 10-game losing streak at Lincoln Financial Field, dating back to September 2012. Coincidentally, the Lions began that streak in 2012 with a 26-23 overtime victory in Philadelphia. 
  • How good as the Lions’ run defense been this season? The front has not allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 4 against Chicago, and has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher all season.