The Eagles have one last home game before they finally get their bye week. And potentially heading into vacation at 8-1 before a Sunday Night date in Dallas is exactly what Philadelphia needs.
But they have to take care of business first against one of the most intimidating defenses in football.
The Broncos and Birds kick off at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon, a CBS game that will pit Philly against its third AFC West opponent (the Raiders are last, on Christmas day in Week 16).
Here are three things to watch for:
1. Bucking the defense
The Broncos are the NFL’s best total defense, allowing just 261 yards per game. Like Philly, where Denver does its most damage on defense is against the run, as their ground counter-attack is the second best (behind, of course, the Eagles). With new running back Jay Ajayi expected to be on the field — but in a light capacity as he learns the offense following a mid-week trade — LeGarrette Blount will be called on in tough circumstances. He’ll have to find holes against Von Miller and company and that’s no easy task.
“Denver one of better defenses we’ll face,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “[Von] Miller can change a game in a hurry.”
2. Rocking Brock
The Broncos — at 3-4 and hanging on for their playoff lives — are making a quarterback change this week, subbing in Brock Osweiler for Trevor Siemian. What does this mean for the Eagles defense? Well for a unit that has been stoud against both mobile, pocket passers and everyone in between, it shouldn’t mean much.
“Every week you’ve got to get ready,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “I mean, just life in the NFL, first play of the game you might be seeing a backup. So, you always have to have an eye toward that. I think it’s probably a little bit different this week. First of all, with them coming off a short week, who knows what’ll happen. We’ll be prepared for any of the three quarterbacks that come.”
3. Wentz for MVP?
Carson Wentz leads all NFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes, is third in yardage and has one of the best quarterback ratings in the league at 101.6. However, with just 211 yards last week against the lowly niners — and one of his five interceptions — he showed he was perhaps human afterall. Will he be able to rebound against a really touch defense in Denver? If he does, he’ll have to show he can continue to handle the blitz.
“I think Carson’s handling it very well,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said of Wentz, who has been sacked 22 times, fifth most in football. “You never handle it perfectly. Our record is pretty good right now, so even though we’ve gotten beat a couple times, I certainly don’t feel like anyone’s had this great scheme against us to stop us in that regard. That’s the way the blitz is. We say it every week. We feel like we’re pretty good against it, but there’s some weeks that you’re going to look bad. We tell Carson this all the time, ‘Hey, you’re going to get it wrong one time. You’re not going to see something or they are going to disguise it and they could make you look bad.’”