The Philadelphia Eagles are heading across the pond to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network/6ABC) in an international gridiron contest at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
For the Eagles, they are back in another must-win game, after collapsing in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.
Last year’s NFC East champs are currently in third place and need to keep with the Washington Redskins, who are in first place with a record of 4-2. However, it will not be easy as they are taking on a reeling Jacksonville team that is looking to snap their three-game losing streak.
Jacksonville just like the Eagles have been up and down this season, but unlike the defending Super Bowl champs, the Jaguars are having issues at quarterback with Blake Bortles.
Will good Bortles show up to lead his team to victory? Or can the Eagles put last week’s fiasco behind them and show the fans in London why they are the defending Super Bowl champs?
Here are three things to watch out for in this Week 8 matchup:
1. Alshon Jeffery vs. Jalen Ramsey
Last Sunday against Carolina, Alshon Jeffery proved his naysayers wrong once again and showed why he is a number one wide receiver.
The 6-foot-3 veteran took Panthers cornerback James Bradberry to school, putting a nasty double move on him for a touchdown and making a couple of tough catches. Jeffery finished the game with seven receptions (10 targets) for 78 yards.
In his last six games, Jeffery has seven touchdowns. However, the veteran wideout will not have it easy on Sunday against Jacksonville.
Jeffery will be facing off against top-5 cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is one of the best defensive players in the game and does a great job of making the opposing team’s best wide receiver a non-factor.
This season, Ramsey has only given up 226 yards on 18 receptions (35 targets) and a touchdown in coverage, which is pretty damn good. Jeffery vs. Ramsey will be a fun matchup to watch as whoever gets the upper hand will help their team claim victory on Sunday.
2. Can the Eagles stay committed to the run?
For the first three-quarters last Sunday, the Eagles’ trio of running backs did a great job of moving the chains and helping the team achieve a 17-0 lead. However, due to questionable play calling by head coach Doug Pederson, they became a non-factor in the fourth quarter.
If the Eagles want to beat Jacksonville on Sunday, they must commit to the run for all four quarters. Not three or three and a half, but four. But it will not be easy as the Jaguars’ run defense has shown to be pretty stout in stretches this season.
Through seven games, Jacksonville is giving up an astounding 121.9 rushing yards per game, which is good for 25th in the NFL. The last time Philly took on a defense that was susceptible to run, it was a couple of weeks ago against the Giants. The Eagles’ running backs did not rip off huge gains, but racked up 69 yards and a touchdown.
This season, the Jaguars’ defense has given up 100 plus rushing yards in five games. Their record in those games is a surprising 1-4. It’s not an overly huge deal, but for the Eagles’ running backs, any positive stats against their defense is a good sign.
Speaking of their running backs, Philly could be without Wendell Smallwood, who missed practice for personal reasons on Wednesday. This is not good news as veteran Darren Sproles is still nursing a hamstring injury.
If Smallwood is unable to go for Sunday, the Eagles do have a replacement to go in Donnel Pumphrey. The team added Pumphrey to the practice squad earlier this week after he did not make the final 53-man roster back in September.
3. Which Bortles will show up?
If there is any game for the Eagles defense to get back on track, it’s this one against Jacksonville. While Philly’s offense will be in a battle against the Jags’ defense, their defense should be able to shut down quarterback Blake Bortles.
This season, Bortles has been downright horrific and his stats reflect that. He is completing only 60.6 percent of his passes for 1,735 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.
In last week’s game against the Houston Texans, Bortles had an ugly performance, completing 50 percent of his passes for 61 yards and fumbling the football away twice. After his second fumble early in the second half, Bortles was benched and replaced by backup quarterback Cody Kessler.
Therefore, if the Eagles’ defensive line can get pressure like how they did against Eli Manning a couple of weeks ago, then they should get more than enough turnover opportunities off of Bortles.