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Big Question: How Will Defense Respond Against Oakland?

Posted Dec 24, 2017

On the eve for the Christmas night showdown with the Oakland Raiders, the PhiladelphiaEagles.com writers answer your questions.

Dave Spadaro: Nick Foles just has to play the way he plays, and keep ball security and good decision-making the top priorities as he finishes the year. Foles is a smart guy. He’s poised and he throws the ball with confidence. Don’t expect a seven-touchdown game on Monday night, but expect the Eagles to be aggressive in their approach. Foles is going to be aware of the pass rush, particularly Khalil Mack. Just give the pass catchers a chance to make plays and things will be OK.

Fran Duffy: I’m not really worried about Nick Foles’ stats on a weekly basis. Why? Because right now it’s about winning the game. Get a win this week, and then get three more once the playoffs begin. For an encore, all Foles has to do is put this team in position to win the game. If that means he throws for 300 yards and three scores, I fully believe he can do that. If he hands the ball off 30 times and only throws for 175 and a touchdown, that’s great too. As long as the Eagles come out on top, that’s all that matters moving forward.

Chris McPherson: It's amazing seeing how much more comfortable Nick Foles is in his second tenure with the team. I don't think he's going to get too high after last week's performance. And the way Foles made sure to compliment Carson Wentz and say that this is still Carson's team during his press conference this week was impressive. In Los Angeles, Foles came off the bench to lead a pair of scoring drives. Against the Giants, he threw four touchdown passes and rallied the team from a double-digit deficit. He just has to execute the game plan. He's been in big games before. He knows that he doesn't have to force anything. He's had another week to build chemistry with his receivers and I expect him to keep trending upward heading into the playoffs.

Fran Duffy: I hate to take a cop-out route, but I feel the same way about the defense as I do about Foles. The defense certainly did not have its best performance against the New York Giants, and the road trip out west was not kind to it overall (though I think the unit's "downward slide" has been a bit overrated). This, however, is a good opportunity for the Eagles' defense to bounce back. The Giants’ passing game is all about quick throws and getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand in a hurry. With the Raiders, it’s typically much, much different. They want to push the ball downfield vertically, an area where the Eagles are one of the best in the NFL (they’re one of the cheapest units in the league when it comes to allowing receptions of more than 20 yards downfield).

It’s important for this team to come back and put up a strong showing in front of the home crowd, where they’ve been so good under Jim Schwartz for the last two seasons. The key this week will be tackling, and that’s against both the run and the pass. Marshawn Lynch is a beast to bring down in all areas of the field, and wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both slippery after the catch.

Dave Spadaro: I think some home cooking will do the defense a world of good. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is right in the sense that, in the most important column, the Eagles won two of three games on a three-game road trip. That’s all that matters, right? Look, the Raiders are going to make this defense work with some big-play receivers and the punishing style of running back Marshawn Lynch. Let’s see how the Eagles gear up for this game. Yes, there are some big challenges awaiting in the playoffs, but that’s then. Now is what matters and the Eagles match up fine against Oakland, particularly in the edge pass rush department.

Chris McPherson: It's a good thing that the Eagles are on the verge of clinching home-field advantage, look at the home/road splits.

  • Points Allowed: 188 (23.5 per game) on the road vs. 91 (15.2 per game) at home.

  • Rushing Yards Allowed: 694 (4.2 yards per carry) on the road vs. 298 (2.8 yards per carry) at home.

  • Passing Yards Allowed: 1,958 (6.4 yards per attempt), 13 TD/8 INT, 82.9 QB rating on the road vs. 1,377 yards (5.8 yards per attempt), 9 TD/9 INT, 74.2 QB rating at home.

The competition plays into the on-the-surface numbers, facing teams like the Chiefs and Rams on the road, but the Eagles still have allowed 10 or fewer points in three of their first six home games. I'm interested to see how the team responds Christmas night. Head coach Doug Pederson gave the players every chance to rest and enjoy the holiday. The Raiders have talent on offense, but their style should play into the Eagles' strengths. The crowd will be festive and ready to rock after three straight road games. A dominant performance will be the perfect stocking stuffer for Eagles fans.

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