Is Sunday a "must-win" game for the Eagles?
Tackle Lane Johnson certainly thinks so as he said during the week of preparation for the NFC matchup at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m. FOX, 94WIP). The Eagles come into this game 1-1 after losing 24-20 in a hard-fought battle on the road to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Lions used a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull out a 13-10 victory in their home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Detroit is 1-0-1 through the first two weeks of the season.
Here is our extensive Lions-Eagles Game Preview:
Know Thy Enemy
In their first action of the season, the Lions tied with the Arizona Cardinals after losing a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter. The game ended 27-27 after back-to-back field goals in overtime, giving the Lions only their second tie in franchise history.
In Week 2, the Lions were able to regain their confidence at Ford Field, where they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 13-10. After trailing 10-6 halfway through the fourth quarter, Detroit converted a fourth-and-1 at the Chargers' 35-yard line. The next play resulted in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay, that ultimately won the game.
Stafford completed 49 of 75 passes for 630 yards through the first two games of the season. He has thrown five touchdowns and two interceptions. The 11-year veteran was a consistent strength in the Lions' first game and showed the same poise against the Chargers.
The Lions have dangerous weapons at many positions starting with rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson. He caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Hockenson's yardage set the NFL record for the most receiving yards by a tight end in his first game. He is only the second player in Lions' history to top 100 yards in his debut, joining wide receiver Earl McCullough, who had 132 yards in 1968.
The other primary weapons on offense are the wide receivers Golladay and Danny Amendola, who both recorded a touchdown in the matchup against Arizona. Amendola led the team in targets and his 47-yard touchdown proved to be the highlight for the Lions in Week 1. Golladay led the team with 117 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown against the Chargers.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Devon Kennard provided the flash with three sacks against quarterback Kyler Murray in the first half during Week 1. He became the first linebacker in Lions history to notch three sacks in the first half of a game. In the 2018 season, Kennard had the second-highest sack total on the team with seven. The Lions added pass rusher Trey Flowers in free agency. Flowers had 7.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits for the Patriots last season. He and head coach Matt Patricia reunite after working together in New England.
The safeties also impressed in the season opener. Tracy Walker led the Lions with nine tackles along with a tackle for loss, a pass defended, and an interception in his first start at safety. Veteran safety Quandre Diggs recorded five tackles in the matchup.
Cornerback Darius Slay stepped up in a big way against the Chargers. Matched up against Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen, Slay's interception made him the hero in the Lions' victory. His interception killed the Chargers' last drive with only about a minute left on the clock.
In the first game, the defense excelled but could not remain consistent in the fourth quarter. Detroit held the Cardinals to 100 yards and six points through the first three quarters, but allowed 193 yards and 18 points in the fourth quarter to Kyler Murray and company. After a week of practice and adjustments, the defense shut down the Los Angeles Chargers and did not allow any points in the final 30 minutes of the game.
– Olivia Schaller
1. Who will catch passes from Carson Wentz?
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is out. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is questionable, but did not practice all week. Tight end Dallas Goedert is also questionable, but was limited in practice. Unlike last Sunday night in Atlanta, the Eagles had all week to prepare for the possible scenario of being without three of the top pass catchers on the team. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins got time to develop chemistry with Carson Wentz. Plus, head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh can come up with some creative ways to expand the pass game, maybe utilizing Darren Sproles in a receiver role?
2. Will the Eagles get the ground game going?
Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for just 46 yards on 16 rushing attempts against the Falcons. Part of that is on the running backs, but the offensive line had fits against a stout Atlanta defensive front. The Lions have surrendered 124.5 yards per game on the ground in the first two weeks. The Eagles know that in order to find their identity as an offense, the ground game must get going, especially since the team is going to be shorthanded at wide receiver.
3. Will Fletcher Cox wreck the Lions' offense?
Fletcher Cox was upbeat and confident speaking to reporters this week, citing that there wasn't any panic on the defensive line room with regard to the pressure the Eagles have put on opposing quarterbacks. Philadelphia has just two sacks in the first two games. Cox, who missed the spring and summer following offseason toe surgery, will have more on his plate with the injuries to Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan. He said he's feeling good going into this matchup and it couldn't come at a better time for the Eagles.
4. Can the Eagles stymie the Lions' explosive aerial attack?
The Eagles' run defense has been outstanding in the first two games. Philadelphia is third in fewest rushing yards allowed (42.5 per game) and second in Football Outsiders' advanced metrics. The pass defense is another story (31st in yards per game, 23rd by FO's metrics). The Lions have attempted 12 deep passing plays to the right side (defense's left) of the field, the second-highest total in the league. Stafford will take his shots. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz knows Stafford well from their time in Detroit together. Schwartz planned to be more aggressive with the blitz last week in Atlanta. Will the game plan be the same Sunday?
5. Can special teams provide an added edge?
The Lions are undefeated, but the special teams unit has not helped the cause. Detroit fumbled a punt, had a punt blocked, and committed four penalties in Week 1. Detroit was flagged five times (four accepted), missed a 40-yard field goal, and missed an extra point in the game against the Chargers.
By the Numbers
.700: Philadelphia has won 7 of its last 10 games (.700) vs. Detroit (including playoffs). Overall, the Eagles are 17-15-2 (.529) in the all-time series against the Lions.
107: Nelson Agholor posted a season-high eight receptions for 107 yards (13.4 avg.) and 1 touchdown in Week 2 at Atlanta (3rd career game with 100+ yards).o
48.6: Cameron Johnston leads the NFL in net punting average (48.6) and ranks 2nd in gross average (51.9). Through 2 games, he has five punts of 50+ yards.
42.5: Philadelphia's defense has allowed the 3rd-fewest rushing yards per game (42.5) in the NFL in 2019, behind Baltimore (20.5) and New England (37.0).
25.6: The Eagles own the sixth-highest scoring offense (25.6) in the NFL since 2017 (including playoffs), trailing only L.A. Rams (29.8) and New Orleans (28.7) in the NFC.
3+: Philadelphia picked off Falcons QB Matt Ryan 3 times in Week 2 at Atlanta, marking the team's first game with 3+ INTs since 11/19/17 at Dallas.
217: The last time the Eagles and the Lions met at Lincoln Financial Field it was the Snow Bowl where LeSean McCoy rushed for a franchise-record 217 yards as eight inches of snow fell in Philadelphia.
56: Remember the powder blue and yellow Frankford Yellow Jacket throwback uniforms? In 2007, the Eagles celebrated their 75th Anniversary Season by scoring 56 points in the win over the Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. It tied for the third-highest output in a regular-season game in team history.
Scouting Report: QB Matthew Stafford
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Matthew Stafford has been highly productive and durable during his career. He hasn't missed a game since the 2010 season. Stafford has thrown for at least 3,700 yards in every season since then as well, eclipsing the 5,000-yard mark in 2011. He's kept the Lions in the playoff discussion every year since 2013. Over the previous five seasons, Detroit finished with a winning record in three of them, although only one of those years (2014) resulted in a postseason appearance where the Lions were robbed against the Cowboys.
This season, Stafford has completed 62.4 percent of his pass attempts for 630 yards with five touchdowns against two interceptions. Stafford actually had a streak of 181 consecutive passes dating back to 2018 without an interception snapped in the win over the Chargers last week. He did throw a ridiculous dime to Kenny Golladay on a post route for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Stafford has the most touchdown passes of his career coming in the fourth quarter of games with 75.
Stafford is 3-1 in his career against the Eagles with nine touchdowns against only one interception.
"Matt's always been a guy that is a very accurate passer. He's not afraid to put a ball in any window. He's got a strong arm. He can make all the throws. He's a really good game manager. That's gone maybe a little bit under the radar with him, and you can see that in the way they are playing," said his former head coach in Detroit and current Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
"They are playing a little different scheme. They have a defensive head coach. They have an offensive coordinator that came from a run-first, Seattle-type scheme.
"So they have maybe a little bit different flavor, but he's still a very dangerous guy. Goes to the right spot with the ball. Makes accurate throws and moves the ball around to a lot of different people. There's a lot of carryover from that style we saw last week with Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan was the same way, moving the ball around to a lot of different targets, throw accurate passes, manage the game, all the good quarterbacks do that, and I would put Stafford in that category."
Said Lions head coach Matt Patricia: "I'm just so blessed to have the opportunity to be around him. From a coach standpoint, he's everything you want as a head coach, as an offensive coordinator, as a teammate. He's a great guy. He's tough. He's smart. He works extremely hard. He wants to win. We have a very close relationship and I'm glad he's my quarterback."