This has the makings of everything you could want in a football game: Two 5-1 teams at Lincoln Financial Field, the Kelly Green Eagles helmets and jerseys on display, and a national television audience to soak it all in. Here are some storylines to follow as the Eagles look to get back in the winning column after last week's loss to the Jets …
The QB battle: Tua and Jalen on opposite sidelines
This is a story that has been told many times, how Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts played together and replaced each other at the University of Alabama and now, in prime time, they're meeting for the first time in the NFL and you just know it will be a central theme in the television broadcast tonight. Hurts, for his part, talks about what happened as part of the journey that helped him reach this point.
"It's a compound effect of not just those times at Alabama, but my whole career thus far," he said a few days ago. "A number of different experiences, there's always an opportunity to learn from that. I think I've just grown in wisdom and grown as a person throughout my whole entire career. Experience is the biggest teacher. So whether it's an experience last week, two weeks ago. or two years ago, whatever it was, it's always learning and growing to be a better player and person."
History aside, they have important roles tonight, obviously. Both quarterbacks are in control of high-powered offenses. Both are the targets of aggressive defenses. What happened at Alabama may be the national story to talk about, but how the quarterbacks handle the moment tonight is what really matters."
Defending the Miami speed game
"They're a track team," linebacker Nakobe Dean said of Miami's league-leading offense. "You can't get into a track meet with a team like that."
So, what do the Eagles do against Miami and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and running back Raheem Mostert and this offense that averages 37.2 points per game? It's a chess match and it really comes down to execution, adjustments, playing physical football, and being fundamentally sound.
"We just have to play the kind of defense we know we can play," cornerback James Bradberry said. "We want to get them off balance and take the football away. That's the goal every game. They have a lot of speed, they are good across the board and we have to be on our game, at our best."
Once again, the health factor
There was some very good news on the injury front late in the week: Right tackle Lane Johnson, cornerback Darius Slay, and defensive tackle Jalen Carter, all of whom have been battling injuries, have no injury designations and are ready to go for this one. Same with safety Sydney Brown. But there are still players out in a secondary that has been challenged all season – safety Reed Blankenship (ribs) and cornerback Bradley Roby (shoulder) won't play. Who plays instead? The Eagles have Terrell Edmunds and Brown healthy, and they promoted Mekhi Garner from the practice squad on Saturday to round out the safety positions. Josiah Scott was added from the Steelers this week and he knows the defense, so he could have a role replacing Roby.
At wide receiver, the Eagles signed Julio Jones during the week and he will make his debut tonight with Quez Watkins on Injured Reserve. What can he provide to the offense? There is a strong sense of curiosity here anticipating his role.
What is the approach on offense?
The Eagles lead the league in third-down conversion percentage. They are second in the NFL in offensive yards and fifth in scoring. Yet, the team feels a sense of wanting so much more. Turnovers and inefficiency in the red zone have been the drawbacks for this offense, and they have once again been points of emphasis for the Eagles during the week.
Philadelphia has Johnson on the field and that means so much. The offense is equipped to win running the ball and throwing it. They will need to be patient and take what Miami gives them, have great ball security, and score touchdowns. Field goals won't beat the Dolphins.
Miami's defense gave up 31 points, four touchdown passes, and 320 passing yards in its loss to Buffalo, so maybe that's the way to go. But, then again, maybe playing keep-away with the running game and keeping Tua and the offense on the sidelines is the correct approach.
More technically, it's taking what the defense presents. If Miami loads the box to stop the run, Hurts has to win with his arm. If the box is light, the running game could be a major factor.
Red zone and turnovers: The key statistics
Everything matters, but these two statistical categories are so important. The Eagles turned the football over four times last week and lost to the New York Jets. It wasn't difficult to figure out why the Eagles lost. And it was so uncharacteristic of this offense, so a bounce-back game should be in the offing. Miami allows 26 points per game, is ranked 26th in the league in defensive red zone efficiency and gives up some yards in the passing game. Fine and dandy.
The Eagles know the deal: Score touchdowns and win the turnover battle.
The frenzy of Classic Kelly Green and prime time
'Nuff said. This is going to be an incredible atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field with the return of the Kelly Green helmets and jerseys. The stadium will be filled with the old-school colors, the energy level will be off the charts, and the game is in prime time. The Eagles must play off the energy of the crowd and it sure would help to jump out early and put Miami on its heels just a bit.
This is a great moment: Two outstanding teams, on national television, and with a stadium of fans and players and the sidelines covered in Kelly Green. It is hard to get better than that in the regular season.
Lincoln Financial Field won't look the same on Sunday night as the Eagles transformed the stadium to represent the Kelly Green throwback experience against the Dolphins. Plus, check out the unveiling of the life-sized Reggie White bobblehead!