The Philadelphia Eagles, under new head coach Chip Kelly, came out with an impressive, albeit nail-biting, win vs. rival Washington last Monday, 33-27. The Eagles got off to a great start, even though Washington got on the board first with a fumble recovery and subsequent defensive touchdown by cornerback DeAngelo Hall. After the Washington touchdown, the Eagles scored 33 unanswered points, with a fast paced, no-huddle, trickery-based, schematic offense.
Michael Vick in the game threw for 2 touchdowns -- to DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek -- and ran one in for a touchdown as well. In the process, he went 15/25 (60% completion percentage) with 203 passing yards, no interceptions and a 112.6 quarterback rating. Vick's impressive stat line was based off of solid pass blocking, spreading the field, his accuracy and good play calling by Kelly.
Philly's dominant running back LeSean McCoy also had a phenomenal game. He ran for 184 yards -- two yards shy of breaking his single-game record of 185 rushing yards -- on 31 carries (most of which were in the second half due to a conservative approach following a big lead), for an average of 5.9 yards-per-carry. He ran for 34 yards on one play, which accounted for his only touchdown in the game.
DeSean Jackson, the All-Pro wide receiver for Philadelphia, also had a 100 yard game, as he caught 7 Vick passes for 104 yards with a 25-yard touchdown.
On the other side of the coin, San Diego, who went 7-9 last season, is coming off of a close, 3-point loss to Houston 31-28 at home.
In the game, quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 195 yards on 29 attempts (14 of which he completed; an abysmal 48.3 completion percentage) with 4 touchdowns and only 1 interception -- for a quarterback rating of 95.5. His counterpart, Matt Schaub, had an equally impressive, yet better, game than Rivers did. Schaub tore up the Chargers' defense with 346 passing yards, 34 completions, a 75.6 completion percentage, 7.7 yards/attempt and 3 touchdowns to one interception. Schaub's quarterback rating was 110.
San Diego blew a two-touchdown first half lead by giving up 24 unanswered points. Houston linebacker Brian Cushing intercepted Rivers in the 4th quarter for a pick-six, which lead to Houston tying the game 28 a piece.
Chargers' starting running back Ryan Mathews had a very poor game. He only ran for 33 yards, on 13 attempts for only a 2.5 average for yards per rushing attempt.
On the defensive side, they allowed Texans' star receiver Andre Johnson to have a big game, as he caught 12 passes in the game and torched the Chargers' defense for 146 total yards. Owen Daniels also chipped in with 67 yards and 2 touchdown receptions.
San Diego linebacker Donald Butler had an impressive performance, with 9 tackles and half of a sack. Veteran Dwight Freeney also had half of a sack, in his debut with San Diego after spending his first 11 seasons with Indianapolis.
If the Eagles want to come out with a win on Sunday afternoon they'll have to compose different blitz packages, to try and take Philip Rivers out of rhythm early, and take momentum. Last week, Houston only had 2 total sacks. Luckily, they survived with an explosive offensive performance, that kept the Chargers' defense out of rhythm.
It'll be interesting to see what Freeney can do on a new team, especially after missing a few starts last season with the Colts due to a nagging ankle injury.
The Eagles will also have to win the pivotal turnover battle. Michael Vick, although he fumbled on the opening drive last game, didn't throw any interceptions vs. Washington last week. If the pocket breaks down constantly for Rivers, he'll be forced to make tough decisions and throws, and thus, it could lead to a turnover.
Defensively, last season, San Diego fared poorly. They ranked 24th out of 32 teams in yards given up per game with 326.4. They finished around the middle of the pack (17th) in points given up (per game) with 21.9, opposing offenses torched them on 3rd down, completing 90 passes in 214 attempts. Their defense's 3rd-down completions given up, and 3rd-down completion percentage (which was 42%) were both in the top five in the league (ascending).
Luckily for the Eagles, they have multiple stars/players on the offensive side of the ball that can explode for yardage and, knock-on-wood, beat the Chargers to the 1st-down punch on Sunday.
Keys to The Game
-Control the turnovers and win the turnover battle
This is extremely imperative for Philadelphia, who, at times, can get very shaky when it comes to turning over the ball offensively.
While Philip Rivers isn't one of the best quarterbacks in the league (as in top five), he's one of the better quarterbacks in the league. The past seven seasons of his career he's thrown for 20 or more touchdowns, and overall he's thrown 194 career touchdown passes -- 26 of which he threw for last year -- to only 94 interceptions, with an impressive career quarterback rating of 94.6. He's very accurate too. Last season he completed 64% of his 527 passing attempts. Combine a deadly, yet accurate arm, with consistency and you get Philip Rivers. If Philadelphia blitzes properly and effectively, they can take down Rivers and prevent damage from being done, on long and short drives. Last season, he threw only one more touchdown pass (6) than interception vs. the NFC, although he completed over 66% of his passes in those games, with a QB rating of 86.5
-Don't let up on the gas
Philadelphia's problem last week, even though they ended up winning, vs. Washington was that, on offense, they slowed the game down with a conservative approach after a lead, which let Washington back into the game. If the Eagles are winning, by a large or small margin, come the second half of Sunday's game, they need to pass the football more, even though LeSean McCoy is one of the best backs in the league. Vick could exploit San Diego's d, if he's accurate enough. San Diego cornerback Derek Cox will most likely be going up against DeSean Jackson.
Cox had an impressive season last year, compiling 4 interceptions, 60 tackles, a forced fumble and 11 pass deflections. This will be a great 1-on-1 matchup for both teams. Jackson has the speed and hands to win any WR-CB race, and Cox has great coverage skills.
Both teams implement a 3-4 defensive scheme. Eagles' new defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, has taken the Steelers' system and adopted it into his own 3-4 scheme, while Chargers' defensive coordinator John Pagano (the brother of Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano) is in his second year as coordinator. He spent previous years with San Diego as the team's quality control defensive coach, linebackers' coach, and outside linebackers' coach. Effective in January of last year, he was hired to replace Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator.
Ken Whisenhunt, formerly known as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach (who took them to the 2009 Super Bowl), is in his first year as offensive coordinator for San Diego. He won a Super Bowl with Pittsburgh in 2006 as their offensive coordinator (a position he held for three years). His experience, results, and talent on offense should help San Diego this year.
They switched, under Whisenhunt, from their previous offensive coordinator's (Hal Hunter) offensive scheme of Air Coryell, to a West Coast style of offense. It'll be interesting to see what the new Chargers' offensive scheme can do results wise, as the Air Coryell style of football was known to be an effective, three-receiver flooded, successful scheme.
Stat of the Day
Philip Rivers vs. Houston last Monday night, in the 4th-quarter, went just 1 for 7, after completing 13-22 passes through the first three quarters. He'll need to show up this Sunday in the 4th quarter if the Chargers want to win.
Danario Alexander- torn right ACL- injured-reserve
Byron Jerideau- shoulder- injured-reserve
Sean Lissemore- elbow- probable
Corey Liuget- shoulder- probable
Jonas Mouton- torn right ACL- injured-reserve
Brandon Taylor- knee- probable
Manti Te'o- foot- out
Steve Williams- pectoral- injured-reserve
Arrelious Benn- torn left ACL- injured-reserve
Bradley Fletcher- concussion- out
Phillip Hunt- torn ACL- injured-reserve
Dennis Kelly- back- out
Joe Kruger- shoulder- injured-reserve
Jeremy Maclin- torn right ACL- injured-reserve
Jason Phillips- torn right ACL- injured-reserve
Picks & Odds
Philadelphia by 7
Over/Under- 54.5 (I'll take the over bet on this one)
Philadelphia wins 36-24