Here’s a look at three numbers that matter as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.
7.91% - Alex Smith’s career sack rate.
One thing Alex Smith is really good at is not throwing interceptions. He hasn’t thrown double-digit picks in a season since 2010. Dating back to 2011, he’s thrown 110 touchdowns to a mere 38 interceptions.
The trade-off is that Smith takes a lot of sacks. And I mean a lot of sacks. Out of 155 qualified passers, Smith ranks 109th in career sack percentage. He ranks 26th out of 28 active quarterbacks. Smith was sacked three times during the Chiefs’ Week 1 game against the Patriots. One of those was when he sacked himself.
Smith, he of small hands, also fumbles a good deal. His 67 career fumbles rank 12th among 54 qualified active players.
Are you starting to see where Smith’s weakness match up with the Eagles’ strength? Philadelphia showed the ability to get lots of pressure on Kirk Cousins in Week 1. The Eagles blitzed a little more often than they usually do, yes, but the front four was still getting regular disruption. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham each recorded a strip-sack on Cousins.
The Eagles aren’t going to be able to totally neutralize the trio of Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. These play-makers are going to make plays, it’s what they do. Hill is an especially concerning nightmare for the Eagles due to his deep speed. It’s not like Philadelphia has cornerbacks who match up well with him, especially with Ronald Darby out.
It goes without saying that the Eagles’ best chance of keeping the Chiefs’ offense in check is getting to Smith with regularity. A successful pass rush is the key to any victory. It’s especially significant this week, however, since the quarterback is a guy who is prone to taking sacks. The defensive line really needs to take advantage.
11 - The number of times Terrance Mitchell was targeted in Week 1.
The Patriots made a very conscious effort to not throw towards Marcus Peters in Week 1. The Chiefs’ star cornerback has 14 interceptions and 46 pass deflections in 32 career games, so I imagine you can see why New England did that.
I don’t think the Eagles will avoid Peters entirely the way the Patriots did. If Peters is going to be matched up against Alshon Jeffery, it’s not like Carson Wentz is going to give Jeffery zero targets.
But the Eagles can’t realistically pick on Peters all game long because they’re the ones who will end up getting picked. Instead, the Eagles should be throwing towards the man covered by Kansas City’s other starting cornerback: Terrance Mitchell.
Mitchell, whom Pro Football Focus graded 88th out of 89 corners in Week 1, allowed four receptions for 96 yards in Week 1. He also committed two defensive holding penalties and two pass interference penalties. Wentz needs to target whoever Mitchell is matched up against. It’ll likely be Torrey Smith against Mitchell unless the Chiefs don’t have Peters shadow Jeffery, which would be weird. Smith got open deep quite a few times against Josh Norman last week; it’s just that Wentz couldn’t hit him with an accurate pass. If Wentz and Smith start to connect, the Eagles’ offense will suddenly be a lot more formidable.
Another matchup to watch is Nelson Agholor, who lead all Eagles wide receivers in Week 1, against Phillip Gaines in the slot. Gaines had some trouble dealing with New England’s shifty slot options. He allowed three receptions for 57 yards in addition to committing a defensive holding penalty.
Lastly, Zach Ertz could be poised for another big week. The Chiefs did a great job of shutting Rob Gronkowski down but they had Eric Berry for that matchup. Now that Berry is done for the season, Ertz figures to be a tougher cover for Kansas City. Ertz had a really strong Week 1 performance so he’ll look to keep things going against the Chiefs. His connection with Wentz is a strong one.
1-3 - The Eagles’ record after the first four games of the 2013 season.
Sunday’s matchup is far from a must-win game for the Eagles. On the risk of angering some people, I don’t think the game matters too much at all.
How could I say such a thing in a 16 week season sport?
Look back to 2013. The Eagles started the year 1-3 and still went on to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
Part of the reason the Eagles were able to bounce back is because all three losses came against AFC opponents. That means they were still 1-0 in the division and 1-0 in conference games.
See what I’m getting at here? If the Eagles lose to the Chiefs, they’ll be 1-1. But they’ll be 1-0 in the division/conference with a Week 3 home matchup against a New York Giants team that looked awful in Week 1. So the Eagles could still easily be 2-1 with a 2-0 record in the division/conference even if they lose in Kansas City.
Listen (as Andy Reid would say), it’s going to be tough for the Eagles to beat this Chiefs team. Kansas City has a significant home field advantage; it gets really loud at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are well-rested since they last played on Sept. 7 and we all know how good Reid is when he has extra time to prepare. The Eagles are missing their best and fastest corner while having to go up against one of the best deep threats in the NFL. There are a lot of reasons why the Eagles could lose this game.
If Wentz has a big day and finds a way to lead the Eagles to an upset, awesome! If not, it’s really not the end of the world. There are worse losses to be had.