“Trap games.” Man, do they suck.
In the NFL, “trap games” are very real, and they are most decidedly not spectacular. There are times during every team’s season in which they are faced with games in which they come upon an inferior opponent and, to everyone’s surprise, come out flat and lose to a team they should have beaten. In many of those cases, that contest comes just ahead of a game that is perceived to be a much more important game the following week, usually against a tough divisional foe or another elite team against which there is some sort of rivalry.
This Sunday, the Eagles are four-point favorites as they head into Tennessee to take on a 2-1 Titans team that has a solid and tricky defense, but an offense that struggles to score points. As the defending Super Bowl champions and a team with a very real chance to repeat, this is a game on the schedule that most of us penciled in as a “win” before training camp even began. Oddsmakers clearly believe the Birds are the superior team, and yet, this feels like one the Eagles could very easily lose.
This is a textbook “trap game,” kids.
The Titans are an AFC opponent, and one they don’t see all that often. In fact, the last time the Eagles played Tennessee was in 2014 when the Eagles blew them out at Lincoln Financial Field 43-24. The last time the Eagles were in Tennessee was in 2010, when they lost 37-19.
They are not familiar with this team, and there is no burning rivalry here.
Second, this is a road game, although new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has been urging their fans to actually, you know, show up at this game so as not to make it a pro-Eagles venue.
Mike Vrabel once again says #Titans need their fans to show up on Sunday. Acknowledged how a player can be caught off guard when you're the home team and the visitors have so many in the stadium.— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) September 28, 2018
Nevertheless, it’s an away game, which means the Birds will be out of their element a bit.
This is also a very easy team to take lightly. While Tennessee did make the playoffs last year, going 9-7, and while they did actually win a playoff game against the Chiefs, they were not an overly impressive team. They have a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who struggles to put points on the board. They are a grind-it-out team that likes to run, and they do absolutely nothing sexy. It is very easy to be lulled to sleep by teams like this.
Finally, the Eagles have a huge match-up in two weeks as they welcome the Minnesota Vikings back to Philadelphia in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game. It is a game that could have huge implications in the NFC playoff picture as things get tight down the stretch, whereas playing an AFC team doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of tie-breakers until you get down to record against common opponents. The Eagles also have their first divisional match-up the week after that against the New York Giants on a Thursday night in Jersey.
Those are most of the ingredients that make up a classic NFL trap game. The only ones missing are making a cross-country trip and playing on a short week, neither of which apply here. Nevertheless, this is the type of game a lot of teams look past.
One of the most remarkable parts of last year’s run to the No. 1 seed in the NFC was that they didn’t fall victim to a single trap game all season long, and there were opportunities to do so.
They could have fallen into the trap of losing to a bad Cardinals team at home just four days ahead of a Thursday night match-up against the Panthers in Carolina, but instead they demolished Arizona 34-7. They also then beat the Panthers 28-23 that following Thursday night. They could have lost at home to a brutal Bears team the week after crushing the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football 37-9, but instead they whooped up on Chicago in Philly 31-3.
Was their loss to the Seahawks in Seattle the following week a “trap game?” Not really, as Seattle appeared to be a playoff contender at the time, with Russell Wilson looming as a real and potential threat. The Eagles simply got beat by a quarterback playing out of his mind that night in a place very few teams have been able to win in recent years.
This Eagles team has already shown tremendous resilience this season. If they are able to fight off a spunky Titans defense and manage to escape Tennessee with a victory, no matter what it looks like, it will mean they have once again escaped the “trap game” NFL teams so very much dread.