Eagles

Your In-Depth Eagles at Raiders Week 16 Preview

Kirby Lee | USA TODAY

The last time Nick Foles played the Oakland Raiders he tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes.

We’ll see what kind of encore Foles has in store on Christmas Day with a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NF C playoffs in sight.

 

EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. RAIDERS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 102.6 PASSER RATING (4/32), 246 YPG (8/32)
OAK- 102.6 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (31/32), 239 YPG ALLOWED (23/32)

Nick Foles, who threw seven touchdown passes the last time he played the Raiders, fired four in his first Eagles start since 2014 on Sunday. The Giants are 29th in terms of passer rating against, while the Raiders are worse at 31. They have just four interceptions on the season, which is tied for the least among NFL teams. Former Pro Bowler Sean Smith played himself out of the starting lineup and now faces trial for alleged battery. David Amerson has hardly looked like the same corner that has excelled in Oakland the last two years. Rookie Gareon Conley’s season was lost in November when he underwent surgery for an ankle injury.

Foles might not put up seven again, but against a suspect Oakland secondary he should fare well again. Foles threw for 237 yards on 24-of-38 efficiency in his first start filling in for Carson Wentz against the G-Men. He was 4-of-6 in the red zone.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson didn’t change anything on offense and maintained his aggressive play-calling even with Foles at quarterback. There were only four times during his 13 starts that Wentz threw the ball 38 times or more. Sure, the Eagles fell behind early, but many felt the Birds would become more run-oriented and that didn’t happen.

Pederson spoke Wednesday about how Foles has been able to get on the same page with his receivers so quickly.

It’s a credit to Nick and the receivers, number one, for spending time all last week just getting some work in before, after and during practice. It’s a tribute to all those guys working and wanting to be successful.

A guy like Nick, a veteran guy, he’s thrown to these guys before, but it’s been like in training camp and OTAs. It can be a little difficult. But yeah the timing, accuracy, and understanding where our guys are going to be. And a lot of it is I think just watching the guys run these routes when Carson was in there, too, and learning from that. That has really helped him have that timing last week.

T.J. Carrie has been one of the brightspots in the Oakland secondary and he’ll be going against Nelson Agholor, who leads all slot receivers with 702 yards and eight touchdowns. Agholor has also been the Eagles’ most targeted receiver since Foles took over at quarterback.

The only player I’m worried about on the Black and Silver defense is Khalil Mack, who has 10 1/2 of the Raiders’ 22 sacks on the season and has recorded one in five straight games. Although he’s listed as the left defensive end, he lines up everywhere along the line of scrimmage and the matchup Oakland can exploit is Mack going against Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle. Mack will spend most of Christmas Day combatting Lane Johnson at right tackle.

 

EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. RAIDERS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.5 YPC (5/32), 140.5 YPG (2/32)
OAK- 4.1 YPC ALLOWED (13/32), 110.7 YPG ALLOWED (15/32)

Should Jay Ajayi get more carries or is the running back by committee the way to go?

Pederson was asked about it on Wednesday.

I don’t know. It’s a fine line a little bit. Right now, I don’t want to fix something or do something if it’s not really broken right now.

If a guy does get a hot hand, I try to maybe feature that guy a little bit more in each game. I still think we’ve got a great running back room. We got some talent there. Each one has a different skill set, and we want to make sure we use it all the best we can.

Ajayi has carried the ball 10-plus times in two of his six games with the Eagles, but both of those came the last two games. He’s also gained 127 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry the last two contests, so an increased workload has occurred. Ajayi has put up 6.7 yards per tote since coming to Philly and clearly looks like the No. 1 back in the offense.

What’s going on with LeGarrette Blount? He’s not rumbling through defenses like he was the first half of the season, running for just 59 yards on 22 carries the last three games. Grant it, he was going up against stout defensive lines in two of those games, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, but maybe all of those touches from last season is beginning to wear the 31-year-old down.

 

RAIDERS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 80.8 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (8/32), 238 YPG ALLOWED (22/32)
OAK- 87.1 PASSER RATING (18/32), 233 YPG (16/32)

The Eagles’ defense allowed 501 total yards to the Giants, with most of them coming through the air and Eli Manning, who was 37-of-57 for 434 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The G-Men used a quick passing game and double moves to make mincemeat of the Eagles’ secondary.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke about the cornerbacks’ issues earlier this week.

We were giving up plays up front early. When we tighten down to start being more aggressive, the down part of that is you become susceptible to double moves. We got to play both. That’s part of the job description of a corner is you have to be able to defend short passes and deep passes.

Derek Carr, like Manning, gets the ball out of his hands quickly and ranks second in quarterback release time at 2.44. So the Eagles are going to see another quick passing attack and we’ll see how Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and the rest of the defensive backfield respond. Not only were Mills and Darby getting burnt by the likes of Tavarres King and Roger Lewis all afternoon, Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins were missing tackles as well. When a simple slant gets taken to the house, that’s a problem.

So if the Raiders get the ball out fast consistently, it’ll be tough for the pass rush to get home. They only sacked Manning once on Sunday, despite throwing it 57 times. This game will again be on the secondary. Carr will be without left tackle Donald Penn, who recently had surgery for a foot injury.

Another weakness in the Eagles’ defense the last few weeks has been covering tight ends and running backs. The Seahawks combined for 11 receptions for 118 yards, while New York totaled 151 yards on 20 grabs. Schwartz did make an adjustment on Giants tight end Evan Engram, who hauled in four quick passes but was shut down the rest of the way by safety Corey Graham.

Oakland has a solid trio of receivers in wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and tight end Jared Cook. Cooper, the NFL’s leader in drops, was held out of Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with an ankle injury.

 

RAIDERS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.7 YPC ALLOWED (6/32), 71.5 YPG ALLOWED (1/32)
OAK- 4.1 YPC (13/32), 110.7 YPG (15/32)

Philadelphia has struggled with its tackling recently, but have yielded 100 yards rushing to just two teams this season and haven’t surrendered 100 yards to a running back since Week 6 of last year. Marshawn Lynch, thought, isn’t a running back you want to play if you’ve been dealing with tackling problems. Lynch has 163 carries for 695 yards (4.3 YPC) and seven touchdowns on the season.

New York ran 23 times for 75 yards against Philly, a measly 3.3 yards per carry. The G-Men had come in struggling to gain traction in the running game all year, however. The two weeks prior, the Eagles failed to stymie Seattle’s Mike Davis and the Rams’ Todd Gurley.

Gang tackling is what the Eagles will need to limit Beast Mode, something they haven’t been doing consistently lately.

 

PREDICTION

If the Eagles can sustain Khalil Mack and give Nick Foles time to throw, he should be able to pick apart this woeful Oakland secondary. The Raiders have struggled at the cornerback position all season and have forced the fewest interceptions in the NFL. So with a clean pocket and weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz he should be able to guide the Birds to a rather easy victory. We’ll see how the Eagles’ defense responds because the Raiders, like the Giants, use a quick passing attack. With the No. 1 seed in sight, I expect an inspired effort on defense.

27-13 Eagles

 


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at amfedkiw@yahoo.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter (@PHL_Influencer), Facebook and Instagram.

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