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Eagles-Bills Preview: Throwing Some "Shade" on the Eagles
You may have heard that ex-Eagle LeSean "Shady" McCoy is returning to Philadelphia for the first time since he was traded by the Eagles, when the Buffalo Bills come to town on Sunday.
McCoy has been the only story all week, for obvious reasons. Head Coach / GM Chip Kelly got rid of McCoy because he wouldn't bow down and kiss his ring. Kelly claims it was because McCoy didn't fit his offense, but how is that whole DeMarco Murray working out after Kelly said Murray was a better fit for his offense than McCoy? McCoy is the leading rusher in Eagles history, so you know he's a great back. The problem is that he isn't a very good human being, as evidenced by all the trash he talked when he was traded (Playing the Race Card) and now saying that he won't even shake Kelly's hand on Sunday. The guy has some issues off the field. On the field, McCoy is going to be the Eagles' No. 1 issue that they have to deal with if they have any chance of winning this game.
Let's take a look at the matchup.
Eagles Offense versus Bills Defense
Sam Bradford came back last week and led the Eagles to an upset victory over the New England patriots. Well, led is the wrong word, since the Eagles only amassed 248 yards of total offense at New England. But the good news regarding Bradford is that he didn't turn the ball over. As a matter of fact, Bradford hasn't turned the ball over in his last 14 quarters of football. That is an amazing turnaround for a guy who had 10 INTs in the first seven games of the season. Bradford will need to avoid turnovers against the Bills if the Eagles want to have any chance in this game.
When Bradford drops back to pass, he should look to the middle of the field where TE Zach Ertz will be matched up against safety Bacarri Rambo and WR Jordan Matthews will face nickel CB Nickell Robey. Yes, the Bills have a nickel corner named Nickell. Anyway, although the Bills will be without injured CB Stephen Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin is back from injury and will take his place in Buffalo's 23rd ranked pass defense (255.7 ypg). That ranking is sure to improve after facing the Eagles 19th ranked passing offense (236.4 ypg), because over the last 4 games, Eagles WRs have combined for just 87 yards after the catch on 34 receptions. That means the Bills will be able to single cover the Eagles outside WRs and bring a safety up against the run.
That's bad news for the Eagles 11th ranked rushing offense (115.7 ypg), even against the Bills 14th ranked run defense (104 ypg). You would expect the Eagles to attack the Bills on the ground, but I have a feeling that Kelly is going to try to prove that he wasn't a complete idiot for signing Murray to that huge free agent contract, by giving him the ball repeatedly. Murray is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry on his 163 carries for 569 yards. He also only has 4 TDs. After only getting 8 carries last week, he complained to the owner, because that's what he was used to in Dallas. If something was wrong, you went to Jerry Jones, who ran the entire team. Darren Sproles has to get some carries after his fine performance last week, but Ryan Mathews is back from missing three games with a concussion. Matthews (75 carries for 427 yards, 5.7 ypc and 5 TDs) is the Eagles best RB this season. If he's healthy, he should lead the RBs in snaps, carries and yards. Too bad Kelly's not that smart.
The Eagles will also have problems in the trenches on Sunday. The Bills have two great DEs in Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams. Tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson will have to play better than they have this season if Bradford wants to finish the game in one piece. Johnson also needs to stop getting flagged for false starts. He has 7 already this season, after having only 6 through the first two years of his career. Think veteran RG Todd Herremans had something to do with that? The Bills only have 18 sacks this season, but had a league-high 54 last season, so the talent is there. I would also expect Rex Ryan to dial up multiple blitzes, since the Eagles have the worst passer rating (65.4) in the NFL against the blitz.
Bills Offense versus Eagles Defense
The agent for Tyrod Taylor contacted the Eagles about signing his client last offseason, but Chip Kelly decided to trade Nick Foles and a 2nd round draft pick for Bradford. That hasn't really worked out so well, has it? Anyway, Taylor has thrown 17 TD passes and only 4 INTs in 271 pass attempts this season. His 104.3 passer rating is 4th in the NFL. But the bigger problem for the Eagles is that Taylor is mobile as well, gaining 318 yards rushing on 63 attempts. The last time the Eagles faced a mobile QB (Jameis Winston), they decided to use a "Mush rush" to prevent him from running and he ended up throwing 5 TD passes against them.
The other problem with Taylor being a threat to run the ball is that the Eagles will be hyper focused on stopping McCoy, as they should. McCoy leads the Bills 4th ranked rushing offense (140.9 ypg), with 792 yards on 173 carries (4.6 ypc) and the Eagles can't stop the run anymore, ranked 27th (124.7 ypg). McCoy has topped 100 yards in 3 of his last 5 games and backup RB Karlos Williams has been ruled out for the game. Expect Ryan to feed McCoy the ball at least 25 times and let him rub it in Chip Kelly's face. McCoy has the Eagles franchise record of 217 yards rushing in a game (The snow game against Detroit last season), and I'm sure he'll be looking to duplicate that effort. Of course, with the Eagles keyed on McCoy, Taylor could make them pay by keeping the ball on the read option and gaining big chunks of yardage.
The biggest challenge for the Bills will be getting past the Eagles defensive line, as DE Fletcher Cox has been a beast all season and NT Bennie Logan has been solid stopping the run. Cox will be matched up against LG Richie Incognito all game, but he's sure to get some help. The Eagles will definitely play their base defense most of the time against the Bills, which means more of DeMeco Ryans and less of Kiko Alonso. You know, the guy who Kelly traded for McCoy and who has spent more time injured or falling down than making plays this season. When the Bills pass, expect OLB Connor Barwin to "Spy" on Taylor. Of course, that prevents him from rushing the QB and Barwin had 2 sacks last week. The pass rushing matchup to watch is OLB Brandon Graham against LT Cordy Glenn. Taylor has been sacked 25 times, which is high for only 271 pass attempts.
When the Bills pass, they have two deep threats that are sure to test the Eagles 24th ranked pass defense (258.3 ypg). TE Charles Clay leads the Bills with 50 catches for 519 yards, WR Robert Woods had 38 catches for 402 yards and their big threat, Sammy Watkins has 34 catches for 635 yards (18.7 ypc). That is all very bad news for an Eagles defense that has given up more TD passes (28) than every other team in the NFL except New Orleans. The Eagles are sure to use Walter Thurmond on Clay and Byron Maxwell on Watkins. Hey, Maxwell is being paid like a No.1 CB, so he has to try to cover the other team's best receiver once in a while, doesn't he? That is a huge mismatch, but the Eagles can't use a safety to double Watkins all game if they want to stop McCoy. By the way, Watkins has 267 yards receiving and 3 TDs in his last 2 games.
How many yards will LeSean McCoy rush for against the Eagles on Sunday?
The Eagles special teams from 2014 showed up last week and literally won the game against the Patriots with a blocked FG that was returned for a TD and a 84-yard punt return TD by Darren Sproles. The Eagles are first in the league in punt coverage and haven't allowed a return for over 10 yards since Week 3. The only blemish on the Eagles special teams is kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has missed 2 of his last 4 FG attempts. He's a big reason why the Eagles rank 29th in FG percentage. The Bills have reliable kicker Dan Carpenter, who has converted 16 of his 20 FG attempts, after converting over 90% of his attempts over the last two seasons in Buffalo. Buffalo returner Marcus Thigpen isn't much of a threat, returning only 1 of his 64 career punt returns for a TD and none of his 83 kickoff returns for a TD, so the Eagles should have a huge special teams advantage in this game.
The national media is back on the Chip is a genius bandwagon because he beat the Patriots last week. Of course, his offense had almost nothing to do with the win, as the Eagles had those 2 special teams TDs and a 99-yard INT return for a TD by Malcolm Jenkins. Even with all that, the Eagles still almost lost to a Pats team without their top 2 receiving options. On the other sideline, Rex Ryan is as boastful as his old man, Buddy Ryan, who once coached the Eagles (1986-1990). Ryan's specialty is obviously defense and he's even had his twin brother Rob helping out this week, after he was fired as the Saints defensive coordinator a few weeks ago. His offensive coordinator is Greg Roman who somehow made Colin Kaepernick look like a good QB when he was running the San Francisco offense. He's doing the same thing with Taylor this season.
It's impossible to figure out these Eagles. They beat the Patriots after losing three games in a row to bad teams, while their defense couldn't stop anybody. The good news for the Eagles is that Mark Sanchez is back on the bench and Bradford looks like a decent game-manager who has stopped throwing killer interceptions all the time. Unfortunately, the Eagles running game is a mess and the committee approach that Kelly is using isn't working. None of the RBs can get into a rhythm and high-priced free agent DeMarco Murray has been a bust. The Bills present a big challenge in dual-threat QB Tyrod Taylor and the Eagles haven't played well against that type of QB this season. But the real story of this game is the return of LeSean McCoy.
McCoy is going to be running mad and Rex Ryan is going to feed him the ball all day. I expect McCoy to have a huge day running the ball and I also think that the Bills will intentionally try to get McCoy matched up against Kiko Alonso out in a pass pattern. That will surely lead to a TD, with Alonso completely out of the play and Chip Kelly completely out of his mind for making that horrible trade.
Bills 27 - Eagles 20