Eagles-Broncos Preview: Madden Football
The Philadelphia Eagles are traveling to Denver to face the Broncos in what will most likely be the highest-scoring game of the year. Both offenses are putting up video game-like numbers and they don't look to be slowing down any time soon. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, the matchup of Peyton Manning against the Eagles defense is one that Philadelphia simply can't win. Let's take a look at the matchups.
Broncos Offense Versus Eagles Defense
The obvious place to start is with Denver's future first-ballot Hall of Fame QB. Manning's 96.1 passer rating is fourth-best in NFL history, his 60,256 yards are third-most in history and his 445 TD passes are second most. And the scary thing is, Manning is having his best season ever so far in 2013. Manning is first in the league in passing with a 134.7 rating. He's first in completion percentage (.730) and first in yards per attempt (9.37). He's also the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 12 touchdown passes without an interception in the first three games of a season. His 1,143 yards passing and 12 TDs this season puts him on a pace for 6,096 yards and 64 TDs, which would shatter the current records. Going against the 30th ranked defense in the NFL, with the 29th ranked pass defense, Manning could reach double digits in TD passes in this game. I mean, after watching the immortal Philip Rivers walk up to the line and change plays on the fly to burn the Eagles defenders, I can't imagine what a true maestro, like Peyton Manning will do. The Broncos rank first in total yards per game (486.7), first in passing yards per game (374.7), first in third-down efficiency (53.9 %) and first in points per game (42.3).
The Broncos offensive line has only allowed four sacks this season, in spite of the fact that All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady is out for the season. Normally, you would think that the Eagles could take advantage of his replacement, Chris Clark, but Trent Cole couldn't get past the worst left tackle in the NFL, King Dunlap, so I doubt he'll be able to beat Clark either. Of course, Manning calls the plays at the line once he sees what the defense is doing, so he can set the protection schemes. He also has a quick release, so don't expect the Eagles to get any pressure on Manning in Denver.
The Broncos don't have a potent running game, so they probably won't be taking advantage of the Eagles porous run defense. They have averaged 112 rushing yards per game, so they still do run the ball a bit. Mostly when they are trying to run out the clock after building large leads. Knowshon Moreno is their leading rusher, but Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball will also see action.
The Broncos are sure to attack the Eagles horrendous secondary with the best group of receivers in the entire NFL. They have four receivers on pace for 1,000 yard seasons and the Eagles pass defense is ranked a lowly 29th. Demaryius Thomas is in the top five in receiving yards. Eric Decker is tied for 11th in the NFL with 19 receptions. And Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas are tied for second in TDs with four each. Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher will try to slow down Thomas and Decker, while Brandon Boykin tries to stop Welker in the slot. As if that isn't bad enough for the Eagles, Mychal Kendricks has looked terrible the last two games and he will most likely be covering Julius Thomas. And finally, as if the Eagles safeties weren't already the worst in the league, Patrick Chung is injured and hasn't even practiced all week. Manning is going to toy with safeties, Nate Allen and rookie Earl Wolff like the Road Runner toyed with Wile E. Coyote.
Defense By Acme
Is LeSean McCoy as good as Barry Sanders
Eagles Offense Versus Broncos Defense
The Eagles offense isn't too shabby either, as it is ranked second, behind only the Broncos. The problem is that while the Broncos are first in scoring (42.3), the Eagles are eighth (26.3). That can be attributed to all of the turnovers they have committed, which has led to a minus-two in turnover differential.
Michael Vick reverted back to his turnover-prone ways last week and he could have a repeat performance this week. The Broncos are ranked a deceiving 30th against the pass, but that has more to do with teams having to throw the ball constantly against them more than the play of their defense. They are actually tied for first in interceptions, with six. Plus, they should get All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey back from injury.
Opposite Bailey is ex-Eagles Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who will covering DeSean Jackson all day. After leading the NFL in receiving yardage after two weeks, Jackson came crashing back to reality last week. The Chiefs played press coverage and kept a safety over the top on Jackson's side all game, which limited him to only three catches for 62 yards. DRC and safety Rahim Moore will employ the same strategy on Jackson on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the rest of their receiving options are average at best. Jason Avant and Riley Cooper don't scare anybody and Brent Celek and the rest of the tight ends on the Eagles have been a major disappointment.
It helps the Eagles that Pro Bowl defensive end Vonn Miller is serving a six-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, because the offensive line of the Eagles has not lived up to the hype so far this season. After two decent games to start the season, the offensive line allowed Vick to get sacked six times against the Chiefs. That lack of protection helps explain why Vick had three turnovers and completed only 43 percent of his passes last week. Without Miller, who had 18.5 sacks last season, the Broncos pass rush is led by Robert Ayers, with three sacks. But the Broncos also have two defensive tackles - Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson - Who are each over 330 pounds and create problems in the middle. The interior of the Eagles' line will have it's hands full with those two and right tackle Lane Johnson is going to have to stop looking like a rookie more often than not.
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing (209 yards per game), thanks entirely to LeSean McCoy, but the Broncos have the best run defense in the NFL (43.3 yards per game). And the Broncos run defense is for real. They don't have good numbers just because teams have to abandon the running game. They are holding their opponents to only 2.3 yards per carry. But McCoy leads the NFL in rushing with 395 yards. He's been so good, that the Broncos players and coaches are actually comparing him to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. High praise indeed, but McCoy has the same ability to stop on a dime and change direction as Sanders did. The only way the Eagles can possibly win this game is for McCoy to run wild. Literally.
The Eagles special teams didn't look so special last week. And to add insult to injury, Alex Henery keeps missing field goals. There may not be many returns in the thin air in Denver, but the Eagles will be in for a test if Trindon Holliday gets to return any kicks. The Broncos signed Holliday off the Houston Texans practice squad before week 6 last season and he proceeded to lead the NFL with an average of 32.5 yards per kickoff return. He then added to his reputation in the playoffs by recording the longest punt return in NFL history (90 yards) and the second longest kickoff return (104). He already has one punt return TD this season and could easily get another one against the Eagles.
Punt Return TD
The coaching matchup is extremely one-sided. John Fox is a proven winner in the NFL and masterfully transitioned his offense from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning last offseason. His defenses are normally top-notch as well. On the other sideline, Chip Kelly looks every bit the rookie head coach. He doesn't know the rules and that failed two point conversion last week was a head-scratcher. He's learning on the job, but that isn't good for the win-loss column this season. And for all the "genius" hype that was heaped on Kelly, his offense is only averaging 66 plays per game this season. A year ago, the Andy Reid-led Eagles actually ran 67 plays per game. So much for that genius tag.
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and he's having his best year ever. The Eagles defense is particularly putrid against the pass and Manning specializes in making pre-snap reads to take advantage of mismatches. Plus, Chip Kelly doesn't believe in ball control offense, which is the best (only?) defense against Manning. This one could get ugly early. The Vegas odds-makers have the line on this game at 57. Hell, The Broncos might go over that themselves.
The only way the Broncos lose this game is if Peyton Manning has the worst game of his career or he gets hurt putting on his pads before the game. The Eagles offense will put up lots of points in catchup mode, but their defense is simply too bad to even slow down Manning and all of his weapons.
Broncos 51 - Eagles 34