Somewhat lost amid all of the hoopla over the buzzsaw known as Peyton Manning is the fact that the Eagles are an NFL team with a chance to win a football game this Sunday. Sure, you hear a few people touting this idea, but it sure seems like most are chalking this up as a loss already.
To be fair, the Birds probably will lose. The Denver Broncos have been nearly perfect through their first three games, and the firepower in that offense is unreal. The person who figures out how to contain Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and those running backs with Peyton Manning at the helm should instantly win some kind of lifetime achievement award.
The Eagles could go into Denver and get absolutely steamrolled and not one person would be caught off guard by that. The Broncos are 11-point favorites, and it’s probably safe to say we’re all prepared for the worst on some level.
But as the old cliché goes, that’s why they play the game. If you don’t think the Eagles have even a remote chance of pulling off the upset over Manning this week, well that’s your opinion, but it’s not one I happen to agree with. There are actually some relatively important details working in their favor going in to this encounter. Whether or not it’s anything that can swing the outcome remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t rule out any of this stuff coming into play.
Extra Rest/Short Week
As much as nobody wants to hear Peyton whining about the schedule after Philadelphia just played three games in 11 days, he has a point. The fact that the Eagles have 10 days between games and the Broncos have a short week with only six creates a significant advantage for the Birds.
For one, the Eagles should be a little less beat up than their opponent. Their players have nearly twice as much time to rest up, so at least in theory Philly should be the fresher ream.
What really seems to have Manning concerned though is the extra time the Eagles have to prepare. They already own the NFL’s second-ranked offense to begin with, and now Chip Kelly spent last weekend in his laboratory coming up with all sorts of ways to attack Denver’s defense. Oh yeah, I suppose defensive coordinator Bill Davis might benefit from the additional time to work on the game plan as well.
If this stuff didn’t make a difference, nobody would be talking about, least of all the opposing team’s quarterback. The players still have to go out and execute on Sunday, but their bodies should be ready, and the coaches able to put them in optimal positions to come away victorious.
The only injury that’s prevented anybody from practicing for the Eagles this week is Patrick Chung, who is dealing with a shoulder contusion and is listed as doubtful. Assuming he can’t go, rookie Earl Wolff will likely make his first career start, which is a little scary given the opponent.
That said, Denver’s injury report reads like a novel these days, and the climax is in the secondary. Seven-time All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey has yet to suit up this season, and is still limited in practice by a foot injury – even if he is active, he could be rusty. Bailey's backup Tony Carter is dealing with an ankle himself and was limited this week. And at safety, starter Duke Ihenacho had not practiced at all as of Thursday.
Add in the suspension to outside linebacker Von Miller – the club's most dangerous pass rusher – and you have a defense that very well could be vulnerable on Sunday.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball the Broncos lost left tackle Ryan Clady for the season last week. Any Eagles fan can tell you how difficult that is to overcome.
Other than Miller and Clady, we’ll have to wait and see who’s playing and who isn’t, but the real upset here would be if all three of those defensive backs returned in time for the game and looked their sharpest. Maybe the Broncos have people who can step up in a pinch, but it’s hard to imagine any team can be that deep. These injuries could potentially create a huge advantage for the Birds’ offense.
Offense Can Hang With Anybody
Not that the Eagles necessarily needed those other advantages, although they help of course. Yeah, Manning is great, but Philadelphia’s offense is right behind Denver’s in the rankings – they’re one and two.
The only thing that’s stopped the Eagles so far this season is the Eagles. In Washington, they took their foot off the gas pedal too early. Against San Diego, dumb penalties and lack of execution prevented them from running up the score. Versus Kansas City, it was entirely too many unforced turnovers.
You’re not going to get away with much of that against the Broncos, but even with all of that going wrong for the Birds, again, they have the second-ranked offense in the NFL – eighth-highest scoring offense. Theoretically, they should be able to run with almost anybody.
It’s very possible the Eagles will have to score upwards of 40 points to have a chance to win on Sunday, but it’s not an implausible number. They probably could have done that in Weeks 1 and 2 with the most minor of tweaks. Now they have a Denver defense on a short week with a bunch of injuries, and you’ve got to think Chip has something up his sleeve with the extra days to prepare.
For the Eagles to have any shot at winning on Sunday, they’ll likely need a perfect storm of sorts. The offense can’t leave a bunch of plays on the field, and Peyton Manning can’t go all 158.3 on them which seems like a real possibility with their defense.
That said, I think there’s enough here to feel somewhat upbeat about the Birds’ chances on Sunday. I’m not bold enough to predict a Birds victory based on this, but I doubt it would even be the most shocking thing that happens in the NFL this weekend.