3 reasons the Eagles could upset the Denver Broncos on Sunday

3 reasons the Eagles could upset the Denver Broncos on Sunday

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.

Injuries

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.

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

Best of MLB: Indians rally off Papelbon, stun Nationals, 7-6

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor pushed an RBI single through Washington's drawn-in infield with one out in the ninth inning, and the Cleveland Indians rallied for three runs in their final at-bat to stun the Washington Nationals 7-6 on Tuesday night in a matchup of two first-place teams with sights on October.

Down two runs and three outs from their losing streak reaching a season-high four games, the Indians rallied against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-4), who did not get an out before he was pulled by manager Dusty Baker.

With the bases loaded, Lindor fisted his base hit into right field and danced his way up the first-base line as the Indians celebrated an improbable victory.

Bryan Shaw (2-4) got two outs in the ninth and picked up the win as Cleveland won its first home game since July 10 (see full recap).

Cardinals take first game of doubleheader with Mets, 3-2
NEW YORK -- Jedd Gyorko homered again, hitting a two-run drive off Noah Syndergaard that sent the St. Louis Cardinals over the New York Mets 3-2 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Gyorko connected for the sixth time in eight games, giving him 13 this season. The Cardinals lead the NL in home runs with 137, matching last year's total.

The Mets played at home for the first time since the All-Star break and lost in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. Citi Field was nearly empty at the start, a day after a rainout forced the twinbill.

Carlos Martinez (10-6) gave up a two-run homer to Rene Rivera and left after the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead. Three relievers finished, with Seung Hwan Oh getting his fifth save in six chances.

Syndergaard (9-5) has won only one of his last five starts (see full recap).

Colon, Mets top Cards, 3-1, for doubleheader split
NEW YORK -- Bartolo Colon pitched three-hit ball for seven sharp innings and the New York Mets overcame another home run by Jedd Gyorko to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Tuesday night for a doubleheader split.

Gyorko homered in both ends and has connected seven times in nine games. His two-run shot helped St. Louis win the opener 3-2.

Colon (9-5) struck out eight and walked none. After Gyorko homered in the second and Alberto Rosario doubled in the third, Colon set down 14 of his final 15 batters.

Addison Reed worked the eighth and Jeurys Familia closed for his 36th save this year and 52nd in a row during the regular season.

White Sox avoid Chapman, down Cubs 3-0 behind Shields
CHICAGO -- James Shields allowed four singles in 7 2/3 innings, Adam Eaton homered and the White Sox stayed unbeaten since Chris Sale's suspension by beating the Cubs 3-0 Tuesday night in Chicago's crosstown rivalry.

The Cubs lost their second straight and never got to use new closer Aroldis Chapman hours after he joined the team and struggled answering questions related to an altercation last year with his girlfriend.

Shields (5-12) struck out five and continued an impressive turnaround from a terrible first three starts after being acquired from San Diego last month. Nate Jones finished the eighth and David Robertson worked the ninth for his 24th save in the White Sox's fourth straight win since their ace was sent home for destroying throwback jerseys.

Jose Abreu had two hits, including an RBI single in the first off Kyle Hendricks (9-7) that ended his streak of 22 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff's 'outstanding' start wasted by Phillies in shutout loss to Marlins

Jerad Eickhoff's 'outstanding' start wasted by Phillies in shutout loss to Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — The Phillies enjoyed a three-week stretch before the All-Star break when they were the best hitting team in baseball.

In the final 19 games before the break, they hit .308 with a .871 OPS. Both marks were tops in the majors over that span. They averaged 5.63 runs per game in that stretch.

The run of sturdy offense created some excitement and anticipation heading into the second half of the season. But that excitement and anticipation has now dissipated. Since coming back from the break, the Phillies’ offense has retreated back to invisibility.

The Phils were blanked, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night, wasting a terrific start from Jerad Eickhoff (see Instant Replay).

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin was peeved.

“The only thing positive I can say about this game is Eickhoff,” Mackanin said. “He was outstanding. He had a great curveball, hit his spots, pitched well. It was a pitchers' duel up until the end. I’m real happy about that. 

"But that’s about all I’m happy about.”

Marlins starter Tom Koehler and a trio of relievers held the Phillies to just four singles.

Phillies hitters struck out 10 times. They have averaged 9.5 strikeouts in 12 games since coming back from the break and hit just .208. They are averaging just 2.75 runs in the 12 games since the break and carrying a 4-8 record.

“Poor plate discipline,” Mackanin said. “Poor plate discipline. Swinging at too many bad pitches. We get ourselves out too often. That’s about all I can think of.

“Koehler pitched well. But we helped him out a lot. We didn’t give him a chance to walk us. We swung at too many bad pitches. That’s our problem. We just get ourselves out too often. That’s what it boils down to.

“If you’re a free swinger who’s going to hit 30-plus home runs and drive in 100 runs, that’s acceptable to me. But if you’re not a power hitter, it’s unacceptable. You’ve got to make adjustments. You’ve got improve on it. You’ve got to work on it.”

Peter Bourjos offered his thoughts on the Phillies’ offensive struggles since the All-Star break.

“It's almost like it was probably bad timing for that break,” he said. “Everything was rolling. We were swinging the bats really well. Everyone looked comfortable in the box and feeling good and it's tough right now. You can see what there was with the offense. I think it's going to come back. We just need to get back into the rhythm that we had and everything's going to be all right.”

Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight, a big improvement over his previous start when these same Marlins tagged him for nine hits and six runs in five innings.

“I was more aggressive,” Eickhoff said. “It’s amazing what being aggressive will do for your game and how hitters will react. I threw my fastball inside and that set up my curveball so much more.”

The poor run support was nothing new for Eickhoff. He entered the game receiving an average of just 3.53 runs per game, 10th worst in the majors.

It was a scoreless game until there were two outs in the sixth. That’s when Giancarlo Stanton swatted a two-out RBI single to right, scoring Martin Prado from second. Stanton’s hit rolled untouched through the second base area because the Phillies’ defense was shifted to the pull side.

“We’ve got to play a shift on him,” Mackanin said of baseball's most fearsome power bat.

The game got out of hand when the bullpen was tagged for four runs in the eighth. Ichiro Suzuki stroked career hit No. 2,997 to get the Marlins’ late rally started.

In the first inning, Suzuki launched a long drive to the gap in right-center. Rightfielder Bourjos ran the ball down and made a terrific catch while crashing into the wall. He left the game with a jammed right shoulder and could miss some time (see story).

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Marlins 5, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jerad Eickhoff pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but still came away with a loss as the Phillies were shut out, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.

Giancarlo Stanton drove in the Marlins’ first two runs with a single and a double.

Stanton gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead with a two-out base hit to right field against Eickhoff in the sixth inning. Stanton’s groundball hit rolled through the second base area, which had been vacated by the shift.

The Marlins blew the game open with four runs against the Phillies’ bullpen in the eighth.

The Phillies are 4-8 since the All-Star break and 46-56 overall.

Starting pithing report
Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

Miami manager Don Mattingly pulled Tom Koehler after the right-hander pitched six shutout innings and had allowed just three hits. Koehler walked one, struck out five and threw just 73 pitches. He exited with a 1-0 lead.

Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in a win over the Phillies last week.

Bullpen report 
Andrew Bailey was charged with three runs in the eighth.

Mike Dunn, David Phelps and Nick Wittgren completed the shutout for the Marlins. 

At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits, all singles, and struck out 10 times. They were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and are 1 for 13 the last two nights.

Stanton had been just 3 for 35 against the Phils this season before his shift-beating RBI hit in the sixth. He hit the ball much harder in the eighth inning when he clouted an RBI double to right-center against Bailey.

Adeiny Hechavarria padded the Marlins’ lead with a two-run single in their four-run eighth inning.

Ichiro Suzuki’s eighth-inning single left him three hits shy of 3,000 in his big-league career.

Health check
Rightfielder Peter Bourjos injured his right shoulder making a catch against the wall in the first inning and left the game (see story).

Minor matters
Ranger Suarez, a 20-year-old left-hander from Venezuela, pitched a seven-inning no-hitter for the Phillies’ Single A Williamsport club on Tuesday night.

Up next
The series concludes on Wednesday afternoon. Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) pitches against Miami lefty Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58).