Eagle Eye: Eagles and Cowboys crucial Week 14 matchups
Eagles (7-5) vs. Lions (7-5)
1 p.m., FOX
Eagles by 3
Last week, the Eagles had to overpower one of the league's best rushing defenses and limit one of the game's best receivers in a 24-21 win over the Cardinals.
It's the same story this week, when the Lions bring their No. 3 run defense and arguably the best wide receiver in football in Calvin Johnson to town to take on the Birds.
How will the Eagles stop Megatron? (See story.) It's one of the dilemmas they'll have to figure out if they hope to win their fifth game in a row and keep pace with the Cowboys atop the NFC East.
Here are five things you'll need to know:
1. Where do they rank?
Offense: 404 yards per game (3rd), 257 passing (9th), 147 rushing (2nd)
Defense: 412 yards per game (31st), 297 passing (32nd), 116 rushing (19th)
Turnovers: 22 takeaways (12th), 15 giveaways (T-6th), plus-7 differential (T-8th)
Offense: 425 yards per game (2nd), 309 passing (2nd), 115 rushing (16th)
Defense: 345 yards per game (15th), 262 passing (26th), 83 rushing (3rd)
Turnovers: 17 takeaways (T-20th), 25 giveaways (T-29th), minus-8 differential (26th)
Even against a stout rushing defense, the Eagles were able to move the ball on the ground against Arizona. LeSean McCoy picked up 79 yards on 19 carries (4.2 yards per rush), while Nick Foles added another 22. Shady sits as the league's No. 2 runner with 1,088 yards behind Adrian Peterson (1,208).
The Lions' backfield comes with a dual threat of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, but it's through the air where they'll beat you. Matthew Stafford, the league's No. 2 passer behind only Peyton Manning, throws to the league's top receiver in Johnson, the 6-foot-5 behemoth who leads the NFL in receiving (1,299 yards) and touchdowns (12).
As good as Detroit's offense is, it's easy -- but ill-advised -- to overlook its defense. The Lions aren't just third-best against the run, they haven't allowed a TD on the ground in eight consecutive games.
Third-down success may play a crucial role in this one. Detroit owns the NFL's No. 1 third-down defense, allowing just 30.6 percent of conversions. Likewise on offense, they're one of the best with a 45.3 success rate. The Eagles are only a mediocre third-down team on offense (38.2 percent) and defense (40.4 percent).
2. The Lions' flaw
By the numbers, the Lions boast the better offense, the better defense, the better third-down team and arguably equal weapons to everything the Eagles have to offer. So how, again, are the Birds home favorites in this one?
Turnovers. Detroit coughs up the ball more than any other team, save for two (Giants and Jets). Conversely, the Eagles are tied for sixth in limiting giveaways and have committed just one turnover during their current four-game win streak. In that same span, they've forced nine.
Stafford has tossed 14 interceptions (fifth-most) and fumbled four times (third-most), as has Bush. The Lions have 12 giveaways in the last three games alone.
Meanwhile, Foles is one touchdown away from tying Peyton Manning's record of 20 TDs to start a season without a pick, a record he set earlier this year. Foles has already set a franchise record with 233 passes without an interception.
3. The burning Bush
The Eagles' defense hasn't allowed more than 21 points in eight straight games, the longest current streak in the league and the team's longest since 2003. It's never been more in jeopardy than this week against the Lions.
We all know about Megatron and Stafford's cannon, but often neglected on the offense is Bush. The former Heisman winner is in the midst of one of his best pro seasons, both running and catching the ball (see story).
On the ground, Bush has tallied 854 yards at a 4.7 clip per carry and could pass a career-best total he set with the Dolphins two years ago (1,086). As a receiver, Bush is the second option after Johnson, with 45 catches for 448 yards and two scores, his best totals since he was an All-Pro with the Saints in 2008.
4. Donnie Football
We're talking about the reigning two-time NFC special teams player of the week, Eagles punter Donnie Jones (see story).
Last week against Arizona, Jones landed seven puts inside the Cardinals' 20 which set a team record and is tied for the third-most in a game since 1976. In doing so, he limited returner Patrick Peterson to one return for a measly three yards.
Two weeks ago against Washington, Jones booted a 70-yard net punt to pin the Redskins at their own 4-yard line with 3:26 to go. He had another 69-yarder last week. Both are the longest punts by any Eagle since Randall Cunningham's 80-yarder in 1994.
Just as his 70-yarder forced the Redskins to drive the full length of the field -- ultimately leading to the Eagles forcing Robert Griffin III into an interception -- the more yards the Lions have to drive, the more likely it is they'll turn one over.
5. This and that
· Last time they met, the Lions came back from 10 points with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter and nipped the Birds in overtime, 26-23, last October at the Linc. Stafford threw for 311 yards -- 135 to Johnson -- and McCoy rushed for just 22 yards on 14 carries. It snapped the Eagles' six-game winning streak over Detroit, their first loss to the Lions since 1986.
· Last week, the Lions rolled to their first Thanksgiving win in 10 years in a 40-10 rout of the Packers. Stafford passed for 330 yards and three scores, Bush ran for 117 and a TD and Johnson pulled in six passes for 101 and a score to help Detroit overcome four turnovers.
· David Akers, a five-time Pro Bowler and the Eagles' record holder with 1,323 points, returns to the Linc for just the second time as a visiting player. In his last visit, Akers missed two of three field goals in San Francisco's 24-23 win over the Birds on Oct. 2, 2011.
· Lions assistant defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who was fired by the Eagles in the midst of last season, brings his wide-nine defense back to Philadelphia.
· The Eagles are the only NFL team thus far with both a 1,000-yard rusher (LeSean McCoy, 1,088) and receiver (DeSean Jackson, 1,021).
· Injury Report: For the Eagles, S Earl Wolff (knee) and LB Najee Goode (hamstring) are out, while TE Zach Ertz (shoulder), DT Bennie Logan (neck), WR Jeff Maehl (concussion) and DT Damion Square (back) are all probable. For the Lions, CB Darius Slay (knee) is doubtful; RB Reggie Bush (calf) and CB Chris Houston (foot) are questionable; and WR Calvin Johnson (knee), S Louis Delmas (knee) and DE Israel Idonije (knee) are probable.