The Philadelphia Eagles are looking good going into Week 5. They have a tough defense and their offense is proving that it can compete in tough games. A close victory over the New York Giants is the Eagles latest accomplishment and they have overcome a lot of issues to get to their 3-1 record. Considering that record, the Eagles are playing very different from last season. They are not scoring as frequently as they’ve only eclipsed the 20 point mark once, and that is leading to close, defensive games. In fact, the biggest margin of victory in their 3 wins was 2 points. They have been competitive in close games and are able to or hold on late. They have had decent competition as well to this point, beating half of the AFC North and the Giants, while having their only loss come out in Arizona.
The Eagles might be under-performing on offense, but this is a team with a stout defense. The talented corners and pass rushers on this roster can be nightmares for opposing passing attacks. Their wide 9 blitzing technique is especially effective against teams with below average offensive tackles. Teams that have experienced success against them have mixed in the run to offset this pressure. I know what you’re thinking, Pittsburgh’s weak offensive line and lacking run game will probably result in offensive woes in this game. However, the Eagles great pass rush and defensive backs on this roster are not performing up to snuff yet. The Eagles have only compiled 7 sacks through 4 games and the Giants made their corners look soft even without Hakeem Nicks.
You can reference my competition analysis to learn a little more about the Jets by clicking below:
The Steelers are coming of a bye week which should be a key in this one. That bye week will grant the Steelers players perspective, focus and more importantly injury ease. Troy Polamalu, Rashard Mendenhall and James Harrison should all be back for this game. Stevenson Sylvester should also return but we will have to wait one more week for the suspended Weslye Saunders. If Harrison is indeed ready to go, the Steelers will have added their two biggest play makers back into the lineup. The big question is how good will they look? I think Mendenhall and Polamalu will play like its business as usual. Although Mendenhall will be eased back in terms of carries, I’m more concerned about Harrison. There are rumors that he’s not 100% and that his explosive play has suffered because of it.
The Steelers offense will welcome back Mendenhall with open arms and they desperately need to get this running attack going. The issue in this game is that unlike last year, the Eagles aren’t awful at stopping the run. They are ranked 12th in the league, allowing just over 90 yards per game. The Steelers are no spring chickens in the running department, but I think Mendenhall’s return will be a morale booster because if they still can’t run with him, there are no more excuses. Ball security shouldn’t be a huge issue as the Eagles have only forced one fumble so far. On the flip side, while Isaac Redman hasn’t fumbled yet this season, he’s fumbled 3 times in approx 150 carries over the prior two years (1 in 50 ). To contrast, Mendenhall has had 6 fumbles in about 1000 carries over his career (1 in 165).
The passing attack has been the saving grace of the Steelers offense so far this season. Ben Roethlisberger has looked superb and his squadron of pass catchers have all played extremely well. The Eagles are known for bringing the pressure (just watch film on the Eagles Vs Steelers preseason game) and the Steelers offensive line has been decent at best. The Eagles are also allowing a 7th ranked 207 yards thru the air per game. That might be a bit skewed because Cleveland and Arizona are not known as superb passing reams, but it raises flags regardless.
A site that I like is footballoutsiders.com because they have efficiency rankings that look beyond the total numbers and compare stats to relevance on the field and weigh them over an equal schedule. The Eagles have the 3rd most efficient defense in the NFL at this point ranking 8th against the run and 5th against the pass. There is a level of variance meaning their performance week to week can change quite a bit, but this should drive home the fact that this Eagles defensive unit is quite good. Roethlisberger will have to be on his game to have success.
Looking further into these stats, it breaks down their defense by offensive position. The Eagles are great against the tight ends and backs out of the backfield. They are well below average against #1 receivers, very good against #2 receivers and average against the rest of the bunch. With one of the best corners in Nnamdi Asomugha manning one flank and one of the fastest in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the other, it could spell disaster for the Steelers speedy two headed receiving machine. I think the Steelers will try to put Wallace on Asomugha so he can try to stretch him with speed while Antonio Brown can carve up Rodgers-Cromartie with his route running. Emmanuel Sanders should be important in this one as well.
The Eagles have turned the ball over 9 times in the first 3 games. In the prime of their performance, this offense works to gas you. If you look up speed in any dictionary in Philadelphia, you will see an Eagles symbol. They have one of the most athletic quarterbacks in Michael Vick, one of the fastest runners in LeSean McCoy, and a premier deep threat in DeSean Jackson. Jeremy Maclin is the complement to Jackson and Brent Celek is accomplished in his receiving abilities. There are many parallels between the Eagles and the Steelers on offense.
The Steelers defense might be branded as old, but slow isn’t necessarily a part of that equation. They have a pack of quick corners, ground covering safeties, and Lawrence Timmons, who if he can control it, has excellent speed. Stopping the run will be very important in the game Sunday. The Steelers are going up against a weak offensive line so you can bet that the Eagles will try to isolate McCoy out in space using screens and edge runs. The Steelers defensive ends and outside linebackers need to do a better job of setting the edge as this will help in containing Vick in the pocket as well. The corners will also have to be prepared for bubble screens and end around type plays.
FootballOutsiders.com has the Steelers ranked as the 3rd worst defense in the NFL. They are 2nd to last against the pass and 20th against the run. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it sounds about right. I can remember Peyton Manning passing with ease and Carson Palmer doing the same. The only game the Steelers defended the pass well was against a team that is considering playing Tim Tebow quarterback. Having Polamalu and Harrison back should help to some degree. Stopping the run is paramount for the Steelers and it starts on the defensive line. Timmons could also help stop the run if he played a bit more like Larry Foote has so far this season.
The Steelers pass defense is ranked poorly in all phases except against running backs where they are 5th in the NFL. That is huge against a team that has a back like McCoy. In fact, for their 31st overall ranking against the pass, they rank 20th and 21st against the #1 and #2 receivers respectively. Jackson might warrant safety help because of his speed, but Ike Taylor should be up to the task. If the Steelers give safety help, they will have to deal with the remaining receivers on the Eagles roster who have barely combined for more yards than Jackson. The next big issue is the tight end. Celek is the 2nd leading receiver on the team and the Steelers are ranked 30th against that position. Remember, Celek torched the Baltimore Ravens for over 150 yards but has been average the rest of the year. Also, despite the poor ranking, the Steelers gave up 50 yards to Denver tight ends, 13 to the Jets and 70 to Oakland tight ends. Unless he goes off, I wouldn’t expect over 50 yards.
My prediction will be that both running games will be decent, but won’t be overly important. McCoy is a home run threat just like Darren McFadden, but I think that was a bad play by the Steelers. Passing against the Steelers has never been easy for Vick. I think he will play well, but turn the ball over once. I also think this will be the first game where Roethlisberger struggles, but as long as he stays away from turning the ball over it will be another Eagles style close game.
|QB||Ben Roethlisberger||225||2||0||1 INT||15|
|QB||Michael Vick||225||2||0||50 RSH, 1 FUM||20|
The fantasy points projected below are educated guesses meant to be used with other inputs to influence your decision of who to start and what each player might be capable of. Unlike the statistical sites, I rounded each stat to clean up the numbers and avoided unrealistic divisions (like 0.2 TDs). There are players that will contribute in the game that I didn\'t cover, but these players aren\'t typically expected to do much.
The above point totals are based on the following scoring convention:
Quarterback - Yards: 25 = 1 pt TDs = 4pts Fumbles = -2pts INTs: 1 = -2pts
Rushing - Yards: 10 = 1 pt TDs = 6pts Fumbles = -2pts
Receiving - Yards: 10 = 1 pt TDs = 6pts Receptions = 0.5pts
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