Any time you’re facing the defending Super Bowl Champs in their home stadium, there is a feeling that you have a tough obstacle to overcome. The start to this season has given reason to be optimistic for Colts fans, but this is the toughest opponent they have faced yet.
While Colts fans are always hopeful that the team could find a way to pull out a win, there are some games where that possibility is tough to see. However, Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation has kindly offered to provide a little bit of perspective and give Colts fans some hope for what (we hope) will be a hard fought game on Sunday. Here are 3 reasons why the Colts could beat the Eagles on Sunday, courtesy of someone who knows a lot more about the Eagles than we do.
1) The Eagles are depleted at the skill player positions.
Against the Colts, the Eagles will likely be without: their top two running backs (Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles), three of their top four wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, and Mack Hollins), and one of their top three tight ends (Richard Rodgers). Starting left tackle Jason Peters is expected to play but he’s been recently hampered by a quad injury.
Needless to say, the Eagles are undermanned.
Last week against the Bucs, the Eagles were forced to play Kamar Aiken for 78% of their offensive snaps despite the fact he was just added back to the roster earlier last week. Fourth string tight end Joshua Perkins saw 33% of the offensive snaps. These two players combined for 12 targets. That’s just not good. Aiken didn’t even get any free agent interest until late July and Perkins spent the entire 2017 season on a practice squad.
The Eagles just aren’t working with a ton of great weapons here. Good things tend to happen for the Eagles when Corey Clement touches the ball but Philadelphia has always liked to rotate their backs under Doug Pederson. Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams aren’t overly inspiring options behind Clement. Nelson Agholor clearly looks like the Eagles’ best receiver so far this year but now he’s going to be playing more often on the outside with Jordan Matthews back to play in the slot. It’s not correct to say Agholor CAN’T play on the outside but I don’t think he’s necessarily maximized out there. Another issue is that the Eagles just doesn’t have a reliable deep threat they can count on. Shelton Gibson sure has the speed to fill that role but his lack of playing time suggests the coaching staff doesn’t really trust him.
Pederson is obviously a really good game-planner and a creative play-caller but scheme only takes a team so far. At some point they need talent. The Eagles lack that at the skill positions right now. With that in mind, life could be much easier on the Colts’ defense this week. Overall, it’s just not an ideal situation for Carson Wentz to return to, which brings me to my next point …
2) Carson Wentz could be rusty in his first game back from the ACL injury he suffered on December 10, 2017.
I do think there’s a legitimate chance Wentz won’t look too rusty at all. I believe this because I’ve watched him look super sharp during offseason practices. We also saw how he got off to a hot start in 2016 as a rookie despite the fact he missed most of the preseason.
But I’d be remiss to completely discount the chance there could be an adjustment period for Wentz. Just look at how Deshaun Watson, who suffered his ACL injury even earlier than Wentz, has been off to a slow start this season after lighting it up as a rookie in 2017.
Former NFL team doctor David Chao has long been saying that Wentz’s mobility could be limited early in his return. The third-year quarterback might not be able to extend plays like he’s usually so great at doing.
Given the Eagles’ injury situation, it’s not like Wentz is going to be getting a ton of help from his skill players. He’s basically going to have to carry the offense in his first game back. I hardly think he’s incapable of doing that. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a challenge for him.
3) Frank Reich knows the Eagles’ weaknesses.
In fairness, you could also say the Eagles know Frank Reich’s weaknesses.
But going with the theme of this post, of course, I’m focusing on what advantages the Colts potentially have over the Eagles.
In a game where the Eagles’ offensive scheme will be extra important due to their lack of pure talent, Philadelphia will be facing a team that knows their system all too well. It’s hard to imagine Pederson will be able to completely fool Reich. Maybe their knowledge of each other makes this more like a division game where the opponents know each other very well and it ends up being a closer battle.
Another factor to consider is that Reich could know how to attack Jim Schwartz’s defense. The Colts are already doing a great job converting on third down with a 60.61% conversion clip. Philly’s defense usually plays pretty well at home (12.3 points per game allowed since the beginning of 2016) so I’m not expecting the Colts’ offense to run wild. But against the Bucs last week the Eagles showed vulnerability to allowing big plays. The Colts’ insistence to get the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands quick also helps to combat Philly’s pass rush. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs had success against the Eagles in that way last weekend.