5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Broncos

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Broncos

The Eagles have a chance to go into their bye week with an 8-1 record and seven straight wins. 

The Broncos stand in their way. 

No, Denver (3-4) hasn't been the team folks in Colorado were probably hoping to see this season. After winning three of their first four, the Broncos are losers of their last three games, including a loss to the Chiefs on Monday night. 

And now they've decided to switch quarterbacks on a short week. 

While the Broncos' offense has looked inept at times this season, that defense is no joke and can keep them in any game. 

Here's a look at five matchups the Eagles need to win Sunday:

Lane Johnson and 'Big V' vs. Von Miller 
This matchup — along with ones against Demarcus Lawrence and Khalil Mack — is one of the reasons the Eagles decided to keep Johnson at right tackle instead of flipping him to left. 

Miller is the best pass rusher the Eagles will face all season or ever. This season, Miller already has seven sacks in seven games. And since he entered the NFL in 2011, he leads the league in sacks with 80½. He's an absolute game-wrecker. 

Now, you're probably wondering why Miller wouldn't just move to the right side of the defensive line and go against Halapoulivaati Vaitai. He probably will, at least some on Sunday. But it's pretty clear Miller is more comfortable on the defensive left, so the Eagles are forcing him to switch sides. 

Menelik Watson vs. Brandon Graham 
On the flip side, there's a reason many top edge rushers line up on the right tackle. Watson is a perfect example. He's just really struggled this season and Graham has a chance to absolutely feast on Sunday. 

Watson, according to ProFootballFocus, has given up an NFL-high eight sacks to go along with 12 QB hurries and three quarterback hits. 

On the other side, the Broncos use rookie Garett Bolles, who has been a little better but still looks like a rookie even though he's 25. Bolles has given up three sacks and will have to deal with a resurgent Vinny Curry and an improving Derek Barnett. 

Eagles' run game vs. Broncos' run D
Nose tackle Domata Peko has made a huge difference for the Broncos, who are really stout against the run this season. They've given up just 72.9 yards per game, second best in the league after the Eagles. 

What's even more impressive is what the Broncos have done against some of the better runners the NFL has to offer. Melvin Gordon had 54 yards and 38 yards in his two meetings against the Broncos, Ezekiel Elliott had eight, LeSean McCoy had 21, Marshawn Lynch had 12, Kareem Hunt had 46. 

The Eagles added Jay Ajayi this week but it's unclear just how big of a role he'll have in his first game. LeGarrette Blount has been performing well so far this season, too, and the Eagles are the fifth-best rushing team in the NFL. But whoever runs the balls is going to have their work cut out for them. 

Broncos' run game vs. Eagles' run D
The flip side of that is the Eagles have the best run defense in the league, giving up just 70.4 yards per game on the ground this season. Meanwhile, the Broncos have been the NFL's 10th-best rush offense. 

The Broncos use a few different backs. C.J. Anderson is still the guy who gets the most work, but Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker get worked in, too. Charles and Booker might be bigger concerns as receivers out of the backfield. 

Brock Osweiler vs. Jim Schwartz 
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is making a quarterback switch for his team this weekend. Trevor Siemian is out and Osweiler is in. 

Osweiler found some success with the Broncos a few years ago but then went to the Texans on a $72 million deal and was traded to the Browns for absolutely nothing. The Browns cut him six months later and he returned to the Broncos as a backup. 

Now, he's the starter again. 

It would make some sense if Schwartz tried to knock the rust off Osweiler himself by blitzing a lot on Sunday, but he probably won't need to. The Eagles ought to be able to get plenty of pass rush against the Broncos with their front four alone. It'll be a tough test for Osweiler but it's hard to imagine the Broncos' offense looking any worse than it did on Monday night against the Chiefs. 

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.