Eagles-Broncos predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Broncos predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are looking for their seventh straight win.

The Broncos are looking for their first since Oct. 1.

Two teams with great defenses meet at Lincoln Financial Field as the Eagles (7-1) welcome the Broncos (3-4) on Sunday (1 p.m./CBS).

Can Denver do enough on both sides of the ball to slow down the NFL's hottest team?

Here are our expert predictions for the Week 9 matchup:

Reuben Frank (8-0)
This one scares me. This is the first time since the Chiefs game that I really considered picking the Eagles to lose. I think it's a very tough matchup, since the Broncos are virtually impossible to run against, and the Eagles — at least since Week 2 — have been successful by setting up the pass with the run. I feel like points for both teams will be very hard to come by Sunday, and this one will be played in the high teens or low 20s. But the Broncos are finishing three straight on the road, including a Monday nighter in K.C. and that's a rough schedule. Factor in a quarterback change on a short week and the Broncos are in a difficult position. The Eagles have found ways to win the last six weeks, and I think they'll find a way to win Sunday, whether it's by picking off Brock Osweiler a couple times, a big punt return, a fumble recovery touchdown or a couple 68-yard Jake Elliott field goals. Imagine going into the bye week 8-1? I think it happens. I'm going Eagles, and see you in Dallas in two weeks.

Eagles 23, Broncos 17

Dave Zangaro (6-2)
The Eagles would have probably preferred if the Broncos kept Trevor Siemian as their quarterback for this game. At least the Eagles would know what to expect. 

If nothing else, Brock Osweiler is more of an unknown this season in their offense this year. 

But it's hard to expect him to somehow become the savior for that offense, which has been absolutely horrible over the first half of the season. I mean, did you see them Monday night? 

Oh yeah, that's right. Monday night. The Broncos are playing on a short week and this is their third consecutive road game. That's tough. 

So as good as Denver's defense is — and it is really good (see key matchups) — the Eagles should win this game and head into their bye week with an 8-1 record. 

Eagles 20, Broncos 13

Derrick Gunn (7-1)
The Eagles' last test before their bye week is a big one. Carson Wentz and his offense must solve the rugged Broncos' defense. And this is no ordinary defense. The Broncos come riding into town with the No. 1 overall D, allowing 261.0 yards per game. They are sixth against the pass (188.1 yards per game) and No. 2 against the run (72.9). Von Miller is one of the best in the business at harassing quarterbacks and his sidekick is finally back. Linebacker Shane Ray, who was on IR with a wrist injury, returned this past Monday night against Kansas City. 

As good as Denver's defense has played, the offense has been the opposite, mainly because of Siemian’s play. Siemian started the season by tossing six touchdowns and just two interceptions in Denver's first two games, as the Broncos won both. Over the last three outings, he's served up six interceptions and two touchdowns, and the Broncos have lost all three. Head coach Vance Joseph announced Wednesday he's switching to Osweiler, hoping to jump-start his lethargic offense. The six-year veteran has thrown just four passes this season. 

The Eagles' defensive rotation up front needs to get after Osweiler to make him as uncomfortable as possible. Wentz cannot afford to hold the ball too long in passing situations or Denver will make him pay. If the Birds can establish their ground game, it will open things up in play action. 

After playing Monday night, getting home early Tuesday morning, traveling this weekend to the East Coast and making a QB change, Denver has a lot to deal with in a short amount of time. That's why I’ll go with the home team in a backyard, knockdown, drag-out brawl.

Eagles 24, Broncos 23

Ray Didinger (7-1)
The Broncos season, which started with high hopes, is unraveling after three consecutive losses. They have the league's top-ranked defense yet they are a touchdown underdog for this game against the Eagles. That will give you some idea how bad their offense has been. They are changing quarterbacks — bye, bye, Siemian, hello Osweiler — hoping it will provide a spark. 

The Broncos will have slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders back this week, which will help, but the real problem is the line, which has allowed four or more sacks in three of the last four games. Osweiler is even less mobile than Siemian so it looks like another fun day for the Eagles pass rushers. The Broncos will try to run the ball but the Eagles have the No. 1 rush defense in the league, allowing just 70.4 yards per game.

Denver's defense will keep the game close for awhile — Wentz will probably see a lot of Von Miller — but it is a tough assignment for a team playing its third straight road game and coming off a Monday night loss in Kansas City. It doesn't hurt the Eagles have been home for three weeks either.

Eagles 24, Broncos 16

Andrew Kulp (7-1)
The Eagles are going to be tested in three ways.

First, the NFL's No. 1 run defense will face a quality ground attack for the first time since Week 2 against the Chiefs. Denver's stable of running backs (C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, Devonate Booker) is deep and talented and should see plenty of work given the quarterback situation there.

Second, offensive tackles Lane Johnson and especially Halapoulivaati Vaitai are going to have their hands full with Miller. The five-time Pro Bowl selection is capable of taking over a game by himself, which the Eagles cannot allow to happen (see position breakdowns).

Third and finally, this is the best secondary and defense Wentz has faced so far this season. Everybody knows Wentz is the real deal, but so are Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Wentz must be able to find his second, third or fourth options and check the ball down when nothing is there — and most of all, avoid turnovers.

That's a long checklist, but this team can do it. Unless Osweiler is completely inept under center for the Broncos (which is plausible), it's going to be a tight game. But the Eagles can do this.

Eagles 25, Broncos 16

Corey Seidman (5-3)
Unlike last Sunday against the 49ers, I could see an ever-so-slight path to victory for the Broncos. Why? Because they excel in man coverage and have the defensive backs to shut down Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. They have the run defense to create many 2nd-and-longs or 3rd-and-longs. Could Denver win this game with a TD and three field goals? 

I still think the Eagles pull it out but it’s going to be a closer and more stressful game than most think. 

Eagles 20, Broncos 16

LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

AP Images

LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

A big piece of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season is moving on. 

Running Back LeGarrette Blount has signed with the Detroit Lions. Blount's deal will be for one-year, $4.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Blount, 31, was scheduled to visit the Lions on Friday and he didn’t leave without a new deal. He’ll reunite with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator in New England when Blount was there; the familiarity probably helped. 

Last offseason, Blount took his time deciding where he’d land. He didn’t sign with the Eagles until May and his contract was worth around $1 million. He apparently showed enough during 2017 to get a bigger deal this time around. 

After beginning the season as the Eagles’ primary runner, he eventually saw his role diminish after the Birds added Jay Ajayi through a trade. Still, Blount played in all 16 games and rushed for 766 yards during the regular season. More importantly, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Blount had a rushing touchdown in all three playoff games after having just two during the regular season. 

Perhaps more important than his contributions on the field, it was Blount’s unselfish nature that seemed to rub off on his teammates. When he and Alshon Jeffery were on board with that unselfish mindset, it seemed like the rest of the team followed. 

As recently as late February, Blount indicated he wanted to return to Philadelphia, where he really seemed to fit in the locker room and under running backs coach Duce Staley, whom Blount clearly respects. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there,” Blount said in February on NFL Network. “They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys.”

While Blount said he wanted to return to Philly, it was unlikely the Eagles could have (or would have) offered him the type of contract he’s getting from the Lions. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles still have Ajayi and Corey Clement under contract from last season. Kenjon Barner is a free agent. The running back position still seems up in the air, but the Eagles have a few months and a draft to figure it out. 

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

USA Today Images/AP Images

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate.