Eagles

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

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles guard/center Josh Andrews:

Roob: Let's clear the air first. You're definitely not related to Shawn Andrews?

Josh Andrews: No, I'm not. No relation to Shawn Andrews at all.

Roob: So that's one positive. Do you get that a lot?

Andrews: I've got it a few times now, but no relation.

Roob: Alright well that's good to know. Now, you've got a really interesting story. You've been here four years now. Talk about when you came here in '14, were there a lot of teams trying to sign you out of Oregon State? How did that whole thing go?

Andrews: Went undrafted, about three teams tried to grab me, but felt like the best fit was for the Eagles and I've been here ever since.

Roob: It's really crazy because obviously, they like you. Obviously, Chip (Kelly) liked you. Obviously, Doug (Pederson) likes you. But you haven't had a chance to play. How do you balance being here, preparing like you're gonna play every week and not having gotten that chance yet?

Andrews: Just gotta have that mindset to get ready every week. That's how I've been since I've been here. My time is coming, I just gotta wait and do what's best for this team right now and keep us winning.

Roob: Now there was a really interesting thing on Tuesday, Jim Schwartz, without prompting, I don't know if you heard about this, he mentioned you as far as talking about how guys on the offense help the defense prepare. And he mentioned that you'll go to him and say, 'Hey we're figuring this out in running scout team.' Because you run scout team center or guard, I guess mainly center I would think. That's kind of unusual for a defensive coordinator to mention a scout team offensive lineman. What do you bring to him? What do you see from the first defense that can maybe help?

Andrews: Just blocking schemes you know, the way that they're ran. Say if (Fletcher Cox) needs help with something I'll be like 'I think this is the best way to go.' And it's been working. They've been getting home a lot this season and it's really been paying off for our defense.

Roob: How hard is it to not play?

Andrews: Man, it's tough. It's really tough. But just gotta keep going. I love playing this sport and I will continue as long as I can. 

Roob: I remember there was one game, I think it was 2015, where somebody got hurt and you ran on the field and then they didn't leave the game. 

Andrews: Oh yeah, that was against the Cowboys in 2015. Lane (Johnson) got hurt, pretty sure it was Lane. And I was about to go in and then he came back on the field. I was like, 'Ah man, that was my shot.' But, I gotta keep positive. Gotta keep that positive mindset. That's how I've been ever since I've been here.

Roob: Now you've actually been here longer than most of the team. (Jason) Kelce's a guy who's been here your whole time. What have you learned from being around him, watching him play, watching him practice?

Andrews: He's such a smart guy man. On the field, the way he just commands attention, the way he commands the offensive line is just impressive to see. I try to mimic that every time I step on the field. I've learned so much from him over these past four years and he's just a great player to learn from and be under. 

Roob: Now preseason games I guess are like your Super Bowl now, right? Cause that's your chance to play. What do those games mean to you? You're not playing a lot. A few of them you're playing a lot. But what does it mean to get out there and have a chance to play?

Andrews: It's gold man. That's everything for me right now. When I get a chance to get on that field, I give it all I got. I've done that ever since I've been here. That's just, like you said, my Super Bowl. Every time I go on that field I give it all I got. 

Roob: What's (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Stoutland meant to you? You've been around him a while now. 

Andrews: Great mentor. Great teacher. He's just been wonderful. He's really hard on us and it's for a good reason, to get us better and get us playing at a high level. That's the way he commands the player and I like that. 

Roob: What's special about this team now? You've been on some good teams and some bad teams since you've been here but you guys are rolling, 8-1, seven-game winning streak going into Dallas Sunday night. What do you like about the kind of vibe in this locker room?

Andrews: The vibe is awesome. Everyone's on the same page. Everyone's with each other. It's been really different from the past three teams I've been on. I feel like we're gonna go far with the team we got right now. 

Roob: Alright last question. Chip Kelly, do you think he's going to take the Florida job?

Andrews: Sheesh, I don't know. We'll see. That's a good question.

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

ap-carson-wentz.jpg
USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott — both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.