Eagles

Rash of star injuries will help Eagles down stretch

ap-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
AP Images

Rash of star injuries will help Eagles down stretch

Any observer who follows the NFL on a weekly basis can tell you it is incredibly unpredictable. There was a strong contingent of folks who prior to the season believed the New York Jets would not win a game. They already have four victories through nine games. 

The L.A. Rams, who won all of four games last season, are off to a 6-2 start. 

Jacksonville has a better record than the NFC champion Falcons. 

Even Cleveland ... oh wait, never mind. But you get the point. There's a reason why Vegas has all of those big, fancy buildings and why your friendly neighborhood buddy who you call every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday continues to keep taking those calls. They're making money off of you and the betting public because this is a tough league to predict. 

It's difficult to win on a weekly basis in the NFL. Which makes the Eagles' 8-1 start and streak of seven straight wins that much more impressive. Simply put, they have played better football than any other team through nine games. This has been no fluke. It should be pointed out, however, that in those first nine games, only two of those teams currently have a winning record, the Chiefs and Panthers. Certainly not the Eagles' fault — they've contributed to the fact that the Redskins are 4-4, handing them two of those losses. But the schedule gets tougher down the stretch as they face 5-3 Dallas twice, the 6-3 Seahawks and the aforementioned 6-2 Rams. Three of those games come on the road.

And while the Eagles themselves have suffered some major losses with season-ending injuries to Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles, the teams they have coming up over their final seven games will be without some big-time firepower as well. Let's take a look.

Cowboys — Week 11 and 17
Stop me if you've heard this before but Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. At least for right now. The Birds would miss him a week from Sunday at Dallas. He would be eligible to return for the season finale in Philadelphia. Who knows if that game will hold any meaning to the Eagles. Elliott rushed for an NFL-high 1,631 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns as a rookie and was the second-leading rusher this season prior to the suspension. 

The Cowboys are a vastly different team without Elliott and there will be a great deal more pressure on Dak Prescott if their run game does not flourish with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Not to mention a defense that could be exposed if the Cowboys can't control the ball or put up a lot of points.

Seahawks — Week 13
The Seahawks were dealt a major blow when they lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season to a torn Achilles Thursday night. Sherman is a shutdown corner who has accumulated 32 interceptions in seven seasons. And at 6-foot-3, he is a physical, willing tackler. Sherman's absence will really change the dynamic of a Seahawks defense that, while still very good, is not quite what it once was a few years back. 

With Sherman in the game Thursday, Cardinals QB Drew Stanton rarely threw to his side. Once Sherman left, the Cardinals threw to that side with regularity.

Giants — Week 15
New York is a hide-the-children-and-pets kind of bad this season. Ben McAdoo and his coif shouldn't be buying any green bananas but this was a team that won 11 games and made the playoffs last year. So what happened? Injuries for one. The Giants will be without arguably the league's best receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 15 vs. the Eagles, not to mention Brandon Marshall. 

Injuries aren't the only reason this team is 1-7. They've had players go AWOL, their O-line stinks, Eli Manning may be nearing the end of the road, and McAdoo appears to be lost. But no Beckham in a game that late in the season that may have major playoff implications for the Eagles. It could be huge. Especially coming off what appears a very tough back-to-back on the road at Seattle and at Los Angeles against the Rams.

I, for one, don't subscribe to the "give me the other teams' best" school of thinking. If the Eagles can miss Elliott for a game, or Sherman, or OBJ, great. When you've never won a Super Bowl, I'll take the path of least resistance. I'm pretty sure Cowboys or Rams fans aren't shedding any tears over Jason Peters being out in those games. Take it any way you can get it. And enjoy the ride.

Alshon Jeffery listed as questionable vs. Cowboys

injury-report-eagles.jpg

Alshon Jeffery listed as questionable vs. Cowboys

Alshon Jeffery will be listed as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas. 

The Eagles' receiver popped up on the injury report with an ankle injury on Thursday, when he was limited. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said he expects Jeffery to play and he's optimistic he'll be able to go. On Thursday, Jeffery said he will "most definitely" play against the Cowboys. 

"It's been kind of lingering a little while," Pederson said. "There's no really one particular game or instance. It's hard for me to even put a finger on when it happened or how it happened. 

"It's something too in his case with all the cutting and stopping and starting in practice and games and where we are at that time of the year, you're going to start seeing more and more guys get added to the list or taken some reps off at practice, just so we can keep them healthy for Sunday."

Zach Ertz (hamstring), Ronald Darby (ankle) and Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) were full participants on Wednesday and Thursday, the two most important practice days of the week. The Eagles will practice in their bubble on Friday afternoon. Barring setbacks, Ertz and Darby should make their returns on Sunday. 

Ertz missed the Denver game and Darby hasn't played since Week 1, when he dislocated his right ankle. 

The Cowboys are reportedly going to be without left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee. They're also missing Ezekiel Elliott, who will serve the second game of his six-game suspension.

Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 11 picks: 2 games that will impact Eagles

Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 11 picks: 2 games that will impact Eagles

Derrick Gunn makes his picks for Week 11 of the NFL season.

Eagles at Cowboys (Sunday 8:30 p.m. on NBC)
Now that their bye week is over, the Eagles are focused on wrapping up the NFC East. Dallas is licking its wounds after getting manhandled down in Atlanta. Ezekiel Elliott is serving his suspension. LB Sean Lee is out with a hamstring injury, and Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith is ailing with a groin injury. It all sounds too easy for the Birds, but with Dak Prescott on the other side, they’re not about to overlook this one. And they still remember what happened in Dallas last season.

Without Elliott and Smith, trying to establish a ground game against the Eagles’ top-ranked run defense will be near impossible. Dallas is 0-2 in games Lee hasn't played in this season. Carson Wentz will spread the wealth through the air, and now that Jay Ajayi has had extended time to get familiar with the offense, the Birds' running attack should be even more diversified. If the Eagles' defense can make the Cowboys' offense one-dimensional, it's game over.

Pick: Eagles 27, Cowboys 17

Detroit at Chicago (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The Bears’ defense is actually decent, ranked ninth overall, but the offense is abysmal. In their last two outings, the Bears hung tough, losing by eight to New Orleans and by seven to Green Bay. Chicago just doesn't have enough offensive firepower to hang with Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

Pick: Lions

Jacksonville at Cleveland (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
This is a matchup of feast or famine, and the Jags' defense (first in sacks with 35) should be doing a lot of feasting. The Jags are tied for first in the AFC South and should win their fourth in a row.

Pick: Jaguars

Baltimore at Green Bay (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
Aaron Rodgers’ replacement Brett Hundley has improved each week, but this time he's facing a Ravens defense that leads the league in interceptions with 13. It is likely the Packers will be without their top two rushers. Joe Flacco has been a disappointment this year (eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions) but he will pile up yards against a generous Packers' pass defense. Ravens win a close one.

Pick: Ravens

Tampa Bay at Miami (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The 3-6 Bucs vs. 4-5 Fins. No one expected both of these teams to have losing records at this stage of the season. Tampa’s list of offensive weapons on paper is impressive but has not lived up to expectations. The Dolphins are a mess, losing the last three and giving up 40 or more points in two of their last three. Somebody has to win this battle of Florida. Bucs get a slight nod.

Pick: Bucs

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
This clash of division leaders is worth watching as both are 7-2 and behind the Eagles in the NFC. The Rams are the best scoring offense (32.9 points per game) and are facing the Vikings’ No. 5 scoring defense (18.3 ppg). Jared Goff has come into his own and Case Keenum has been solid. It comes down to which defense can get the most stops. The Vikings’ D is really good and playing at home. Advantage Minnesota.

Pick: Vikings

Washington at New Orleans (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The 'Skins keep losing frontline bodies while the Saints, at 7-2, just keep winning. Drew Brees has completed a minimum of 71 percent of his passes the last four games and the Saints' D isn’t bad, ranked eighth overall. The Redskins will not win in the Bayou.

Pick: Saints

Kansas City at New York Giants (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
Andy Reid's crew is lucky the rest of the AFC West is struggling. The Chiefs have had a bye week to fix the problems they had against Dallas. Meanwhile, the Giants have become a laughingstock. Players are getting suspended, and others are grumbling. The Giants will do a lot of sulking after Kansas City is through with them.

Pick: Chiefs

Arizona at Houston (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
Both teams are without their starting QBs. The Cardinals still don't know who will start this one, Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton. Tom Savage has been ineffective for Houston the last two games (46 completion percentage, two touchdowns and two interceptions). All of the Cardinals’ losses have been against teams with winning records. This will be ‘Zona’s first loss to a team under .500.

Pick: Texans

Buffalo at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday 4:05 p.m. on FOX)
What has happened to the Bills? The defense can't stop anybody. The Bills are losers of two straight and now QB Tyrod Taylor is benched. Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol. If it’s a battle of backup QBs, I’ll take the Chargers’ Kellen Clemens over the Bills’ rookie Nathan Peterman.

Pick: Chargers

Cincinnati at Denver (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
The only thing these two 3-6 teams have left to play for is pride. The Broncos have lost five straight and the last three to the Chiefs, Eagles and Patriots. The Bengals are minus-9 in turnover differential but Andy Dalton, who hasn't thrown a pick in his last three games, will lead Cincy to victory.

Pick: Bengals

New England at Oakland (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
Like them or not, the Patriots just keep finding ways to win. Their defense is ranked dead last, yet once again, they control the AFC East. Old Man Brady still has many tricks up his sleeve and will dissect the Raiders’ defense.

Pick: Patriots

Atlanta at Seattle (8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN)
The Falcons were impressive against Dallas, but that was in their dome. This one will be outdoors in the cold with possible rain, and the 'Hawks' 12th man will be out in full force. Seattle can't run the ball but Russell Wilson can carry this team on his back. The Seahawks desperately need a win to stay close to the Rams. They’ll get the W.

Pick: Seahawks