The Eagles (0-2) are hosting the Bengals (0-2) at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.
Here are five key matchups to watch:
Joe Burrow vs. Jim Schwartz
The Eagles are coming off a terrible defensive performance, one that Schwartz blamed on himself. He said he went into the Rams game with a game plan that was too simple and it burned them when the Rams scored three touchdowns to start the game.
The good news for the Eagles is that Schwartz has been very good against rookie quarterbacks the last four years. In fact, he’s 6-1 against rookie quarterbacks since taking over as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator (Dak Prescott x2, C.J. Bethard, Mitchell Trubisky, Luke Falk, Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones). The only loss in seven tries came against Prescott back in 2016.
In Week 2 against the Browns, Burrow was impressive. He threw for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns in a losing effort.
Watching him in that game, he didn’t look like a rookie. He had tremendous pocket awareness.
“The biggest thing now that you see from him is just the progression,” Jalen Mills said. “ And it’s actually really good, knowing that he didn’t have OTAs in the offseason, where you see during the offseason, quarterbacks go out of town, they get to throw with their receivers and things like that. You see him at the line making checks … as a rookie, that’s very, very impressive. Also, he’s moving out of simple sacks that you see, younger quarterbacks not moving their feet or they don’t have awareness, and guys are grabbing them and pulling them to the ground."
Bengals WRs vs. Eagles corners
It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles play these Bengals receivers. Because A.J. Green is obviously the big name, but he’s 32 now and doesn’t appear to be the same player he once was. So is it worth having Darius Slay travel with him? Or might Slay play more on Tyler Boyd, who is the Bengals’ leading receiver with 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
It’s worth noting that while Boyd is their leading receiver, Green has been targeted way more. He has 22 targets already but just eight catches. That shows that at least Burrow is looking his way.
Boyd has mostly been on the left side of the field and Green on the right, but they will mix it up some. They did last week.
Either way, it’ll be a tough matchup for Avonte Maddox on the other side against either the 6-foot-4 Green or the 6-2 Boyd. And the Bengals also have John Ross and Tee Higgins. Ross is a speedy target who has never been able to translate his timed speed into football production. But you still have to know when he’s out there. And Higgins is a rookie second-round pick. Another 6-4 receiver, Higgins has three catches for 35 yards so far.
Joe Mixon vs. Eagles run defense
Under Jim Schwartz the Eagles have been a very good defense against the run but that certainly wasn’t the case against the Rams last week. The Eagles gave up 191 yards on the ground against the Rams. That’s the second-most in the Schwartz Era and the most since Week 6 back in 2016.
The Eagles failed in all three levels to stop the run against the Rams and will have a really good running back in town this Sunday.
Mixon is in his fourth NFL season and went over 1,100 yards in each of his last two seasons. In 2020, he has 115 yards in two weeks and is still without a touchdown. The Bengals don’t have a very good offensive line and they’ve been passing the ball a ton, but this is still a matchup to watch.
Eagles run game vs. Bengals’ run defense
The Eagles were already without Brandon Brooks and now they’re without Isaac Seumalo with a significant knee injury. That means the Eagles will have inexperienced guards this weekend against the Bengals.
But that’s even more reason for the Eagles to run the ball against a Bengals team that has been really bad against the run for a while now.
Through two weeks, the Bengals have given up 370 rushing yards and four touchdowns. They are the 30th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL and just gave up 215 on the ground to Cleveland last Thursday. And it’s not like this is a new trend.
Here’s where the Bengals have ranked against the run the last few years:
Now, a lot of this goes hand in hand with being a bad football team. When teams get leads, they generally run the ball more. But this goes beyond that for the Bengals, who actually have struggled against the run for years now. Even if they get Geno Atkins back, the Eagles still need to run the ball early and often.
Miles Sanders has a good 2020 debut aside from his fumble against the Rams. There’s no reason that shouldn’t continue in Week 3.
This should be the Eagles’ game plan in Week 3. Run the ball, control the clock and make things easier on your struggling quarterback.
Carson Wentz vs. Carson Wentz
We’ve spent a lot of time on QB1 this week so you already know the deal. He needs to be better. There’s just no way around that.
“I’m as confident in myself and this team as I’ve ever been,” Wentz said.
OK, we’ll find out on Sunday. As far as the Bengals’ secondary, Cincinnati’s pass defense is actually ranked seventh in the league after two games. But they’ve also been so susceptible to the run that it might not mean that much.
This is just about Wentz not looking lost anymore and not being the worst quarterback in the league. He needs to at least make the routine throws on Sunday.