The Eagles (7-7) gave themselves new life last week by beating the Rams in L.A. and now they’ll face another tough test when the Texans (10-4) pay a visit Sunday to Lincoln Financial Field.
If the Eagles want to sneak into the playoffs, they need to keep winning and hope some other things fall their way. But if they don’t win, it doesn’t matter.
Here are five matchups to watch Sunday:
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Rasul Douglas/Avonte Maddox
If Nuk Hopkins isn’t the best receiver in the NFL, he’s damn close. In 14 games, he has 94 catches for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns. It’s his second straight 90-catch, 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown season. That’s pretty impressive. The most incredible thing about him is his ability to make spectacular catches. It’s not a 50-50 ball with him. He’s much more likely to come down with the ball with some of the best hands in the NFL.
The good news for the Eagles is that their secondary situation seems somewhat settled with Douglas and Maddox outside and Cre’Von LeBlanc in the nickel spot. It’ll be up to Douglas and Maddox to handle Hopkins. It’s interesting because Douglas is a particularly long corner, while Maddox is just 5-9. Hopkins will be a tough test for both.
Texans’ OL vs. Eagles’ defensive line
Fletcher Cox had one sack last week and it was the only sack of the game. But sacks don’t tell the full story and the Eagles’ defensive line routinely got to Jared Goff and really changed that game. They’ll have a chance to do it again this weekend.
The weak spot of this Texans team is its offensive line. They have given up a league-high 52 sacks this season. For perspective, the Eagles have given up just 36 and are around the middle in the NFL. This might be a chance for Cox, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham to really get after it.
Deshaun Watson vs. Eagles’ linebackers
The Texans’ quarterback is coming off an ACL tear last season, but he hasn’t been afraid to get back to running with the football this year and the Eagles have been burned by quarterbacks running the ball this season. Watson has 78 rushing attempts for 436 yards (5.6 per attempt) and two touchdowns this season. The Eagles have to be aware of where he is at all times and know he could take off.
Remember what other QBs have been able to do against the Eagles on the ground this season:
Cam Newton: 7 carries, 49 yards
Marcus Mariota: 10 carries, 46 yards, touchdown
Blake Bortles: 8 carries, 43 yards
Andrew Luck: 1 carry, 33 yards
Eagles’ OL vs. J.J. Watt/Jadeveon Clowney
One of the big reasons the Eagles are back in the playoff hunt is because the offensive line that has been struggling with injuries all season is finally healthy and playing to its potential. The Eagles will need another big game against the Texans’ dominant pass rush. These are strengths for both teams.
Watt has 14 1/2 sacks and Clowney has 8 this season. They can flat-out get after the quarterback. And then the Texans also have Whitney Mercilus, who is a skilled pass rusher in his own right when he’s in the right position. The toughest part about Watt and Clowney is they move these guys all over the formation. Watt will be completely wide or over center at times.
Nick Foles vs. Tyrann Mathieu
Foles had a pretty good game last week against the Rams, but he needs to be careful throwing the ball in this secondary with Mathieu and fellow safety Justin Reid. Mathieu has just two picks this year, but he’s such a dangerous player back there and has really given that Texans secondary a boost.
Foles isn’t afraid to throw up the ball and let his receivers make plays, but that can be a dangerous risk against a guy like Mathieu.
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