When the Eagles fell to 0-2-1, and had a three-game stretch of San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Baltimore coming up, hope for the season seemed completely gone.
Then, the Eagles beat San Francisco. They then almost escaped Pittsburgh with a win.
And on Sunday, I think they are going to cap off the three-game stretch with a win over Baltimore.
Here is why I think the Eagles are going to beat the Ravens on Sunday:
The Ravens aren’t a great passing team:
The Ravens have been one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL so far this season, averaging just 178.8 yards-per-game through the air. That is good for 31st in the NFL, ahead of only the New York Jets. Even the Eagles, who have had one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks in the league and have had major issues at receiver, average more passing yards.
One of the main reasons the Ravens have struggled to move the ball through the air has been the play of Lamar Jackson. The 2019 NFL MVP is one of the mot dangerous players in the game, but he has also been one of the most inaccurate passers in the league so far this season. On the year, only 73.3% of Jackson’s passes have been deemed “on target” by Pro Football Reference. That is good for 28th in the NFL. He has about as many passing yards (949) as Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has been benched and didn’t play last week.
Almost always when the Eagles lose it is because of big plays in the passing game and a struggling secondary. The Ravens don’t project to be a team that will come into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and be able to throw their way to a win.
The Eagles can stop the run:
The Ravens have been able to win since the midway point of 2018 by running the ball. The Ravens’ rushing attack will be a test for the Eagles, as they average 160.8 yards-per-game on the ground, good for 3rd in the NFL.
That good news is that plays right into the Eagles’ strength, as rarely do the Eagles lose because of their run defense.
Since 2016, with Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator, the Eagles are 1st in the NFL against the run. This season they have been very solid, entering Week 6 9th in the NFL in yards-per-carry allowed and 10th first-downs allowed on the ground. The Eagles have had some issues with misdirection plays, which have hurt them on the ground, but they have done an excellent job lining up and stopping traditional running plays.
It is possible, but history shows it is unlikely, that the Ravens are able to run their way to a win against the Eagles.
Fans in the stands:
The Eagles had to deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers getting a boost from their home crowd last Sunday. This week, they get that advantage over Baltimore, as there will be around 5,500 fans in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field. For a team that has often come out flat most games this year, having fans should be the boost they need to get off to a good start on Sunday.
Eagles are starting to score points:
The Eagles main issue this season, and really the last two years, has been a below-average offense. It is the main reason they fell to 0-2-1. But over the last two weeks, things have started to improve.
In the first three games of 2020, the Eagles’ averaged only 19.6. Over the last 2 that number has gone up to 27.0. Some of those points came from the defense, but no matter how they are getting them, the bottom line is the Eagles are starting to put up points again.
The Ravens defense is very good. Arguably the best in the NFL. But unlike the first three weeks, the offense has shown enough over the last two weeks for there to be real hope that the Eagles can find a way to put enough points on the board to come away with a win.
Might be getting Jackson at the right time:
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is correct that Lamar Jackson is one of the most dangerous players in the league. Over the last few weeks, however, that has not been the case.
Jackson has had two of the worst games of his career over the last three weeks, struggling against both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished with a passer rating of 73.1 against the Chiefs, and then after having a good game against Washington, finished with a 71.9 passer rating against the Bengals.
What is noticeable is how little he is running the ball. Jackson’s ability to take any play to the house on the ground has always been what makes him special, but over the last two weeks, he has attempted just nine runs. That is the lowest two-game total of his career since he became the starter in 2019. Those nine runs have totaled just 56 yards. While he insists it isn’t bothering him, it likely isn’t a coincidence that he is running it less while dealing with a knee injury.
If Jackson isn’t going to be running the ball, he is going to have to beat the Eagles from the pocket, and as noted above, the Ravens have struggled mightily this season to move the ball though the air.
Carson Wentz is improving:
It has not been pretty. The floor was set very low. But there is no denying that Carson Wentz is starting to pull himself out of his horrendous start to the season.
Over the last three weeks, Wentz has steadily improved. He played his best football of Week 3 in the fourth quarter. He willed the team to a win in Week 4.
Then, in Week 5, Wentz had his best game of the season against the Steelers, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Eagles to 29 points. The fact he did it against the best defense he has faced this season make his performance that much more impressive. His accuracy issues remain, but at the very least he hasn’t been actively hurting the offense, which he was the first three weeks.
Turnovers remain an issue, but against a Baltimore team that has a good, but not great, pass rush, Wentz should have time in the pocket. If he plays the same game he did against Pittsburgh, the Eagles have a great chance to win the game.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Ravens 21
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!