Match-Up Focus: Eagles vs Lions

PREVIOUS GAME RESULTS

2015 WEEK 12 – PHI 14 DET 45

2013 WEEK 14 – DET 20 PHI 34

2012 WEEK 6 – DET 26 PHI 23

Player to Watch – Zach Ertz

Following a week 1 injury TE Zach Ertz will be back on the field.  He suffered a displaced rib vs the Browns and was able to heal over the bye week.  Trey Burton and Brent Celek did an admirable job filling in.  My writing partner and I have been salivating over what Burton and Ertz could do as a tandem.  Hopefully Sunday the wrapping will be taken off.  Ertz had a nice game week 1 grading out 73.9 per PFF.com.  The Lions defense has really struggled this year especially against TEs.  Look for Ertz to have a solid game over the middle and down the seam.  Through 3 weeks you can see the Eagles love to run their WRs on short and shallow crossing routes over the middle.  Ertz will need to stretch the middle to give these guys room.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Ertz found the end zone Sunday.  He’s a favorite target of QB Carson Wentz.

Player to Watch – Wendell Smallwood

Wendell Smallwood saw increased action vs the Steelers.  After a training camp ankle injury crept up again on starter Ryan Mathews, Smallwood was thrust into the action.  Vs the Steelers he saw 31 total snaps.  10 receiving snaps and 21 running snaps led to a nice performance.  Smallwood graded out overall at 59.8 with 60.4 in the run game and a 56.1 in the pass game per PFF.com.  For a rookie I thought he showed good patience.  He was able to press the hole when needed and didn’t bounce it outside too quick as most rookie backs do.  His playing time will depend on the availability of Ryan Mathews.  Mathews is a down hill runner.  His style isn’t always the best match up for fast defenses that can rome side to side like the Steelers.  Smallwood was a nice change of pace.

Match-Up to Watch – Jordan Matthews vs Darius Slay

Slay is the Lions best CB and best overall defender per per PFF.com grading out 86.9 on a scale of 1-100.  Through the first quarter of the season he’s been a top 5 CB.  He mostly plays on the left side of the Detroit defense.  I don’t expect him to travel as the Eagles don’t have a WR threat that would warrant him to do so.  Matthews has been a nice surprise this year for the Eagles.  He’s leading a unit that was much maligned coming to the 2016 season.  Matthews has the size advantage but Slay as the speed advantage.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Through 3 games Matthews has 15 Rec 204 yards and 2 TDs with an average 13.6 per catch.  After 4 weeks of the season Jordan Matthews has graded out as the 43rd best WR in the league.  Nothing to write home about but most WRs have another game in hand as the Eagles had an early bye.  I expect the Eagles to stay away from Slay as they have some real favorable match-ups else where including the TE spot as mentioned earlier.  Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs the Lions other corners have struggled this year.  Both have graded out 47.4 and 45.1 respectively.  The Eagles should be able to take advantage opposite Slay per PFF.com.

Player to Watch – Connor Barwin

Barwin will be returning to where it all began this weekend, Detroit, as the Eagles square off against the Lions. The native from Detroit has adapted well this season changing from a 3-4 to 4-3 despite the low grade from Pro Football Focus. PFF has Barwin graded at 48.4 this season which is 65th amongst edge defenders. He’s recorded only one sack through three games which came in the opener against Cleveland. Eagles fans should not be concerned with the lack of production from Barwin. He’s a reliable player who is never going to wow with his physical ability, but he can be trusted to perform his assignment which the defense calls for. Barwin will likely be facing off with rookie tackle Taylor Decker who protects the blindside for Matthew Stafford. Decker has performed well as a rookie out of Ohio State grading as the 37th best tackle according to PFF. He actually earned the top offensive grade last week against the Bears where PFF applauded him for his flawless pass protection. Decker has graded out relatively evenly in both blocking categories thus far, and appears Detroit finally made a solid first round selection in the draft.

Player to Watch – Golden Tate

I was originally going to use Eric Ebron as my player to watch for the Lions, but the oft injured tight end has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Instead I’ll highlight another key player for the Lions offense who has been MIA in 2016. Tate has only caught seven passes for 54 yards through the first three games which is hardly acceptable for a starting wide receiver unless your name is Riley Cooper. Detroit signed free agent wideout Marvin Jones during the offseason who has attempted to fill the shoes of Calvin Johnson. Jones has clearly become the Lions number one receiver while Tate is no longer a focal point of the offensive attack. Pro Football Focus has graded Tate at 53.1 making him 86th among wide receivers. It’s possible Tate was simply a by product of defenses focusing on Megatron, but one reception for one yard against the Bears defense is almost unexplainable. The Lions have been a doormat for years, however in recent times they had an offense which at least generated impressive passing statistics. Detroit ranks 13th in the league averaging slightly under 24 points a game largely imploded by Week 1 against the Colts defense.

Match-Up to Watch – Riley Reiff vs Brandon Graham

Taylor Decker has been solid on the left side of the line for the Lions while right tackle Riley Reiff has earned high grades as well. Pro Football Focus has graded Reiff at 81.7 through four games which ranks him 13th amongst tackles. Reiff has specifically earned high honors as it relates to the run blocking game even though Detroit struggles to run the football with the absence of Ameer Abdullah. This weekend Reiff will square off against Brandon Graham who is arguably playing the best football of his career. He’s finally back to the defensive scheme which fits his skillset, and has been a force in every game. PFF has ranked Graham as the 4th best edge defender placing him only three spots behind Von Miller. Graham has graded out higher as a pass rusher, but he’s also done a great job being physical in the run game. One of the concerns with Jim Schwartz’s “wide-nine” scheme was the defensive ends getting too far up field thus exposing the linebackers. Graham has been tremendous setting the edge and also making the tackle in most instances where the ball is ran towards his side. Fletcher Cox earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. You can argue this was due in large part to the play of Graham allowing more freedom for Cox in turn.

Source: Pro Football Focus

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