Background/Storylines: Eagles (3-2) and Lions (1-3)
The Eagles come into Week 6 as a team that is much better than it’s record—and +/- for that matter. They have yet to play a complete game on offense, thank in no small part to turnovers. Michael Vick has been the biggest culprit in that department with 9 turnovers through five games. The one bright spot offensively, however, has definitely been the running game with nearly 150 yards from Vick and 437 for LeSean McCoy, whose been excellent in spite of the Eagles’ below-average offensive line; on another team he’d likely have upwards of 550 yards to date. Defensively, the Eagles have been solid for the most part with an improved linebacking corps and fantastic play from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The sacks haven’t been there, but almost everything else has.
The Lions, like the Steelers last week, are coming off of their bye with a sense of desperation. Their defense, despite the immense amount of talent is possesses in its front seven, has struggled to stop opponents from scoring, ranking 26th in the league with 28 points allowed per game. That has mainly been because of the lack of turnovers they generate; they’re one of the top teams when it comes to yardage allowed, but they give up too many points to be competitive. On offense, last year’s production has taken a huge hit with a disappointing season from young QB Matthew Stafford, who’s struggled out of the gate, throwing 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions on his way to a subpar quarterback rating.
Fantasy Watch: Jeremy Maclin (PHI) and Mike Leshoure (DET)
The Lions are strong up front and at linebacker, but their secondary is shockingly subpar. I fully expect Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to have excellent performances, but of the two, Maclin will have the stronger fantasy day as he goes up against Bill Bentley. Bentley has the speed to keep up with Jackson, but he doesn’t have the physicality or vertical leap to prevent Maclin from making a couple deep receptions. There is no reason for Maclin to spend the day on your bench.
My projected stats for Maclin: 94 yards receiving, 1 TD
Jahvid Best has been projected to return by some experts, but given the uncertainty over his recent concussion results, I’d still give the start to Leshoure in deeper, 12-16 team leagues. The Eagles’ run defense has been inconsistent with strong performances against Cleveland, Arizona and New York but poor displays against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Leshoure has given the Lions a reason to run the ball, and they’ll give it to him early and often against the Eagles.
My projected stats for Best: 56 yards rushing, 37 yards receiving, 1 TD
Key Matchup: LeSean McCoy vs Stephen Tulloch
Stephen Tulloch was one of the many options the Eagles considered bringing in to fill the void at MLB before the trade for DeMeco Ryans. He hasn’t been fantastic so far this season, but the matchup between him and LeSean McCoy is certainly a big one to watch whenever the two are on the field together. McCoy made Steelers’ LBs look silly last week, and he can turn any run, even a busted play, into a first-down carry. It will be Tulloch’s job on Detroit’s defense to contain him, and it will be interesting to see whether he can get upfield and make the key tackles on 1st and 2nd down.
If Shady can start breaking free for longer runs, the Eagles will have a lot more room in the secondary to find Jackson and Maclin. If Tulloch can make those tackles early, however, Reid will likely become one-dimensional and put the offense in a bad spot.
X-Factor: Nnamdi Asomugha (PHI) and Matthew Stafford (DET)
It’s hard to go an entire article about the Lions without mentioned Calvin “MegaTron” Johnson, one of the league’s top WRs and a potential future Hall of Famer. Johnson has the height, the athleticism and the ball skills to make any catch, no matter where on the field or how many defenders are on him. The Eagles biggest job on Sunday will be to stop MegaTron, and the bulk of the responsibility will fall on Nnamdi Asomugha. The Eagles need him to a better job than he did against Larry Fitzgerald, otherwise their defense could be back on its heels all game. If No. 24 can keep the ball out of Johnson’s hands for most of the game, there is no doubt in my mind that the Eagles will win.
Stafford has been the one person holding this offense back this season; last season, even when the team’s running game was non-existent, Stafford found a way to win games with his arm. Now, even with a decent running back committee, Stafford has found ways to lose. When he plays well, his connection with MegaTron is almost unbreakable. They can hook up for 15 receptions and 250 yards any day of the week because of the immense talent each possesses; when he’s off his game, however, Stafford can be pressured into bad throws that don’t put his receivers—including Nate Burleson and Titus Young—in the best position. That’s why he’s Detroit’s “X-Factor”.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Lions 17
After starting the season 4-1, I’m confident that I can keep it going. The Eagles haven’t been great, but against an underachieving Lions team, it’s tough to see them losing. That doesn’t, however, mean that they can get complacent; the Lions have a lot of talent, they just haven’t been able to put it all together. If Philly comes out and lays an egg like they did against Arizona, things could get ugly for them.