With the Eagles finally ready to take the stage today at 1 p.m. against Detroit, you might be wondering what to expect out of them. Look no further. We’ll be diving into expectations big and small, from newcomers in midnight green to those on the sideline.
Some will be reasonable, some will be controversial, but they’ll all be something to watch for as the Birds look to improve upon their 9-8 record last season.
1. A.J. Brown starts off his Eagles debut with a TD or two
A.J. Brown should see around a dozen targets Sunday. Many of those should absolutely be coming on deep balls or in the red zone.
Smith finally gave the Eagles an ideal receiver last year, but with five TDs, he wasn’t exactly a prime scoring target yet. And while he had the same number with the Titans in 2021, Brown saw 19 total touchdowns in his first two seasons. We should expect to see similar numbers this year.
The Lions’ defense will struggle (we’ll touch down on that later), so Brown should be able to get separation and opportunities to make an impact. Add in Hurts’ clear connection with the receiver, and they’ll get their on-field friendship off to a bang.
2. The defense will hold the Lions to 10 points or under
Interesting note: Jared Goff has a passer rating of 98.7 with 1,027 yards and five touchdown (versus 1 interception) against the Eagles. This is the game that weird hot stretch comes to an end.
Now, the Lions’ O isn’t anything to scoff at. With Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, Deandre Swift, and T.J. Hockenson, it has potential, more than Detroit fans are probably used to.
But the Eagles’ line should be able to easily go through an offensive line that, in addition to ole friend Halapoulivaati Vaitai, could be missing center Frank Ragnow and right guard Tommy Kraemer. Keeping the pressure on will come easy, keeping Goff on his toes and off target.
The secondary has question marks, but Darius Slay and James Bradberry should prevent big plays downfield. I expect a stout performance from every unit, which will make for a nice confidence booster heading into a Monday Night Football showdown.
3. Nick Sirianni Brings A Balanced Attack
I’m a big believer in Nick Sirianni taking a step forward this season, and I think he shows it here with a balanced attack. Or at the very least, a game plan that makes sense. If running the ball is working, he’ll run, much like he did against Detroit last season. Ditto with passing.
I expect weird calls every now and then, and some drives that will be less than “meh,” but after learning his lesson on one-sided offenses early last season, he’ll adapt. He has to, because dropping the season opener to a lesser opponent is great ammo for critics.
4. Jake Elliott is shaky!
I expect good things Sunday, but I’m also expecting negatives. After appearing to be all but a lost cause in 2020, Jake Elliott had a Pro-Bowl revitalization last year, going 30 for 33 on field goals. Sorry to break the news, but it won’t last.
Does that mean he’ll automatically miss every kick? No, and he’ll continue to get opportunities in this offense. But, it doesn’t mean he’ll keep kicking at a 90% rate, 6% higher than his career average.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he doesn’t miss easy kicks, but he’ll miss a 50-yarder that will give fans a creeping feeling of bad things to come.
5. Jalen Hurts finishes with a perfect passer rating
64 QBs have posted a perfect passer rating in NFL history. Add a 65th to the list.
Yes, this is a fiery expectation, especially for a quarterback who posted a 61.3 completion percentage last year and didn’t once reach the necessary 77.5 percentage in a single game.
But it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Hurts was on absolute fire in 2021’s season opener against the Falcons, going 27 for 35 and putting together a 126.4 passer rating. He has an upgraded receiving corp this time around, something the Birds would be wise to show off early.
To boot, ESPN’s Mike Clay predicted Detroit will have the worst defense in 2022, allowing 445 points. Last year, they allowed an opponent completion percentage of around 66.0 percent, so Hurts will get a good matchup. Let’s see if he capitalizes.