The Eagles’ next home game might be their most difficult of the season.
Tennessee (7-4) comes to town Sunday afternoon, with the best running back the Eagles will face this season and a decent quarterback who has 140 starts under his belt.
Titans running back Derrick Henry is a load — a 6-foot-3, 247-pounder who comes right at you with power and speed. This is his seventh season. He has 7,845 yards and 75 touchdowns — most of them of the smash-mouth variety.
Henry’s running is at the epicenter of the Titans’ offense. But he is not unstoppable. The Bengals did it Sunday in a 20-16 victory. Henry gained only 38 yards on 17 carries, the 2.2 yards per carry the fifth-lowest in his career.
- “They played well as a unit together,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said Tuesday about the Bengals’ defense.
- “You talk about they kind of bottled him up pretty good. Run defense, it’s all 11, and they were fitting very well together … They have a good front, just like us.
- “They controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part and didn’t let them get going. Then as you see, they possessed the ball on offense, so they kind of limited his touches there.
- “It was really a low-possession type game that game, which Sunday night was a high-possession game. You just don’t know how the game is going to kick out.”
The Eagles’ run defense is somewhat suspect, ranking 18th. The overall defense is ranked second and the pass defense is ranked second.
If that looks like a bad match-up, you’re right — weak against the run vs. strong running game. The Titans’ run game is ranked 12th and pass game is 29th.
Henry is second in the league in rushing with 1,048 yards. The Eagles’ Miles Sanders is fifth with 900 yards. Jalen Hurts is 21st with 597 yards.
Ryan Tannehill might be the second-best quarterback they have faced after Aaron Rodgers, who looked terrific Sunday night before suffering a rib-oblique injury.
Tannehill isn’t in Rodgers’ league but he’s more than a game manager who hands off the ball to Henry. He’s completed 64.2 percent of his passes in a 10-year career and has thrown for 209 touchdowns.
EAGLES TRYING FOR DIVISION TITLE
Of course, the Eagles are 10-1, holding a two-game lead (plus tiebreaker) over Dallas in the NFC East, and a one-game lead (plus tiebreaker) over Minnesota in the NFC.
Winning 10 games before December is quite an accomplishment but the Eagles haven’t won or clinched anything yet.
The Eagles’ offense is cooking, averaging 27.5 points per game. They will face a Titans defense that is ranked 21st overall. The Eagles are ranked second.
- “This is a tough, physical football team,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said about the Titans.
- “Really take after their head coach. [Titans coach] Mike Vrabel is a tough, physical — I was on a staff my first job in the NFL, Mike Vrabel was the captain on the Kansas City Chiefs.
- “Man, I couldn’t say more good things about him as a player, and I know — I’ve obviously never coached with him, but the way he led as a football player on that team, coming from a great Steeler team and Ohio State teams and back to when he went to Walsh Jesuit [in Cuyahoga Falls, 30 miles south of Cleveland], then being on those Patriot teams, that guy knows how to lead people and lead men.
- “So, I like to say just first and foremost, he’s a damn good football coach and he’s going to have those guys ready to go.”
TITANS: TOUGH, GRIMY KIND OF TEAM
The Titans are tied for the AFC North lead with the Bengals. At a news conference, the Titans were described as a “very physical, tough, grimy kind of team.” Sirianni agreed, having faced the Titans twice a year when he was the Colts’ offensive coordinator.
- “They’re good. They’re really good,” Sirianni said. “Again, they’re physical. They’re sound. They don’t beat themselves. They don’t have a lot of penalties.
- “You know what? We’re good, too. We are going to have to be on our stuff, but we know this is a very sound defense, very physical defense, and so we’ll have to be on it.”
The Eagles actually have enjoyed relatively excellent health. Through Week 11, the Eagles had missed 72 man-games, third in the league behind Jacksonville (38) and Kansas City (63), according to @ManGamesLost.
But, injuries are mounting at key positions. Premier tight end Dallas Goedert remains on injured reserve. Effective against the run rookie nose tackle Jordan Davis is eligible to return but Sirianni wouldn’t say if Davis will play.
Nickel back Avonte Maddox and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu are on injured reserve. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson reportedly has a lacerated kidney and is out indefinitely.
It’s nearly December and that’s the reality of the NFL. Players get hurt and other players replace them. Teams have to hope if there is a drop-off by playing the back-ups, it isn’t too dramatic or damaging.