Here are five random notes on the Eagles, in case you missed the title:
1) With the disclaimer that there is plenty of season left and the Eagles are obviously very strong playoff hopefuls, questions that keep coming up in my weekly chat involve the Eagles' biggest needs this offseason. My top 5 needs:
• OLB: Trent Cole has gotten more disruptive as the season has progressed, but the Eagles' defense needs a stud edge rusher to create havoc in opposing backfields.
• S: The safeties were exposed early in the season, but have been much better in the second half of the season. The Vikings game served as a reminder that they clearly need some upgrades on the back end.
• CB: The Eagles have poor depth at CB, and average starters. Brandon Boykin is good in the slot, but he is the only cover player on the team who can play inside. The Eagles need secondary help across the board.
• OL: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans are all getting up there in age, and the Eagles' depth along the OL is iffy. Peters will also be in the last year of his deal in 2014.
• Slot WR: Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper will both be free agents this offseason, so the Eagles will have decisions to make on them. Assuming they are able to retain at least one of them, the Eagles could also use a legitimate playmaker in the slot. Jason Avant is an invaluable leader in the locker room, but he's leaving plays (possibly big ones) on the field. If the Eagles could find a slot receiver who can also be a weapon in the return game, that would be ideal.
2) On the Vikings' first TD, when Matt Cassel threw deep to Greg Jennings, the Vikings came out in a 3 WR set. Patrick Chung was lined up man-to-man on Jennings, and Jennings smoked him. Even as Jennings was looking back and tracking the ball in the air, Chung was unable to make up any ground on Jennings, who comfortably caught the pass and scored. It is hard to put blame on Chung for that play. He's simply not going to be able to run vertically with most slot receivers, so it's unwise to ask him to do so. The odd thing was that Brandon Boykin, who is quite possibly the best cover guy on the team, was on the bench, and this was well before he had gotten hurt. The Eagles wanted to stay in their base 3-4, which forced Chung into a less than ideal matchup, and the Eagles got burned... badly.
3) It appears the NFL started tracking 20+ and 40+ yard plays in 1991. Since then, there are 7 teams that had 18 or more pass plays of 40+ yards in a season. Four of them were the Eagles.
Also, there are only two teams that have had more plays of 20+ yards than the 2013 Eagles. They are the 2001 Rams (96), and to my surprise, the 2011 Panthers (90). The Eagles have 88, and are on pace for 100.5. Remember when Phil Simms said the Eagles' offense was a bottom 5 unit?
4) Of the 35 QBs who have enough pass attempts to qualify, here is where Eli Manning ranks in some key QB stats:
• QB rating (69.7): 33rd. Even Brandon Weeden is higher.
• INTs (25): Most in the NFL.
• Sacks taken (36): 9th most.
• TDs (16): 20th.
• Completion percentage (58.6%): 29th.
He's been awful.
5) The Bears' wide receivers are obviously an enormous concern for the Eagles this Sunday. Their numbers:
• Brandon Marshall: 90 catches, 1185 yards, 10 TD
• Alshon Jeffery: 80 catches, 1265 yards, 7 TD
After the Eagles allowed 382 passing yards to Matt Cassel on Sunday, Eagles fans are worried about the prospect of facing arguably the best WR duo in the league.
However, Bears fans are likely to be just as worried about a matchup that favors the Eagles. LeSean McCoy is the NFL's leading rusher, and the Bears are absolutely horrid against the run.
Last week the Bears held the Browns to under 100 rushing yards, but in the 7 games before that, they allowed an average of over 200 rushing yards per game, which is absolutely atrocious:
The Eagles have the #1 rushing offense in the NFL. The Bears have the 32nd ranked rush D, and the next closest team gives up 20 yards per game less.