Professional football teams in Houston HATE seeing the Philadelphia Eagles on the schedule. Since the first matchup back in 1972 to the most recent meeting in Houston in 2014, the Eagles have beaten the Texans/Oilers every single time. That's eleven games and not one win for Houston. Now, I'm all for breaking trends and this Texans squad seems to have that kind of mindset as well. Regardless, it can't be concerned with the history of these two cities, only to tackle the team staring right back at them on Sunday afternoon.
The defending world champs are 7-7 and still alive in the NFC playoff hunt. The wild card isn't out of the realm of possibility, but the Eagles' loss to the Vikings won't win any tiebreakers with the Vikings, the team in the sixth spot currently. The two losses to Dallas won't do them any favors in the NFC East race, either. If the Cowboys win either of the last two games, Philly is eliminated from the NFC East race as well. The one thing that eliminates them immediately, though, is a loss at home to the Texans.
The Eagles have played three nail-biters this season against AFC South teams. They beat the Colts by four, lost to Tennessee on the final play of the game and then beat Jacksonville in London after they thwarted a final potential Jaguars scoring drive in a six-point game. As such, this game appears to be no different. These two teams are a lot more similar than they might appear record-wise or on paper. The subtle differences could be separators in this one as the Texans look to break the decades-long losing streak to the Eagles.
Without further ado, let's get to know Sunday's foe - the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles.
Schedule - Record (7-7)
W, 18-12 v. Atlanta Falcons
L, 27-21 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
W, 20-16 v. Indianapolis Colts
L, 26-23 @ Tennessee Titans
L, 23-21 v. Minnesota Vikings
W, 34-13 @ New York Giants
L, 21-17 @ Carolina Panthers
W, 24-18 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)
L, 27-20 v. Dallas Cowboys
L, 48-7 @ New Orleans Saints
W, 25-22 v. New York Giants
W, 28-13 v. Washington Redskins
L, 29-23 @ Dallas Cowboys
W, 30-23 @ Los Angeles Rams
Rushing yards per game - 98.9 ypg (27th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 255.9 ypg (12th)
Total offense per game - 354.7 ypg (17th)
Turnovers lost - 19 (9 INT, 10 fumbles lost) - Eagles are -4 in turnover margin (22nd in the NFL)
Eagles starting offense last Sunday v. LA Rams:
QB - Nick Foles (last year's Super Bowl MVP)
RB - JOSH ADAMS (rookie)
WR - Nelson Agholor
WR - Alshon Jeffery
TE - DALLAS GOEDERT (rookie)
TE - Zach Ertz (Pro Bowl 2019)
LT - Jason Peters
LG - Stefen Wisniewski
C - Jason Kelce (Pro Bowl alternate 2019)
RG - Brandon Brooks (Pro Bowl 2019)
RT - Lane Johnson (Pro Bowl alternate 2019)
Other Key Offensive Pieces:
WR - GOLDEN TATE (midseason trade with Detroit Lions)
RB - Wendell Smallwood
RB - Darren Sproles
**All aps indicates a 2018 addition
Keys to Stopping the Eagles Offense:
1. Understand that Zach Ertz is a receiver every time he's unattached from the line. He's as good an athlete as there is at this position and he'll embarrass linebackers and most safeties in coverage, if treated like a tight end.
2. Attack their running backs with more than just shoulders and hard hits. MUST. WRAP. UP.
3. Mighty Mite triple threat Darren Sproles gives me nightmares. He's going to get the ball on third and medium. Book it. Solving his equation on third down is a key to success in this game.
4. Attack Alshon Jeffery as he brings the ball in to his body, if at all possible. He's a legit 6-5 and can climb the ladder. The only chance defensive backs will have is to jar it loose when he attempts to secure the catch.
5. Figure out early how Eagles line will slide and who they will slide the protection to. Last week, it was clear that they wanted to slide to Aaron Donald's side. That left backside rushers one-on-one against a guard and a tackle. The Texans defenders must win those one-on-one battles if they plan to get adequate pressure on Nick Foles and the Eagles passing game.
Rushing yards allowed per game - 104.9 ypg (11th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 280.8 ypg (31st)
Total offense allowed per game - 385.6 ypg (27th)
Turnovers generated - 15 (9 INT, 6 fumbles recovered)
Eagles starting defense last Sunday v. LA Rams:
DE - MICHAEL BENNETT
DT - HALOTI NGATA
DT - Fletcher Cox (Pro Bowl 2019)
DE - Brandon Graham (Pro Bowl alternate 2019)
OLB - Kamu Grugier-Hill
MLB - Nigel Bradham
Nickel - CRE'VON LeBLANC (midseason waiver claim)
CB - Rasul Douglas
S - Malcolm Jenkins (Pro Bowl alternate 2019)
S - Corey Graham
CB - AVONTE MADDOX (rookie)
Other Key Defensive Pieces:
DE - Chris Long
S - Tre Sullivan
DT - TREYVON HESTER (rookie)
DT - Tim Jernigan
**All caps indicates a 2018 addition
Keys to Winning vs. the Eagles Defense:
1. When the Rams had success running the ball (when they had success, because it wasn't much), they used traps to counter the Eagles defensive line's desire to penetrate up the field.
2. Take the profit. Underneath defenders are dropping much deeper in zone coverage than usual to help a banged up/inexperienced secondary.
3. Rams seemed to have more success spreading the field as opposed to using condensed formations, which they're known for using.
4. Inexperienced eyes in the secondary will lose tight ends and receivers with play action and misdirection.
5. There won't be a ton of blitz pressure, but the front four can take over the game if allowed to do so.
Check out the best Week 15 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.