Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns will be decided in the trenches.
For years, the Philadelphia Eagles have been a team that was known to be stingy against the run. It has become sort of their staple the last couple of seasons, relying on the big guys up front like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Even as recently as last season, the defense was fantastic against the run, coming in at third in the entire NFL only allowing 88.6 yards per game.
However, as most of the 2020 season has been for the Birds, stopping the run has been an absolute mess. How bad? Well, how does 26th in the NFL with 133 yards rushing per game against sound? Yeah, it has been that bad.
This has become really apparent the last few weeks, as in their last three match-ups, the Philadelphia Eagles are allowing 148 yards per game on the ground, including an absurd 151 yards in last Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Keep in mind, this wasn’t against Saquan Barkley. No, this was against the likes of Wayne Gallman and journeyman Alfred Morris.
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The bad thing is that the sledding does not get any easier this week, as the Cleveland Browns enter this Week 11 showdown currently ranked third in the NFL with 159 rushing yards per game, as well as third in the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry. Equipped with a two headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, it is not surprising in the slightest that Cleveland has so much success running the football.
This is where the key to the game currently resides. If the Philadelphia Eagles can find a way to stop the run and force Baker Mayfield to beat them with his arm, their chances of winning increase dramatically. Much easier said then done, especially considering the state of the Eagles linebacker room right now. I think it is fair to assume that the Browns SHOULD have their way pounding the rock against the likes of T.J Edwards and Duke Riley.
It will be interesting to see if the Birds turn to rookie sixth-round pick Shaun Bradley a bit more this week, as he is the type of downhill linebacker who may be able to assist in slowing down the ground game. However considering he has only played seven total defensive snaps in the last three games, this seems pretty unlikely.
The big guys up front will need to play their best game of the season on Sunday if the Philadelphia Eagles plan on walking away with their fourth victory of the season. Also keep in mind that the schedule only gets harder from here, as the next four weeks see the Eagles match-up with the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, and the Cardinals. Not too sure how many of those games seem winnable at this time.
With the division lead seeming to slip away as well (as the Giants are now nipping at the Birds’ heels), a win against the Browns today is paramount.
It will be interesting to see how things shake out, as you know for sure the Browns will come out right away and look to set the tone of the game with their running backs. Who knows? Maybe if the Eagles can get some stops early, it will inspire some confidence up front, which may in turn lead to a big day from the defensive front.
I wouldn’t count on it, though.