Eagles look for first win vs. Burrow and the Bengals
After failing to show up in either second half of their first two contests, the Eagles find themselves in an 0-2 hole to start the season. While it’s still too early to jump ship on this 2020 squad, the historic stats concerning the playoff prospects of NFL teams that start the season winless through two games are not encouraging. As a result, the Bird’s week 3 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals is about as close to a must-win game as a battle so early in the season can be.
Below you can find an injury update on the Eagles before moving onto the three key players to watch during the game this Sunday, at 1:00 pm.
The Injury Bug
Week 2 featured a host of devastating injuries for multiple teams. Some of the more catastrophic losses included Saquon Barkley of the division rival New York Giants and Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers, both of whom suffered season-ending torn ACLs. No player on the Eagles sustained a season-long injury last week but it is worth noting that a number of starters are still not at full strength.
Guard Isaac Seumalo, who exited in the second quarter of the Eagles week 2 matchup against the Rams, was recently placed on injured reserve, meaning that he will miss at least the next three weeks.
Eagles rookie wide receiver, Jalen Reagor, will miss multiple weeks with a UCL tear in his thumb. He is expected to undergo surgery and consequently will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list.
It is unclear at this juncture just how many weeks the wideout will miss. Drew Brees, who suffered a similar injury last year, missed five games. The Eagles are hopeful that his recovery is swift as they are already hurting at the wide receiver position with Alshon Jeffery out with a Lisfranc injury.
Jeffery should be back sooner rather than later but in the meantime DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and rookie John Hightower will have to pick up the slack on the outside.
Three Key Positional Battles
Miles Sanders: Can he run wild on Sunday?
The Bengals most recent opponent, the Cleveland Browns, ran rampant on them during last week’s Thursday Night Football game. The powerful combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt amassed a staggering 215 yards on the ground. If Miles Sanders and the Eagles offensive line are able to establish that level of dominance, it will help open up Wentz and the Eagles passing game which hasn’t found its rhythm yet this season.
The Bengals big defensive free agent signing, D.J. Reader, was brought in to help shore up a rushing defense that allowed the second most yards after contact to opposing running backs last year (trailing only the Carolina Panthers). Stopping Sanders will not be an easy task. After an early game fumble, Sanders looked fantastic in his 2020 debut, rushing the ball 20 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. Look for Sanders to build on that performance this Sunday.
AJ Green: Is he washed?
It has been quite some time since we’ve seen the electric AJ Green of past years. Many sports pundits have been noting a clear regression in quality from the Bengals receiver after he caught only 3 of 13 targets for 29 yards last week. While not all of those targets were on the money, Green routinely was unable to secure passes that he would’ve caught in his sleep a few years ago.
The rookie season play of Burrow has been all the Bengals could hope for but AJ Green will need to return to form for their offense to truly achieve potency. Joe Burrow clearly looks his way in the passing game, as the targets suggest, so this may very well be a “prove-it” game for the once elite receiver. The Birds top corner Darius Slay will likely draw this matchup on Sunday.
Duel of the QBs: Wentz vs. Burrow
Despite remaining winless, Joe Burrow has thoroughly impressed the NFL community through two games of the 2020 season. Last week, he threw the ball a whopping 61 times, while completing 37 of those throws for 316 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Burrow looks to be all the Bengals were promised when they selected him with the first overall pick this off-season.
Meanwhile, Wentz is currently riding the struggle bus. He has already thrown four interceptions this season, some of them arriving in costly momentum-stifling fashion. Some are even wondering how long of a leash Wentz has, with Jalen Hurts being promoted to his backup spot. A huge step towards victory this Sunday will involve Wentz out-dueling his rookie counterpart. I think the best way to do this is through the Birds two elite tight ends. That’s right, I’m calling Dallas Goedert elite. If Wentz looks to establish passing connections early with both Ertz and Goedert, the Bengals will have a tough time containing both.
The Eagles are 6 point favorites for Sunday’s game and I’m riding with them at home. The Eagles have more serious playoff hopes than the Bengals and I expect them to play with a desperate sense of urgency indicating that they understand how crucial it is not to fall to 0-3. Eagles 27, Bengals 23.