5 things to watch: Lions at Eagles

Detroit hits the road for a tough NFC matchup later today in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Lions are coming off a gritty win at home vs. the Los Angeles Chargers last week. The Eagles lost a tough one on the road in Atlanta last Sunday night.

Philadelphia will attempt to protect home turf today and the Lions will try to get to 2-0-1.

Let’s take a look at five things to watch out for today in this matchup:

HOW WILL INJURIES AFFECT MATCHUP?

The Eagles are really banged up. So banged up, in fact, they had to change Wednesday’s practice to a walkthrough. Philadelphia opened the week with 13 players on their injury report.

Injuries to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), tight end Dallas Goedert (calf), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (toe) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot) are the most significant for the Eagles.

There have been reports out of Philadelphia this week that Jeffery, Jackson, Goedert and Jernigan might not play today. We’ll know the official toll injuries will have on the Eagles 90 minutes before kickoff with the release of the inactive list.

Detroit’s injury situation was far less serious coming in. Left tackle Taylor Decker (back), linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow), safety C.J. Moore (heel) and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (knee) made the injury report, but all five practiced this week in limited fashion. Hand was ruled out, but everyone else is listed as questionable. Davis seems close to returning. Maybe today is the first time we see him on the field since Week 3 of the preseason, which would be a big boost for Detroit’s defense.

CONTAINING THE PRESSURE

Jim Schwartz’s defense is an attacking unit that likes to get up the field and pressure the quarterback with their front seven and cover behind it. They mirror rush and coverage.

Last week in Atlanta, however, Schwartz dialed up the pressure more than usual and blitzed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan 12 times, per philadelphiaeagles.com. What will he elect to do today vs. Detroit?

One key for Detroit’s offense is containing Philadelphia’s pass rush, whatever it might look like. The Lions did a good job last week in that regard in a win over the Chargers. They didn’t do a good job Week 1 in the tie with the Cardinals.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has a passer rating of 119.1, and has recorded all five of his touchdown passes when kept clean in the pocket. That rating falls to 63.7 when pressured, with zero touchdowns.

Establishing the run can be an important factor in limiting Philadelphia’s pressure, but that won’t be an easy task for the Lions. The Eagles rank third in the NFL in rushing defense (42.5).

D-LINE IMPACT

Detroit’s defensive line was supposed to be the real strength on defense entering the season, but those players upfront have combined for just one sack. Opponents are averaging more than 120 rushing yards per game with a 5.2 average per rush so far this season.

Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison Sr. and Mike Daniels have all had slow starts. All three players missed most of training camp, so maybe they’re still shaking off some rust, but the Lions could use more impact from the big guys up front today if they’re going to escape Philadelphia 2-0-1.

The Eagles rank eighth in points scored (26.0) and are in the top half of the league in total offense and passing.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Detroit has struggled on special teams to begin the year. They’ve had five accepted penalties called on them, missed two kicks (extra point and field goal), muffed a punt, had a punt partially blocked and haven’t gotten much in the return game. The coverage units have been OK.

Against good teams like Philadelphia on the road, mistakes on special teams can be the difference between a win or a loss (or a tie). Detroit will look to be much better on special teams today.

Will the Lions go back to Jamal Agnew as their kickoff and punt returner today after he was pulled from both duties last week against Los Angeles?

BIG PLAYS

This has been a big-play offense for the Lions the first two weeks of the season. Four of Stafford’s five touchdown passes have been on throws of 20-plus yards. Stafford leads the NFL with 17 passes of 20-plus yards on the season.

Philadelphia has allowed four completions on passes traveling 20-plus-yards in the air and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks have an 87.5 passer rating the first two weeks on such throws.

Can the Lions continue to connect on some of the big chuck plays in the passing game? The Eagles are allowing 340 passing yards per game through their first two games, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

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