coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 09/24/2013 05:42 PM in NFL

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: Preview and Pick

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: Preview and Pick

If you are a big fan of offensive football than get ready for a big clash this Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles travel west to take on the Denver Broncos. The Eagles have surprised this season with a new offense that has been installed by first year coach Chip Kelly. The Broncos have not surprised, but up to this point they look as though they are one of the best teams in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Broncos as (-11) point favorites and that comes as no surprise as they have dominated opponents. It is also no surprise that over 70 percent of the early football bets coming in on this game are on the Denver Broncos. Despite the money pouring in, this line has started to dip and it can now be found at (-10.5) and even less at several top rated online sportsbooks.

The Broncos had a big winning on Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, but quarterback Peyton Manning was not happy as he was already preparing for the Eagles. “We’re coming off of a short week — it’s nice of the NFL to give Philly 12 days and give us six,” Manning told reporters after the Week Three win over the Raiders, via John Gonzalez of I am sure he will be ready for any team as Manning as looked great this season. The defense will have to get ready.

This Eagles offense has looked good and so as their quarterback. Michael Vick's 61-yard rush in the 1st quarter Thursday was the longest rush of his career. It's the third-longest rush by a quarterback since 2001. Along with many weapons, the Eagles will look to pull off an improbable upset against the Broncos.

The football betting trends for this game, like the public wagering show that the Broncos should get a second look by football betting fanatics. The Broncos are 6-0-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 7 games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game, 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game and 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games in September. The Eagles are 5-17-1 ATS in their last 23 games following a ATS loss, 8-20-1 ATS in their last 29 games on grass and 7-18-1 ATS against a team with a winning record.

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/25/2013 03:05 PM

- When The Eagles Have The Ball:

Despite a 1-2 record, the Eagles offense is among the NFL's best and most explosive. It ranks as the most efficient offense in the league, with a top-ranked 7.0 yards per play. Unfortunately, turnovers and missed opportunities drop the Eagles all the way to eighth in points per game (26.3). After turning the ball over just twice and forcing five over the first two games, the Eagles committed five turnovers and forced none in their 26-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Through three games the Eagles are negative-two in turnover differential, which is tied for third-worst in the NFC.

Coming off his first poor performance of the season, Michael Vick will look to get back on track against a Broncos defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game at 327.0. Those passing yardage stats are somewhat inflated because opponents have been trailing for the entire second half and thus have been forced to throw almost exclusively. Denver's pass defense is actually much better than the ranking suggests, as they rank first in passes defensed (31), tied for first in interceptions (six), 10th in completion percentage allowed (58.3 percent) and 18th in yards allowed per pass (6.9). Vick ranks second with 9.1 yards per pass attempt and is eighth with a 96.0 quarterback rating. Still, going against this Broncos secondary, which should have All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey back from injury, will be no easy task.

Following two huge performances in which he went over 100 yards and scored a touchdown, DeSean Jackson was held under 100 yards receiving and without a touchdown against the Chiefs, who played a lot of press coverage and devoted safety Eric Berry to helping over the top. Jackson still managed three catches for 62 yards and ranks second in the NFL with 359 receiving yards, as well as second with 149 yards after the catch and 17 first downs. Third-year pro Chris Harris has replaced Bailey at cornerback for the Broncos, while former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – who may be most likely to draw the Jackson assignment – is the opposite starter. Tony Carter mans the nickel position. The trio has combined for five interceptions, and the starting safety tandem of Rahim Moore and Duke Ihenacho has impressed as the final line of defense. Expect Moore, as the free safety, to play a similar over-the-top role in coverage on Jackson and for the Broncos to attempt to make the Eagles' other receivers – like Riley Cooper, Jason Avant (who was the team's leading receiver against the Chiefs and registered his first touchdown of the season), Brent Celek and Zach Ertz – beat them.

After an injury scare at the end of the first half against the Chiefs, LeSean McCoy returned in the second half and looked like his dominant self, en route to gashing Kansas City's previously second-ranked rush defense for 158 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Sunday's matchup will pit the Eagles' first-ranked rush offense (209.0 yards per game) against the Broncos' first-ranked rush defense (43.3 yards allowed per game) in a battle where something has to give. The Broncos' success defending the run isn't just because they've been consistently ahead either, as they rank atop the league with only 2.28 yards allowed per rush. Opponents have simply been unable to gain yards on the ground against the Broncos, but the Eagles offensive line of Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson has been exemplary opening up holes in the run game.

In addition to McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher by a healthy margin, Vick is on pace for 997 yards rushing, which would be his second-best total as a pro. Each will attempt to find space against a Broncos front seven that features a defensive line of Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton and Robert Ayers (who typically rotates but started in place of the injured Shaun Phillips against the Raiders), and an exceptionally fast linebacker corps of Nate Irving, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan.

- When The Broncos Have The Ball:

Most NFL fans know that the Broncos boast the one of the most high-powered offenses in the league, but just how good is it? Through three games, the Broncos rank first in the league in total yards (486.7 yards per game), first in third-down efficiency (53.9 percent conversion rate) and, most importantly, first in points per game (42.3). The numbers are intimidating, and they are explained by a talented roster, led by one of the league's greatest players of all time.

The cog that makes the entire Denver offense move is future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, who will one day go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever set foot on an NFL field. Now 37, Manning is playing at one of the highest levels of his career. After missing the 2011 season due to multiple neck surgeries, Manning has been extremely efficient in his time with Denver. In 19 regular season games with the Broncos, Manning has thrown 49 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions with a ridiculous 69.4 completion percentage and an outlandish 110.8 quarterback rating.

As was the case in Indianapolis, Manning has once again been surrounded by playmakers. In his fourth season out of Georgia Tech, Demaryius Thomas has become one of the top receivers in the NFL. Though the Broncos have a lot of players capable of making big plays, Thomas is their true home run threat, averaging 15.4 yards per reception. At 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, Thomas' size and athleticism will pose a challenge for Eagles cornerbacks. On the other side of the formation, Eric Decker is just as dangerous. Also at 6-foot-3, Decker recorded 1,064 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches in 2012. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher will need to play a very physical game against the tall and talented duo.

Then there's Wes Welker, the gnat that buzzes around and drives opposing teams mad. He is the receiver who gets exactly six yards and not an inch more when it's third-and-six, and has made a living playing in the middle of the field and knowing exactly where the first down chains and goal line are. In the past two weeks, the Eagles have had trouble with similar receivers in Eddie Royal and Donnie Avery, and Welker will be the toughest test yet. Expect to see a lot of nickel packages from the Eagles, with Brandon Boykin shadowing Welker. That matchup means that the Eagles linebackers will most likely be tasked with covering tight end Julius Thomas, who has been having a breakout third season in the league.

While the Broncos have a number of different ways to beat teams through the air, their ground game has been a different story. Knowshon Moreno has been the team's leading rusher to this point, but he is averaging only 53.5 yards per game (on 4.7 yards per carry). Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball will also see time in the Broncos backfield, but Moreno has been the most consistent running option to this point and is the most trustworthy pass protector. The Eagles cannot avoid stopping the run though, as the Broncos rank 14th in the league with 112 rushing yards per game. The goal of any defense is to try to make the opposing offense one dimensional. Even though Denver's passing dimension has been terrific, the Eagles ability to neutralize the Broncos running game could go a long way.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles will need to get off of the field, something that they were not able to do against Kansas City. Overall, the Eagles defense played relatively well against the Chiefs, but they could not make crucial stops on third-and-long situations and they allowed to the Chiefs to milk eight minutes and fifteen seconds off of the fourth quarter clock with a 15-play drive that helped seal the Kansas City win. When the Eagles defense has the Broncos is third-down situations, they need to make plays – something that will be all the more difficult considering the Broncos' standing as the best third-down offense in the league thus far. Manning and company cannot be afforded second and third chances.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/26/2013 01:36 PM

In his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Head Coach Chip Kelly instituted a high-octane offensive system.

The Eagles have the second most yards per game in the league with 461.7 – behind only the Broncos – and have done so with the shortest average time of possession in the NFL. They’re averaging a league-best 209 rushing yards per game.

The team with the NFL's second-most rushing yards per game averages 151.

“Stop the run and then get after the quarterback, that's always our game plan going into each game, no matter who the team is,” linebacker Shaun Phillips said. “But with a guy like (RB LeSean) McCoy and (QB Michael) Vick, those guys are very dangerous and they're capable of taking over a game at any time.

“So we've got to really be disciplined and gang tackle, because they're special players.”

Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson added that “being stout inside and having gap integrity” would be crucial in halting the run.

McCoy is currently the NFL’s leader in rushing yards with 395 in the first three games. He’s clear of Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and the rest of the rushers in the league by 98 yards. He’s registered a pair of rushing touchdowns and he’s averaging 6.37 yards per carry, which is the second-best average among running backs.

The Broncos are aware of McCoy’s ability to make defenders miss in the open field. Head Coach John Fox said that it’s going to take more than one player to bring McCoy down and compared his running style to Barry Sanders.

“Definitely as a team defense, we have to be very disciplined this week,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “Everybody has to do their job, just like last week. We’ve got to stop McCoy. If we don’t stop No. 25, it’s going to be a long day for us. We want to make them one-dimensional again.”

The Eagles have also been particularly efficient on offense, with just one three-and-out in 38 possessions.

But the Broncos have already seen this scenario once before – last week, in fact.

The Raiders came into town with the best running attack in the league and a mobile quarterback. The Broncos held Oakland to 49 rushing yards and nearly half of those came on one scramble by Terrelle Pryor.

“We’ve got the personnel to prepare for anything,” defensive Tackle Terrance Knighton said. “Each week is going to be something new. A lot of teams in the league now are going to this type of offense so we’ll just adjust and see what other teams did to be successful. We have a good game plan that we’re set for, we’ve just got to go out there and execute.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/26/2013 01:37 PM

So much of the talk about Peyton Manning revolves around just how smart and experienced he is. He is, at 37, still physically able to play at a high level, but his football IQ is the key to his record-breaking start to the 2013 season.

“He's a coach on the field that is saying, 'Here is your look, I'm going to put our offense in the best position,' ” Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Peyton has a great understanding of what that defense is strong at and weak at. He takes what you're giving him, down after down.”

“Probably him and (Tom) Brady are the two best I've ever seen,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “You're talking about two of the all-time greats.”

If only the Eagles had a quarterback with years of experience and exposure to everything a defensive coordinator can devise …

Oh, wait. They do.

Michael Vick is 33. He was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, three years after Manning was the No. 1 pick. Vick has played in 124 NFL games. He has been coached by Dan Reeves and Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg and Greg Knapp and now Kelly and Pat Shurmur.

Vick is the first to admit that he did not take the mental aspect of the game seriously for years. He famously admitted to his former Atlanta head coach, Jim Mora, that he left DVDs intended for home study on the front seat of his car. Vick was able to rely on breathtaking athletic ability that, quite frankly, was not an option for Manning or Brady.

After he got to Philadelphia in 2009, Vick said he developed a new appreciation for video study. But he did not maintain that commitment. By his own account, he is only this year spending the kind of extra time necessary to prepare.

In his first two games, that translated into relatively mistake-free football. The only turnover committed by Vick was a pass that was ruled a lateral and a fumble at Washington. Vick made mostly good decisions in the read-option game and was accurate on most of his passes -- as evidenced by his 62.3 completion percentage.

Last Thursday, though, many of the bad habits of the past two years resurfaced in a 26-16 loss to the Chiefs. Vick took six sacks and lost one fumble. He completed only 43.3 percent of his passes. Vick threw two interceptions, both of which he acknowledged were the result of poor decisions.

“It was something that I'll learn from,” Vick said. “I'll never second-guess myself like that again.”

On Sunday, he will be pitted against one of the best decision-making quarterbacks in the history of the game. To have a chance, the Eagles need Vick to take care of the ball and play as smartly as he did in the first two games.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/27/2013 11:43 AM

Chip Kelly is nearly as well known for his commitment to sports science as he is for drawing up innovative plays. But even the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach has his limits. “In terms of us being able to construct a hyperbaric chamber over that football field,” Kelly said, gesturing toward the NovaCare Complex fields, “we can't do that. We're at the same advantage or disadvantage of anybody else going in there.”

There, of course, is Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a stadium whose very name tells the tale. Denver’s perch in the Rocky Mountains, in the thin air a mile above sea level, creates a problem for any visiting team in football, basketball or ice hockey.

The question is what kind of problem: physical or psychological? The issue is more than academic for an Eagles team determined to run an uptempo, no-huddle offense regardless of the elements.

“A lot of it is more mental than physical,” Kelly said. If he believed otherwise, you can imagine a work crew hammering away at that hyperbaric chamber in South Philadelphia. “Football is an anaerobic sport. We’re not going there to run a marathon.”

Rob Connolly is a sports scientist, too. An exercise physiologist and coach with USA Cycling, Connolly runs Dogma Athletica, a high-altitude training center in Vail, Colo. Connolly has been intrigued by what Kelly is trying to do on the football field, using pace to put stress on his opponent.

According to Connolly, the effect for the Eagles Sunday will be both physical and psychological.

“It will come more into play with the type of tempo both teams want to run,” Connolly said. “Football is anaerobic, but that makes it tougher. You’re working in a short anaerobic burst and then trying to recover quickly is tougher. You’re only getting 85 percent of the oxygen you would take in at home.”

Simply put, there is less oxygen in the air you breathe at higher altitudes. The body has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs. For athletes, that can mean tiring faster. Many world-class athletes train at altitude for this very reason. To acclimate, the body eventually produces more red blood cells, and that can be an advantage when the athlete comes down from the mountain to compete at lower elevations.

Connolly said athletes who aren’t acclimated -- a process that can take more than two weeks -- will find their respiratory rates going up 5 to 8 percent.

“There’s a psychological effect there,” Connolly said. “Any time you notice your breath, it can be disconcerting. You’re panting. Your mind is not on whatever else you’re doing. You can lose focus and it can affect your motor skills.”

Eagles center Jason Kelce said the team normally practices fast enough to create fatigue in the players. That prepares them for maintaining focus when they tire in games.

“It’s more overhyped than the reality,” Kelce said of the altitude issue. “I’ve heard a lot of guys say that it almost feels like you’re just playing on a humid day. It has the same effect where it’s harder to breathe. Most guys who have played there say that it doesn’t make that big of a difference. You might notice it in warmups, but once you get the game going, things are going by too quickly to take notice of that.”

Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin played in Denver last year as a member of the Houston Texans.

“I didn’t notice it at all,” Barwin said. “I think that’s just something they say. Football is four- to six-second plays. We’re not running a marathon. So it’s something I didn’t notice at all.”

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was with the Baltimore Ravens when they went to Denver in January and won a playoff game, 38-35.

“I think it’s a combination,” Williams said. “It’s a lot mental, but I think it’s a lot physical as well. It’s a change. Your body’s not used to it. You’ve got to be mentally tough to overcome it.”

Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole shrugged it off. You get tired in football games at any altitude, he said.

“If you get tired,” Cole said, “come out of the game. There’s nothing to it. It’s how you take it and what you can withstand.”

Connolly is a fan of Kelly’s overall approach and thinks it will be very effective over time.

“I think you’ll see some copycat stuff,” Connolly said. “Good players on offense and defense decipher what the other team is doing and anticipate the play. By going so fast, Kelly makes it harder to do that. Combine that with fatigue, and he’s on to something. It’d definitely fun to watch.”

But there is a definite challenge trying to push the tempo at altitude. Kelly said his Oregon teams had no trouble when they played in Boulder.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” he said. “You play against the Broncos, it’s a big deal.”

In other words, Peyton Manning and the Broncos have to be the focus. There isn’t much that can be done about the altitude.

“I understand his approach,” Connolly said. “It’s a good mind set, just coming in and doing what they do and not making too big a deal out of it. If I were him, I’d have guys on the sideline like hockey players, ready to change on the fly.”

That might be tough. The truth is, the Eagles would have a difficult time playing this team anywhere, at any time. They prepared all week for that challenge. All they can do about the altitude is find out for themselves.

“Afterwards,” Kelce said, “if it affected us, I’ll let you know.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/27/2013 11:45 AM

When Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has dropped back to pass over this season’s first three weeks, the guy he’s looked to throw to most often is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Jackson has been targeted on 37 percent of Vick’s passing attempts and his 19 receptions account for 34.4 percent of Vick’s completions. And when a defense elects to simply match a cornerback on a wide receiver no matter where that wide receiver lines up, two of the main criteria for the decision is to first have a player who can do it and if the move could potentially take a big enough piece of the offensive game plan away.

So, given how things have gone thus far in the Broncos' defense, the time looks right for the Broncos to match cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on his former teammate Sunday. W the Broncos signed Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason they said he had the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback and that they would coach him hard to get him to reach that level.

In short, they said they could lift him back to his Pro Bowl level of 2009 and perhaps beyond if he would listen and do the work.

“I think he understood that, I think he was open to that,’’ said Broncos coach John Fox. “He wants to be great. It takes a certain mindset and work ethic and study habits to be that guy.’’

The Ravens threw at Rodgers-Cromartie just once in the season opener as he locked down Jacoby Jones, until Jones left that game with an injury.

For his part, Jackson not only has top-tier speed, but with his experiences as a top-shelf returner in the kicking game, he also runs well in traffic once he has the ball. Rodgers-Cromartie has a reach advantage over the 5-10 Jackson and has enough athleticism to run with Jackson as well in the open field.

The Broncos will often match a cornerback on a receiver -- usually when Champ Bailey is healthy -- and given Vick’s leanings toward Jackson in the pass pattern, they could feel that’s the move to make in this one.

“(Jackson) hit me up on the phone and was just like ‘you know it’s me and you this weekend, we’re going to go at it’,’’ Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But that’s just a challenge I’m looking forward to."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/28/2013 10:44 AM

When quizzed this week about how they have prepared for their first in-person look at Chip Kelly’s offense, the Broncos coaches have said, at least publicly, they’ve looked only at what the Eagles have done in this season’s early stages.

Forget about looking at what Oregon did during Kelly’s time at the school to compare how much things do, or don’t, look the same in Philadelphia's offense. Having a short work week after playing on Monday night, the Denver coaches don't have much time for that.

But what the Chiefs did last week in a 26-16 win over the Eagles looked, at least in a general sense, a lot like what Stanford did last season in a 17-14 victory over Kelly’s then-No. 1 Oregon team. The Chiefs consistently won the middle of the line of scrimmage, with nose tackle Dontari Poe's top-notch work. Kansas City also matched up largely in man coverage on the Eagles wide receivers, and the Chiefs' safeties and linebackers repeatedly tackled well to limit the catch-and-run opportunities.

For the Broncos to have a similar blueprint Sunday, defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton must control the issue on the inside. When the Eagles turned a big play against the Chiefs -- quarterback Michael Vick had a 61-yard run and LeSean McCoy had a 41-yard run -- it was often because they got Poe pushed out of the middle.

Poe's work was even more important when the Chiefs used a look that included just two defensive linemen at times against the Eagles' three-wide set. The Broncos will likely use a variety of specialty packages as well.

But no matter how they dial it up, the Broncos are going to need Vickerson and Knighton to win the day against the middle of the Eagles line that includes center Jason Kelce and guards Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/29/2013 08:10 AM

Eagles +10

The Broncos have the best offense and the Eagles have the worst defense so it could be a long day for the Eagles, but the Broncos defense is not that great either. This will be an old fashioned shootout and I will take the points in a high scoring game.