Philadelphia Eagles Week 15 Keys to Victory
As the NFL season wraps up, the Philadelphia Eagles head on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens to try and salvage a disappointing season. Carson Wentz and the Eagles hold a 2-8 record in their last ten games, while the Ravens are right in the mix for both the AFC North title and a wild card spot, if Pittsburgh takes the division.
Coach Pederson’s Decisions
Eagles kicker, Caleb Sturgis, has not been seeing much action the past few games, as Doug Pederson has attempted to revolutionize the head coaching power. The Eagles have kept the offense on the field for a fourth down play for an NFL leading 22 times this year, far more than the second most attempts. One would think that since Pederson has attempted a fourth down conversion the most times of any team, it would be because the offense was successful, but ironically, that is not the case. The Eagles 54 percent conversion rate on fourth down is the NFL’s eleventh best. Although those numbers are in the top third of the league, they are not convincing enough to take the risk and leave three points off the board with an easy field goal. It sounds so simple to say that winning the game is easy as just kicking the ball, whether a field goal or punt, when fourth down rolls around, but it is partially true. A good number of the fourth down attempts have come well within Sturgis’s field goal range, and those three points add up in a game when you leave the offense on the field two or three times a game.
Doug Pederson has taken the game out of the hands of his players and into his own hands too many times this season, risking the result of the game for odds that are not in his favor. Being a first time coach in a heavy fan base city like Philadelphia, one would think that Pederson would not make the bold moves he does, trying not to get on the bad side of the city in his first season. However, he has done just that. Despite his mistakes this season, he still has a slim chance to redeem himself by shifting his coaching style to more traditional ways in the last three games, kicking and punting on fourth down for starters.
Focus on Joe
86 yards are the only yards the Ravens can scrounge out on the ground per game. Terrance West receives a majority of the carries for Baltimore and the Eagles should not be too concerned about him. The successful Eagles defense is ranked 15th in stopping the run, with the big front seven still carrying a heavy load.
Since the Ravens ground game is lackluster, Jim Schwartz and the rest of the defense can set their eyes on a different character, Joe Flacco. Known for his long completions down the field, Flacco ranks seventh among QB’s in passing yards, carrying the Ravens offense. Though the Ravens receiving crew appears light on paper, their explosive potential is off the charts with Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace.
Despite Flacco’s success in the air, he has trouble escaping pressure when the pocket collapses, which should be the sole focus for the Eagles defense this week. Flacco can be marked down for at least one turnover a game, whether that be an interception or fumble, and the Eagles must flip that turnover into points on the offensive side if they want a chance to win. Adding pressure on Flacco, will make him either take the sack, or make him attempt to create an escape route out of the pocket, which is not one of his redeeming qualities. A particular weakness when it comes to Flacco’s inability to detect pressure is his blind side. His awareness in the pocket is essentially non existent, which is rare for a successful NFL quarterback.
Considering the fact that Flacco has trouble detecting rushers from his strong side, pressuring his blind side will definitely lead to destruction in the backfield. The simple defensive play call of blitzing the weak side will take advantage of Flacco’s weakness. Since more players will be on the weak side for the Eagles, the players on the strong side need to pick up the slack, since the ball will most likely be heading in their direction on run plays and they will have less men in that area to defend it. Star defensive players, like Fletcher Cox, need to take up a big role in order for Philadelphia to be successful on defense.
The Eagles are very capable of winning this game in Baltimore but it will be up to the coaching, along with the players to make that happen. The result of the game is more in the hands of the Eagles than it is in the hands of Baltimore.