There are a plenty of reasons to like the Buffalo Bills to beat the Eagles on Sunday (1 pm/FOX) at New Era Field.
The Bills’ defense is ranked third in the NFL against the run and their offense is second in the league in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring touchdowns at a 69 percent efficiency rate.
But the real reason to believe the Bills will win and move to 6-1 while sending the Eagles home from their three-game road trip losers of all three and with a 3-5 record has to do with the Eagles themselves.
Six Eagles were ruled out on Friday due to injury: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle/illness), receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), left tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quad).
Tight end Zach Ertz’s targets and production are down considerably from a year ago when he set the NFL record for most catches by a tight end with 116.
Ertz talked about how he doesn’t think last year’s carping from an anonymous source or two about quarterback Carson Wentz favoring Ertz in the passing game are the reason, but he didn’t sound overly sure that it isn’t the case his production has dipped (see attached video).
The Eagles have been careless with the ball, committing seven turnovers in the last two games, and they have three players at defensive tackle that ended last weekend on practice squads: Bruce Hector (Eagles), Albert Huggins (Texans), and Anthony Rush (Raiders). Huggins and Rush will be making their NFL debuts.
The linebacker play has been inadequate and the secondary has not helped up well all season.
That is every level of the defense that is suspect.
Yet, the main reason to like the Bills on Sunday goes much deeper than injuries to key personnel and lack of production at various spots.
It goes to the heart of the culture that head coach Doug Pederson fostered and molded into a Super Bowl champion just two years ago. Suddenly, it feels rotten, almost toxic.
If it’s not anonymous sources taking shots at the quarterback, it is former Eagles cornerback Orlando Scandrick ripping the defense and the organization in so many ways on Friday morning on FS1’s Undisputed.
It’s the lack of accountability as right tackle Lane Johnson alluded to when he said there are some players who don’t always show up to time for practice and/or meetings.
It’s defensive tackle Fletcher Cox having call police then arm himself with a shotgun in the early morning hours of Oct. 15 to defend himself, his New Jersey home and a woman inside from that woman’s ex-boyfriend.
It all adds up to give this team an aurora of an imminent collapse.
Amid the turmoil, they talked a good game this week, but now it is time to walk the walk.
“This team is mad,” said Pederson. “They’re upset and they’re disappointed in how we've lost these last two games. They are embarrassed obviously from the other day, which is good. It's not good that you lose, but it's good the fact that they're taking ownership of it. They're in a good spot. Again, like I've said, this is a resilient group. They are going to bounce back and respond positively.”
Pederson said on Friday – before the news of Scandrick’s bombshell opinions – that he likes what he has seen from his team on the field this week and the way his leadership council of players has stepped up.
“If something happens in practice, they want to repeat a play, they want to get it right, they want to make that correction right away, they are working off on the side, (quarterback) Carson (Wentz) and the receivers are throwing extra on the side, or the offensive line is working extra on the side, whatever it might be,” said Pederson.
“Those are all signs of teams that it means something to them. It's important to them and they want to fix it, and nobody likes to lose, obviously, in this league or in any league at any level. They are working hard to fix it.”
Frankly, there feels like more work needs to be done.
Prediction: Bills 20, Eagles 16