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Eagles Preview: Five on the Chargers

The Eagles will try to win at Lincoln Financial Field for the first time this season against a talented Chargers team

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles didn’t exactly find a magic formula in Detroit against the hapless Lions but what they did uncover was a little bit of confidence that will accompany them home to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday against a slumping Chargers team looking to halt a two-game skid.

Sunday's game figures to serve as a bit of a litmus test for Nick Sirianni’s team which has yet to win on their home ground this season.

The game plan figures to be similar to Detroit where the Eagles ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns, their biggest numbers on the ground since 2013. The Chargers, meanwhile, will arrive with the NFL's worst run defense.

Here are our five things to know about the 4-3 Chargers:

STUMPING STALEY

Regarded as one of the most progressive and innovative defensive minds in football, rookie Chargers coach Brandon Staley has been quite the cause célèbre around the NFL with his takes on everything from the running game to Jon Gruden.

On the field, however, his defense is last in the NFL when it comes to run support.

Overall, the Chargers' defense comes in ranked 19th in the NFL and 24th in scoring defense, a far cry from where Staley wants them because he arrived with the resume of being part of the best scoring defense in the league on two occasions, including 2020 as the defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams.

Staley had only been in the NFL for four seasons before getting the big chair with the Chargers: two as the outside linebacker coach in Chicago, another as the OLB mentor in Denver where he followed Vic Fangio before Sean McVay offered him the DC job with the Rams.

Over those four campaigns, no defense that Staley has ever been a part of at the pro level has ever allowed more than 20.0 points per game, something the Chargers have only accomplished four times over the past 15 seasons.

Coming into Philadelphia, the Chargers defense has allowed 25.3 PPG so improvement is necessary for a coach that happens to be one of Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon’s best friends.

"Brandon and I go back playing AAU basketball against each other in the Cleveland area since we were 10 years old,” Gannon said earlier this week. “Then we got in the coaching business together. We developed a relationship because we were competing against each other on the basketball floor.

"... we're friends. We're good friends and we talk. I learned a lot of ball from him and hopefully he's learned some ball from me."

If anything, Gannon is understating the relationship and the two coaches were in each other’s weddings and Gannon is the godfather of Staley’s youngest son.

BODY CLOCK

When west coast teams come east they are often referred to as body-clock games and the Chargers got a bit of a break with Sunday's game being slotted as a 4:05 ET kickoff, meaning it should feel like 1:00 for L.A. vs. the alternative 10:00 in the morning.

L.A. has come across the country twice already for a season-opening win at Washington and then a Week 6 blowout loss at Baltimore, the latter easily L.A.'s worst performance of the season.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are 0-3 at home so far this season after dominating at home for the most part in the Doug Pederson era.

SITUATIONAL OFFENSE

The Chargers offense has been a top-10 unit on both third and fourth downs this season, ranking No. 9 in third-down conversion rate at 43.5 percent while also being one of just two teams to convert eight-or-more fourth downs at 9-for-13, good for 69.2 percent, the third-best mark in the NFL.

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During his 22 career starts, Justin Herbert has been the best passer at moving the chains on third down in the NFL. As a rookie Herbert tied for the league lead in touchdown passes on third down with 14, the most by a rookie in the last 40 seasons. He's got five more this season, giving him 19 scoring throws on third down which is second-best over that span.

Herbert's 108 first-down completions on football's most important down leads the entire NFL over the past two seasons.

"He’s great, man," Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said when discussing Herbert. "Strong arm, man. He got a gunslinger. He’s slinging that thing. Got a great receiving corps. Got guys who can do all of it."

BOFFO BOSA

The Eagles already saw Nick Bosa earlier this season and now they have to deal with his big brother, talented Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa.

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Bosa has been one of the league's best pure pass-rushers, recording the fifth-best sacks-per-game mark behind only superstars Chandler Jones, T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald, and Danielle Hunter. Bosa's 51 .0 career sacks over that span are No. 8.

"He'll play 60-70 percent my side and then on the left tackle," Lane Johnson said of Bosa. "I've seen them move him down on the guards too. ...there's a handful of guys that are supremely talented. He's one of those guys. So it's gonna be a good test for me.

"... One of those guys on the edge, one of those freaks of the NFL that I get to match up against so I'm excited about it."

FINE FINISHERS

The Chargers rank sixth in the NFL with 66 fourth-quarter points, a clear indication that they are never really going to be out for the football game thanks to Herbert's ability to push the football down the field at times.

The lone exception was a Week 6 loss in Baltimore, the last time L.A. had to come east. When the Chargers really get cooking things can get explosive as evidenced by their 26 fourth-quarter against Cleveland in a Week 5 shootout win.

PREDICTION:

John McMullen (7-1, 5-3 vs. spread): Whatever the spin Philadelphia needs a win at home. Herbert looks like he's going to be a star moving forward for a lot of years. His skill-position talent is also a sharp step up from what the Eagles faced in Detroit as well while Bosa and Derwin James can be game-wreckers on the defensive side.

The good news is that the Chargers arrive with the worst run defense in the NFL and a right side of the offensive line that could be exploited by Josh Sweat and Co.

You can talk yourself into either side winning this game so I'm playing the odds. The Eagles have to win at some point at home.

EAGLES 24, CHARGERS 23

Ed Kracz (4-4, 4-4 vs. spread): All this talk about run, run, run for the Eagles. I think it boils down to one player - L.A. QB Justin Herbert. He concerns me the most. Four quarterbacks have already completed 80-plus percent of their passes against Jonathan Gannon's defense this season. Herbert will make it five, and that's trouble.

CHARGERS 27, EAGLES 23

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.