Forgot the preseason. Forget gambling on random West Coast college football games. The Eagles are back for real on Sunday. They’ll kickoff their season in Detroit against a lowly Lions team that won just three games in 2021. There are no guaranteed wins in NFL, but this is about as favorable of a matchup as the Eagles could’ve drawn to open the 2022 campaign.
As I’ll do for every Birds game, here are five over/unders I’ve come up with as the Eagles prepare to play their first meaningful football in eight months.
[A quick reminder for those new to our over/unders: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, these are my own numbers based on how I think the players/teams will perform that week — and the advice that follows is where I would put my money if I had to.]
Eagles margin of victory: 3.5
The Eagles’ spread against the Lions has danced around -3.5 and -4 this week. Let’s do 3.5 for the sake of this exercise. I’m confident in the Birds hitting that and then some. Here’s what I wrote in our sports staff’s Week 1 predictions:
The talk of Detroit being this underdog, gritty team that’s going to try so hard gets thrown out the window as soon as the regular season actually kicks off. An obvious take: Every team tries hard in Week 1 after dying to play against real competition for months and months.
I don’t buy any talk of letdowns or overlooking opponents in Week 1. The Lions were prominently on TV all summer on “Hard Knocks.” No one has forgotten about them. People credit Detroit head coach Dan Campbell’s passion and heart-on-his-sleeves persona, but I wouldn’t say Nick Sirianni is too far off, though he’s a bit more controlled about it than Campbell. He will have his guys ready to play. Sirianni’s squad is more talented than Campbell’s at every position other than running back. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a 44-6 steamroll like it was when the Birds visited Detroit last year, but I imagine it’ll be one of the least-infuriating days of the season for Eagles fans.
A.J. Brown touchdowns: 0.5
A.J. Brown’s arrival in Philadelphia is the spiritual successor to the addition of Terrell Owens back in 2004. Brown is the best receiver the franchise has had since Owens, who totaled 14 touchdowns in just 14 games in ’04. In T.O.’s first game, he scored three touchdowns against the Giants and the city went wild. Three touchdowns is likely out of the cards, but Brown starting his Eagles career off with a bang feels all too fitting.
For those who are superstitious and ready entirely too much into a team’s uniform decisions, the Eagles will be going with white jerseys and green pants in Detroit, just as they did during Owens’ Eagles debut.
Darius Slay touchdowns: 0.5
After spending the first seven years of his career with the Lions, making four Pro Bowls along the way, Darius Slay returned to Detroit as an opponent for the first time last season. In that Halloween blowout, Slay had a scoop-and-score moment that gave the Birds a 38-0 third quarter lead:
Slay had three return touchdowns in 2021: that moment in Detroit, a fumble return in Denver and then a pick-6 at home against the Saints.
I’ll say Slay doesn’t hit pay dirt this week, but I’m sure he’ll be bringing his trademark energy regardless, riding high after being named a team captain for the first time in the NFL.
For what it’s worth, the Eagles’ defense/special teams is +425 to score a touchdown on Sunday on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Eagles total rushing yards: 199.5
The Eagles topped 200 rushing yards in a game five times in 2021. In their matchup with the Lions, the Birds went for 236 yards on the ground. Will they break that mark again? I wrote an in-depth piece this week look at what the Eagles’ offense identity was with Jalen Hurts last season and whether that can be predictive for this upcoming season. TL;DR: They’ll probably throw the ball more in 2022 because of Brown and the development they need to see from Hurts.
Expect the Eagles to have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL once again, but I have doubts they’ll lead the league in rushing yards in back-to-back years. I’ll go with 169 rushing yards for Sunday.
D’Andre Swift yards from scrimmage: 81.5
D’Andre Swift is the Lions’ best offensive player and, really, their lone chance of making huge strides against the Birds’ defense. Swift, of course, is a Philadelphia native and a St. Joseph’s Prep graduate, adding another local element to this over/under choice. In 13 games in 2021, Swift had 1,069 yards from scrimmage (82.2 per game). Will he top that mark?
I say no. Assuming the Eagles get out to an early lead (not a given by any means!), Swift’s ability as a runner is neutralized as Detroit has no choice but to throw the ball to get back into games. Swift, however, is a factor in the passing game and had 62 catches last season.
In last year’s game against the Eagles, Swift had just 27 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards. He’ll probably improve on that some, but I still say the Eagles hold him to under 81.5. Put him down for 76 yards from scrimmage (very intentional Philly reference).
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