Lions vs. Eagles: Five things to watch

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News

Last week’s win in the home opener means we are out of “must-win” territory for a while.

Sunday in Philadelphia is a new category of urgency for the Lions: The first of three “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…” games.

It’s house money in some ways, but a three-game losing streak at Philly, against Kansas City and at Green Bay would put Detroit in another hole at 1-3-1.

Darius Slay and the Lions' secondary match up well against the Eagles receiving corps.

Better to get at least one of these games, and Sunday might be the best chance against the beat up Eagles.

Here are five things to watch Sunday when the Lions play at the Eagles (1 p.m., Fox/760):

1. Lean on me

The Lions’ secondary is pretty good, and should have the personnel advantage against banged-up Philly pass-catchers — tight end Zach Ertz notwithstanding.

DeSean Jackson is out and Alshon Jeffery could be too, which means Darius Slay, Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin, Tracy Walker and Quandre Diggs can play aggressively against folks like Nelson Agholor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins.

2. Wentzlvania

When healthy, Carson Wentz has been one of the league’s top quarterbacks in his four seasons.

The North Dakota State product operates out of the pocket like Philip Rivers did against the Lions in Week 2, but also is tough to bring down like the injured Ben Roethlisberger across the state in Pittsburgh.

The Lions need to bring pressure but also be diligent about bringing Wentz down when they get there.

3. Blitz birth?

Philly defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz does not blitz much, instead relying on his dominant defensive line to get things done, particularly inside.

However, with tackles Tim Jernigan and Malik Jackson out, the Eagles might have to blitz more than normal, like they did last week against Atlanta.

Keep an eye on if the Lions offensive line and running backs are able to pick up disguised rushes and give Matthew Stafford time to make them pay.

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4. Bowling ball

With C.J. Anderson now gone, it begs an obvious question of who the Lions turn to on short-yardage situations.

There’s no telling yet if running back Paul Perkins will be active in his first week with the team, but his history there is strong: According to Lions radio voice Dan Miller, Perkins has 16 career first downs on 21 carries with 3 yards or less to pick up.

5. Line moving down

The spread for this game opened at 9 points in favor of Philly but has moved all the way to 5 as of mid-day Saturday.

Injuries are of course key there, but it’s also an indication that the volume of bets — and the big bets — are coming in on the Lions. Maybe there was a little stubbornness in that big opening number, as the Eagles were again perceived Super Bowl contenders.

But Philly is 0-2 against the spread this year. And, by the way, the Eagles and Lions have gone over the over/under total in their last five meetings (45.5 this week).

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.