By Shawn Lealos
The Thursday NFL games for the 2015 NFL season have been up and down throughout the year, and this week’s game is a unique match-up. When the season started, the Philadelphia Eagles were favored to win the NFC East and the Detroit Lions were picked to contend with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. After 10 games, the Eagles are 4-6 and the Lions are 3-7, both teams are struggling. Now, the teams play on Thursday night.
Philadelphia Eagles Playoff Hopes Still Alive
Unlike the Detroit Lions, the Eagles still have a chance to make it to the playoffs because they play in the NFC East. Despite having a 4-6 losing record, they are only one game out of first place in the weakest division in the NFC. The fact that they have beaten the first place New York Giants gives them a tiebreaker advantage right now as well. One more win for the Eagles, coupled with a loss for the Giants, will move the hapless Eagles into first place in their division.
A New-Look Offense
One of the biggest sore spots for the Eagles’ fans heading into the season was the fact that Philadelphia traded away starting running back LeSean McCoy and starting quarterback Nick Foles, as well as letting starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin leave as a free agent. However, the Eagles signed last year’s NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray and received former first overall NFL draft pick Sam Bradford in exchange. Through the first half of the season, the results were disappointing. Murray has only 515 yards through 10 games. However, when looked at as a two-headed rushing attack, Murray has combined with Ryan Mathews for a total of 942 yards and nine touchdowns. That puts them on pace for 1,500 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. It isn’t as dire as it seems.
The second problem is that most Eagles fans remember Bradford from his days struggling with the St. Louis Rams, a team that gave him no offensive weapons and he ended up tearing both ACL’s over his career there. Most fans believe he has been a huge disappointment since coming to the Eagles. However, a closer look shows that Bradford has really turned things around since becoming more comfortable in the offense. In the win over the Dallas Cowboys, Bradford threw for 295 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions and a 103.4 rating. Against the tough Miami Dolphins defense, he threw for 236 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions and a 118.1 rating before suffering a concussion. The Eagles need him back on Thursday night, especially when they watched Mark Sanchez throw three interceptions in the loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On the other side of the field, Matthew Stafford has been one of the best quarterbacks statistically in the NFL over the past few seasons. However, his great numbers have not turned into wins. Despite being 3-7 on the season, the Lions have won two straight games and look to be trying to turn things around. This week is a big one for Stafford. Philadelphia isn’t losing because their offense is bad, they are losing because they have a horrible defense. They rank 25th in the NFL in total defense and Stafford has a game here he can win.
The Decline of Calvin Johnson
One of the big reasons the Detroit Lions are not scoring like they used to this season is the decline of Calvin Johnson. At one time he was the best wide receiver in the NFL, Johnson has only eclipsed 100 yards in one game this season and has only caught three touchdown passes on the year. That 166 yard receiving game for Johnson was the first win of the season for Detroit. It should also be noted that Johnson has had the ball thrown his way 98 times and only caught 59 of them. The Lions need Johnson to play better this season if they want any chance to win more games.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.