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Week 5: NFC North Game Previews

Week 5 is scheduled with four NFC North teams playing on Sunday. The Packers /Giants will be Sunday Night Football and our resident sandals and sock expert will be covering that preview. Let’s take a look at the other three NFC North afternoon matchups.

Eagles at Lions 1 PM on FOX

The Lions are reeling after three straight losses. They open a three game home stand with an undefeated 3-0 Eagles team coming off a bye. The Eagles defense is playing extremely well under former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and rookie Carson Wentz (103 rating) is also playing extremely well. Philadelphia looks to carry their momentum from whipping the Steelers in Week 3.

Lions Passing Game

The Eagles have a very strong back 7 and pass rush allowing only a 66 QB rating and 0 passing TDs in 3 games. Fletcher Cox (3 sacks) and Brandon Graham (3 sacks) are matchup nightmares for the Lions offensive line. The Eagles have incredible safeties in Rodney McCleod (2 ints) and Malcolm Jenkins. However, Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks are cornerbacks that can be beat by Detroit’s weapons.

Detroit must protect Stafford and the weapons must play much better than in Week 4 (and Week 2). Marvin Jones showed up for the fourth week in a row but Golden Tate and Eric Ebron laid eggs against the Bears. Ebron may not play due to ankle and knee injuries which would be a blow for Detroit. The Lions weapons must win their matchups and avoid more drops.

Stafford has played well in most of the four weeks but will have to be great like in Week 1 and 3 in order to beat the Eagles.

Lions Running Game

Detroit is hurt at RB with both Ameer Abdullah (foot on IR) and Dwayne Washington (ankle) out for this game. Theo Riddick is a good receiving running back but has been terrible other than Week 1 running the football.

Zach Zenner should get more carries and can be the power back the Lions need. The Eagles have allowed 4.3 YPC but only 71 yards rushing yards a game (due to leads and low carries). Detroit must run the ball well to slow the Eagles strong pass rush.

Eagles Passing Attack

Wentz is 6th in passer rating with 103.6 rating. He has 5 TDs with 0 interceptions. The Eagles have strong protection with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson at tackle. Allen Barbe has been a solid left guard and Jason Kelce is a good center. Free agent Brandon Brooks is earning his 8 million per year contract at right guard. Johnson is undergoing an appeal for PEDs but of course, unluckily for the Lions, it should take a week to decide so Johnson will get to play one more game this season.

The Eagles weapons are lacking with Jordan Matthews at 204 yards and 2 TDs on 26 targets. Ebron has 210 yards on 25 targets for comparison. Nelson Algohor (120 yards) isn’t the greatest route runner but is a deep threat. Sproles is still a threat as a receiving running back (160 yards). Zach Ertz returns just in time to face Detroit too after a rib injury in Week 1. The Lions have had trouble with tight ends and Ertz and Brent Celek could have productive days.

The problem is Detroit needs a pass rush to stop any QB. Hoyer and Rodgers had all day to throw and had big games. Luck had time in the second half of Week 1 and dominated. The same can be said for Mariota in Week 2 in the fourth quarter. Ansah probably won’t play again but hopefully Taylor is more recovered from his ankle injury. A random sack by Kerry Hyder won’t be enough.

Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and Devin Taylor (ankle) are out and hurt. Third DE Wallace Gilberry is on IR. Kerry Hyder has 5 sacks in 4 games but doesn’t bring a consistent pass rush. The Lions need to find a pass rush somehow.

The Lions DTs must step up because Peters and Johnson can shut down even the top DEs let alone back-ups and injured players. Tyrunn Walker, Kyri Thornton and Stefan Charles have been major disappointments. Robinson has shown flashes but is a rookie DT. Ngata is still good but can do more with pass rush. The Lion’s blitzes must be smart, well-timed and actually get to the QB or it will be another long day.

Eagles Rushing Attack

The Eagles have only run at 3.7 YPC due to Ryan Mathews’ (3.2 YPC) struggles. Matthews is dealing with an ankle injury as well. Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner have had some success in 20 carries a piece though for Philadelphia. The Lions have had issues in run defense the last two weeks and hope to stop that trend against the Eagles. Detroit making Philadelphia one dimensional could really help them stop Wentz.

Turnovers

The Eagles have forced 6 turnovers in 3 games and have yet to turn the ball over. This is a big reason why they are 3-0. The Lions have only forced one turnover on the year and the Eagles take care of the ball. Detroit needs to find a way to force two turnovers in this game.

The Lions need this win. I don’t know how they do it but Detroit will win this game.

Detroit 28 Philadelphia 21

Bears at Colts 1PM ET FOX

The Bears found a running game with Jordan Howard in Week 4 and Hoyer is protecting the football. Alshon Jeffrey is a stud and Zach Miller (3 TDs) has a nice rapport with Hoyer. Eddie Royal looks much better than last year. The Bears lost Kevin White to IR again though.

The Colts defense has had issues. The Colts have their secondary back healthy and DE Arthur Jones should finally return after missing all year and being suspended the first four games this year. The Bears offense has struggled to score points (15.5 PPG) even with Hoyer playing solid. We’ll see if they can take advantage of the Colts defense.

The Colts are 1-3 after a loss to Detroit at home, Denver on the road and Jacksonville in London. The Colts defense should be healthier and their offense can score points. However, the Colts have been on the wrong side of a shoot out twice. Andrew Luck better start earning that contract and carry the team.

The Colts have an all-rookie right side of the offensive line which the Bears can exploit. The Bears are not a team that scores many points and the Bears defense is still very banged up missing McPhee, Houston, Goldman (maybe) and Fuller.

The Colts offense is good enough to beat the Bears unless Luck’s weapons have a terrible game like Detroit had in Week 4. Colts 31 Bears 21

Texans at Vikings 1 PM ET CBS

The Vikings have a great defense with 15.2 PPG allowed and 11 turnovers forced. Bradford is 3rd in the league in QB rating and McKinnon showed some signs of life for the Vikings run game in Week 4. If the Vikings can pressure Osweiler, he won’t be able to use Hopkins and Fuller. Lamar Miller must have a good game to give the Texans a chance and keep the Texans balanced to avoid the Vikings pass rush.

The Texans beat the Titans, Chiefs and Bears but were shut out by the Patriots. JJ Watt is on IR which is a huge break for the Vikings. The Texans defense is still good enough to stop the Vikings poor offense and offensive line without Watt. This will be a defensive battle. Vikings still pull out the win. Vikings 17 Texans 14