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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (3-5) at Oakland (3-4)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - And the quarterback carousel continues for the Philadelphia Eagles.
No matter who's under center Sunday for the Eagles in their road bout against the Oakland Raiders, they will try to get back on track after a pair of disappointing losses to division foes.
The Eagles haven't scored an offensive touchdown in losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, posting 10 points in that span, and the once- potent offense has been parked in neutral. The Eagles were one of the highest- scoring teams early on, but are now 18th in the NFL (22.0 ppg).
In Sunday's 15-7 home loss to the Giants, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick returned from a hamstring injury and quickly departed in the second quarter after aggravating the problem. Vick had missed 2 1/2 games and completed 6- of-9 passes for 30 yards with an interception before giving way to rookie Matt Barkley, who threw for 158 yards with an interception and a fumble. Barkley took plenty of reps in practice and still needs time to develop.
Vick will not play Sunday, while backup Nick Foles was inactive in Philadelphia's 10th straight home loss with lingering effects from a concussion suffered versus the Cowboys. Foles was cleared to practice this week and will get the start in Oakland.
"I am (ready)," Foles said after Tuesday's practice. "I cleared everything and I feel good. I felt good out there today. It was a long week last week, but the most important thing was getting healthy. I had a lot of support, and I feel great. It was great to get back out there with the team and I feel like we had a good day today."
Head coach Chip Kelly confirmed the news Wednesday morning.
"Nick did really well," Kelly said Wednesday morning. "I know he was cleared, but just because he was cleared, we still needed to see him. I hadn't really had a chance to visit with him and watch him out on the field, but I was really happy with how Nick practiced yesterday. ... Nick did a really good job and Nick is going to be our starting quarterback this week."
The Eagles, who have won two straight road games and are 3-1 away from Lincoln Financial Field this season, tend to run the offense better under Foles save a lousy showing against Dallas in which the lanky QB completed just 11-of-29 pass attempts for 80 yards before exiting the game with a head injury. Foles is the tallest quarterback on the roster, can read defenses and gets rid of the ball quicker than Vick.
Foles is 52-for-90 for 622 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions on the season, while Barkley is 28-for-46 for 287 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. If Foles gets the nod Sunday, and it appears he will, he will take over an offense that hasn't scored a touchdown since defeating Tampa Bay a few weeks ago.
The Eagles are 15th in passing (246.8) and fifth in total yards (397.1). Their bread-and-butter is the running game under LeSean McCoy, who hasn't been himself the past few weeks for the second-rated ground attack (150.4) in the NFL. McCoy leads the NFL with 733 rushing yards and is first in the NFC with 1,017 yards from scrimmage. However, McCoy has averaged just 66 rushing yards over his last four games after averaging 117 in his first four.
"I think LeSean, to his credit, is his own worst critic," Eagles first-year head coach Chip Kelly said Monday. "He takes a lot of responsibility. His numbers have been down the last two weeks. I think sometimes LeSean is trying to press too much and trying to hit a home run on every play instead of letting it develop."
From Weeks 4-8, Oakland's run defense has allowed just 76.0 yards per game, good for second in the league over that time. So it could be tough sledding again for the shifty McCoy.
For how poorly Philly has played recently, the team is just a game behind Dallas for first place in the NFC East. But the Giants and Washington Redskins are right behind.
As for the Raiders, they're coming off a big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and have won two straight and three of four games in Oakland this season. Emerging Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a 93-yard touchdown run and finished with 106 yards on nine scrambles. The former Ohio State star threw for just 88 yards and was picked off twice in the 21-18 decision.
"We had a phenomenal first half," Pryor said of the Raiders offense, "and the defense had a phenomenal second half."
Pryor broke Bo Jackson's team-record 92-yard run against Cincinnati on Nov. 5, 1992, as the Raiders outrushed the Steelers by a 197-35 margin. Raiders running back Darren McFadden had 73 yards and a pair of TD runs on 24 touches for Oakland, which is fifth in rushing (138.9), but last in passing (176.0). The Raiders lead the AFC in rushing thanks to Pryor and McFadden.
The Raiders will try to keep that going against a porous Eagles defense, which is 23rd in points allowed (26.4) and 31st in both pass defense (302.2) and total yards allowed (401.8). The Eagles, though, are tough against the run, sitting ninth in the league in rushing yards allowed (99.5).
Oakland's defense is in the middle of the pack and is led by Lamarr Houston's four sacks and Nick Roach's 51 tackles. The Raiders sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times, while linebacker Sio Moore had two.
Head coach Dennis Allen has been pleased with the stop unit.
"I've been pleased with what I've seen (on defense) and I knew coming into this season that this football team had the right mindset," Allen said. "I knew we had pros that wanted to come to work everyday, that were going to be unselfish, that were going to put the team first. They've done a great job for us so far. We're almost halfway through the season, so we have a long way to go, but I'm hopeful that they'll continue to improve."
Allen's squad is aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time since last Oct. 21-18. The Raiders lead the series with the Eagles by a 6-5 count, including a Super Bowl win, and took the last meeting between the teams, a 13-9 victory out west. Oakland has won three of the previous four matchups with the Eagles, who are 1-4 as the visitor.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Eagles' defense has played well the last few weeks and has been even better against the run. They'll see a lot of Pryor and McFadden on Sunday.
"I'm very proud of the offense, the offensive line, Darren (McFadden), Marcel (Reece), the outside guys blocking. We had the run game going very good," Pryor said after beating the Steelers.
Philadelphia hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season and has held five of eight teams under 100 total yards rushing, including the last four contests. The Eagles are one of just 11 teams in the NFL to hold their opponent without a 100-yard rusher this season. They are holding teams to just 18.3 points and 356.8 yards per game the past four contests, compared to 27.5 points and 446.8 yards through the first four games.
McFadden has rushed for 100 yards just once and Pryor has 391 rushing yards - the most by a QB this season. The Eagles limited New York to just 88 yards rushing last week.
"Pryor is a phenomenal athlete," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "The more film you watch, he makes you say 'wow' a lot of times with his escapability. We've got our hands full this week with trying to keep him contained and really limiting his playmaking ability, which is tough to do because he's such a versatile athlete. He's big, he's strong, he can move, he can throw the ball and his escapability is probably the best we've faced."
Davis' unit cannot sleep on Oakland's weak pass attack because it could explode at any moment with McFadden out of the backfield and top receiver Denarius Moore, who is averaging 17.6 yards per reception and leads the team with 179 yards after the catch.
Philly has to get it's high-flying act back to speed with DeSean Jackson. Jackson is a speedy receiver who can stretch the field and get behind a defense. Look for Oakland to use help over the top on Jackson. That would open the field for Eagles tight ends Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz. Kelly hasn't really implemented his tight ends this season, contrary to what experts believed he would do in training camp.
The Eagles are desperate for a win and need this one Sunday to stay alive in the NFC East. It won't be easy. Foles has to bounce back from his awful showing versus Dallas and McCoy must be patient in finding the right holes. Oakland is tough against the run, so McCoy will have his work cut out for him.
Oakland can make it hard for the Eagles by getting the passing game in order, which could set them up for back-to-back wins. Ultimately, the Eagles will run the Raiders into the ground with a convincing victory by the bay.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 27, Raiders 17
10/31 11:55:42 ET