Skip to main content

Weekend Look Ahead

Presented by

5 things to watch for in Bills at Eagles | Week 12


1. Touchdown makers

It's a game of touchdown headliners Sunday with Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts running the offensive units in this Bills-Eagles matchup. The two quarterbacks rank first and second in the league in most total touchdowns this season with 29 and 24 respectively.

And while Allen has more total touchdowns this season, Hurts leads the NFL with 32 rushing touchdowns since he became the Eagles starting quarterback in 2021 and has more rushing touchdowns this season (9) than the rest of the Eagles team combined (6).

Allen had at least eight rushing touchdowns in each of his first three seasons (2018-20) and with a rushing touchdown on Sunday, can join Newton as the only quarterbacks ever with at least eight rushing touchdowns in four career seasons. Hurts is the only other quarterback with three such seasons.

But Hurts is more than just a running quarterback. He's been equally effective throwing the ball which is what makes him so difficult to defend in the eyes of Bills head coach Sean McDermott.

"He's a really tough player to go against for those reasons among others really," said McDermott of Hurts. "I mean he's playing at a high, high level. And he uses not only his arm, but his feet. And it's tough to defend whether it be any situation, you name it, red zone, third down, two minute and beyond. So, you have to defend all 11 on the field."

The same can be said about Josh Allen, who leads the league in passing touchdowns with 22.

"It's really hard to defend him," said Eagles defensive coordinator, Sean Desai of Allen. "He can beat you throwing the ball, running the ball as a true runner with the quarterback run game and as a scrambler. He can create explosives in a lot of different ways. He's big. He's tough and physical. He's accurate. He has a strong arm. All those things present unique challenges."

This will be the first regular season matchup entering Week 12 or later between quarterbacks who rank first and second in total touchdowns since Week 14 of the 1975 season. Buffalo's Joe Ferguson squared off against Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton in a game the Bills ultimately lost 35-13.

2. Winning matchups

In the first game under new offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, the Bills relied on pre-snap motion to scheme players open and to give Josh Allen valuable information about the intentions of the Jets defense. The result was an attack that not only had answers but dictated play to the league's third-ranked pass defense.

Against an Eagles defense this week, Buffalo's new offensive play caller may decide to make exploiting matchups the priority.

"I think week to week something that we evaluate and look at are how the defenses are kind of playing us," said Brady. "I don't think it's anything where, hey, this week or for the rest of the season, we're going to be a team that just attacks the middle of the field for example. It's how can we put our players in position to have success based on what we're going against, and not just doing it because somebody else had success running against that defense. Does it fit us? Does it fit our guys? What are the matchups?"

ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, who made his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ Tuesday, believes there are matchups for the Bills offense to exploit in the passing game.

"Defensively they're not nearly what they were last year, and they've struggled to cover," said Orlovsky of Philadelphia's 28th ranked pass defense. "James Bradbury has not played to the level that he did last year. They lost CJ Gardner-Johnson in free agency then went down to Avonte Maddox who's a pretty darn good nickel and he got hurt. They have struggled to replace that nickel. And they were living in this world of, 'Do we want to play zone like we did last year? No, we'll play more man.' And then the only guy who has played man well is Darius Slay. So, the Bills can create some matchups, and if they get the right people in the right places and you get them on that nickel, they can have success in their pass game, 100 percent. There are holes in that secondary. That's the truth."

Philadelphia's defense has surrendered 21 passing touchdowns in 10 games played, which stands as the third most in the league so far this season. They've also managed just five interceptions giving the Eagles the worst touchdown to interception ratio (4:1) allowed than any other team in football.

Orlovsky felt the Chiefs had opportunities to take the Monday Night game at Arrowhead, but they simply failed to execute in their 21-17 loss to the Eagles.

"Kansas City had plenty of plays available there," he said. "They just didn't make them. In simplest form it's just catch the ball obviously. But this wasn't like they struggled. So, it's matchup-centric of how many different ways can they get their pass catcher, whether it's Stefon Diggs or Gabe Davis or Khalil Shakir, but this is going to be a matchup centric game rather than ball distribution centric."

The Eagles are allowing more than 193 yards per game to receivers, the third most in the NFL this season.

3. Brothers in pressure

The Eagles led the league in sacks last season with an eye-popping total of 70. This season, they haven't gotten home nearly as much, as they rank 17th in sack percentage. Buffalo, however, stands second in the league in sacks with 39, trailing only league leading Baltimore with 44.

Though Philadelphia is slightly off the league-leading pace tied for ninth in the league with 31 sacks, they have waves of pass rushers they can deploy with their deep player rotation spearheaded by Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat who have combined for 15 quarterback takedowns.

Bills offensive coordinator, Joe Brady is up to speed on the ways in which Philadelphia can just roll lines of talent on and off the field with their defense.

"They do a really good job of affecting the quarterback and getting after it and they have playmakers on the outside and so it's going to be a great challenge for us," said Brady. "I'm glad we got a full week this week to prepare and get ready for them."

The Eagles had just one sack last week against Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, but they also had 20 quarterback pressures on Mahomes' 50 drop backs in the game.

"Their front makes their defense go," said Josh Allen. "They've got some studs on that defensive line. So, we've got to be ready for that. We've got to put together a good game plan, have a good week of practice and turn all of our attention towards them."

Buffalo's defense is coming off a six-sack performance against the Jets.

Jalen Hurts has been sacked 27 times in 10 games, including five times last week at Kansas City. Josh Allen has been taken down just 14 times in 11 games played.

4. Two top Dawgs

While much will be made about the high-end quarterback matchup on Sunday of Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts, there are two premier backs taking the field as well in this cross-conference matchup. Eagles' top back D'Andre Swift and Buffalo's James Cook are among the league's rushing leaders in most categories.

Only two rushing yards separates D'Andre Swift (690) and James Cook (688), who rank third and fourth in the league in rushing thus far this season. Both are also University of Georgia products, who were teammates in Athens for two seasons (2018-2019).

Cook has the edge in yards per carry this season (5.0 to 4.7) while Swift has more total touchdowns (5 to 3). Even their longest plays this season are separated by just a yard. Swift's long is 43 yards while Cook's is 42.

Where Buffalo's second year back has the biggest edge over his fellow Bulldog alum, is in total yards from scrimmage where he has a 52-yard lead (939 to 887).

"I won't go into the details here, but I've seen signs of him developing, which I know he's been working on so that's been good to see," said head coach Sean McDermott of Cook. "You could tell he's been running with a purpose. He's had his pads down and I've just seen signs."

ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, has been encouraged by the progress Buffalo's run game has demonstrated the last two weeks.

"They ran the football in power situations," said Orlovsky. "They got their backs on the edges in the run game. So that would be something I think and that lends to Buffalo with Dion (Dawkins) as a pillar."

Buffalo stands 11th in rushing, but the Eagles boast the number one run defense in the league as they allow fewer than 77 yards on the ground per game (76.5).

5. Secondary watch

The Bills secondary was hard hit by injury last season, and this season unfortunately hasn't been much different. Already without CB Tre'Davious White for the rest of the season after his ruptured Achilles injury in Week 4, Buffalo lost three defensive backs in last week's game against the Jets.

Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson left with head injuries, and Taylor Rapp left by ambulance with a neck injury. The good news is Rapp has a chance to play this week after all his tests came back negative earlier this week. Though he did not practice Wednesday, he did on a limited basis on Thursday .

Jackson and Johnson are both in concussion protocol and did not practice Wednesday, but Johnson did practice on a limited basis Thursday.

Starting S Micah Hyde and DB Cam Lewis, who filled in for Johnson at nickel corner are dealing with stinger and shoulder injuries respectively. They were able to practice this week on a limited basis.

Philadelphia's secondary has seen its share of injuries too, but they are adjusting to the changes they've had to make with Bradley Roby at nickel corner, and trade acquisition, Kevin Byard at safety. The pair came up with a pair of red zone takeaways in the comeback victory over the Chiefs last Monday.

"A big part of their problems in the red zone earlier this season was dealing with their injuries on their back end," said Eagles analyst, Ike Reese in an appearance on the 'Bills by the Numbers' podcast. "Defensive coordinator, Sean Desai has done a good job of handling all the new personnel. He had to water down some things just so all the new guys could play fast. And they had to clear the communication hurdle. They've dealt with it and now they're starting to improve."

Related Content