Both Philly and Oakland rely on the run and that should make for an attritional game on Sunday night, says Neil Harvey
"Ground and pound looks to be the order of the day in Oakland, with both sides likely to pin their hopes on their running games. With the teams looking so closely matched, home advantage might give the Raiders the upper hand, but I’d offset that with Philly’s proven ability to grab wins on the road."
Philadelphia Eagles @ Oakland Raiders
Start Time: Sunday, 21:05
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
It's not too late for either the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) or the Oakland Raiders (3-4) to get themselves into play-off contention, but looking at both teams' results so far, it would take a leap of faith to believe that's possible for either.
Both have been as bad, if not worse, than their records suggest. Philadelphia have only managed to beat teams with losing records - Washington (2-5), the Giants (2-6) and Tampa Bay (0-7) - although to their credit two of those victories came on the road. While Oakland beat the league's worst ranking team Jacksonville (0-8), Pittsburgh (2-5), with the only ray of light coming courtesy of a 27-17 win over San Diego (4-3). It should be noted though that all Oakland's victories came with home advantage.
The team stats do nothing to paint these teams in a better light either. For all the talk of Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryors's NFL record 93 yard run (the longest ever by a QB), nobody seems to be mentioning his abject failure when throwing the ball, with the Raiders ranked last in the NFL for passing offense. In that department, it might seem as if Philadelphia, ranked 16, have the clear edge. But that's before you recognize that much of their good work came with Michael Vick under centre. But a hamstrung Vick misses out this week. And that means a swift return from concussion for Nick Foles, who was seen posting an unbelievably low 80-yard passing game last time out, in a home loss to Dallas. Returning from a head injury, and such a poor performance, it's difficult to see Foles being anything but apprehensive.
To make things worse for Philly, their top wideout DeSean Jackson is a doubt for the game after twisting his ankle in training. His presence is crucial to the Eagles' chances, as they have no credible back-up in case Jackson misses out, and because the one chink in Oakland's armour is potentially their 17th ranked pass-defense.
It's fair to say that both teams feel much more at home when using their ground offense. Oakland have their wind-up toy Darren McFadden, whom they allow to just run again and again and again. His yards per rush are nothing special, but he's a man Oakland trust with the ball, especially near the goal-line, which explains why McFadden already has four touchdowns from six games. And when he isn't running the ball, Pryor is. Oakland's QB can't throw too well, but he sure can run, and currently averages more than 60 yards rushing per game.
The Eagles though are likely to see Oakland's one trick pony run-offense coming from a mile away, and they have the equipment to deal with it. Philly rank eighth in the NFL at stopping the run and in Week Three rose to face a similar challenge, when they limited Kansas running back Jamaal Charles to less than a hundred yards. The Eagles will stack the box and dare Pryor to do what he's unable to do so far, and pass the ball.
Likewise, Oakland's sixth-rated rush defense knows how to stop the run. And it's just as well, because the Eagles rank second in the league for rushing. And with the unproven Foles back at QB, you can be sure Philly's premiere RB, LeSean McCoy, will be in for a busy day.
Ground and pound looks to be the order of the day in Oakland, with both sides likely to pin their hopes on their running games. With the teams looking so closely matched, home advantage might give the Raiders the upper hand, but I'd offset that with Philly's proven ability to grab wins on the road, plus the Eagles also have the edge when it comes to forcing turnovers, which could prove crucial in what looks a very close contest.
This game could down to a late field goal, so that makes the Eagles getting the head-start the call. But I fancy Philadelphia could even pinch the win, with overtime looking more likely than usual on this occasion.
Philadelphia (+4) to win @ 7/10 (Sportsbook)
Total points Under 46.5 @ 4/5 (Sportsbook)
Philadelphia to win by 1-6 pts @ 18/5 (Sportsbook)
Overtime to be played @ 9.08/1 or greater once market gains liquidity
First touchdown type to be rushing TD @ 2.68/5 or better once market gains liquidity