The Denver Broncos visit the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
PFFELO Ranking: 17
Coverage by: Daniel Cohen
Matchup: Denver Broncos offense vs. Philadelphia Eagles defense
- WR Demaryius Thomas vs. CB Jalen Mills – Though Thomas caught five passes last week, he was also targeted on a Trevor Siemian interception, bringing his passer rating when targeted down to 59.3 on the year (0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions). Mills presents a beatable matchup, as he’s earned a coverage grade of just 69.2 on the year, which is tied for 71st among cornerbacks. Hopefully for Thomas, the return of Sanders will lead to less pressure on Thomas. Without Sanders the past two weeks, Thomas caught just half of his 14 targets for 75 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
- WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. CB Patrick Robinson – On the other side, Sanders will have a tough first game back from injury against Robinson, who has put up the fourth highest overall grade for a cornerback thus far (89.9). Sanders’ 75.8 grade is one spot ahead of Thomas in wide receiver overall grades, as he’ll look to regain his target share this week. While Broncos quarterbacks have thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns when targeting Thomas, they have thrown zero interceptions and two touchdowns when targeting Sanders.
- T Menelik Watson vs. Edge Brandon Graham – After a large helping of Justin Houston last week, unfortunately things won’t get much better for Watson this week against the third-highest graded edge defender. Graham’s 37 total pressures ranks third among all 4-3 defensive ends this season. Watson got off to a rough start, allowing 13 total pressures in his first two games, but has since fared better allowing 10 pressures over his last five games.
Coverage by: Mike Alessandrini
Matchup: Philadelphia Eagles offense vs. Denver Broncos defense
- Eagles running backs vs. Broncos linebackers – Philadelphia’s backfield, which ranks fifth in rushing offense, got even more dangerous at the deadline after the team traded for Jay Ajayi. Ajayi may not feature heavily this week, but the former Miami Dolphin will be a major offensive piece moving forward. For now, the Eagles rushing attack will feature LeGarrette Blount, who leads the NFL with a 110.4 elusive rating in 2017 while averaging 3.96 yards after contact per attempt. Corey Clement was Philadelphia’s second most used running back last week (19 snaps), earning a 40.7 breakaway percentage on 10 carries. Meanwhile, Denver features the second-best rush defense in the NFL led in part by their linebackers. Brandon Marshall has eight stops against the run and a 76.9 run defense grade, while Todd Davis has accumulated 14 run stops while not missing a tackle. His 14.7 run-stop percentage is third best at his position.
*Editor’s note: Ajayi should play for the Eagles on Sunday, per reports. He played the first eight weeks with the Miami Dolphins before being traded before the NFL trade deadline.
- T Lane Johnson vs. Edge Von Miller – The winner of this matchup will go a long way in determining the outcome of this Sunday’s contest. Lane Johnson is in the middle of a strong season at right tackle, earning am 84.4 overall grade through eight games (fifth best among tackles) and a 96.9 pass-blocking efficiency grade (sixth best). Johnson is, however, coming off his worst pass-blocking effort of the year. He allowed three pressures, including one sack against the 49ers last week. The lineman will have his hands full with one of the league’s top defenders this week. Miller leads all edge rushers with a 16.1 pass-rush productivity while earning a 91.0 overall grade. The star defender accumulated six total pressures last week at Kansas City.
- WR Alshon Jeffery vs. CB Aqib Talib – Jeffery is coming off another up-and-down game heading into this matchup. The wideout hauled in a spectacular 53-yards touchdown and his second two-point conversion of the season, but was largely invisible otherwise. Jeffery is averaging 1.54 yards per route run, good for 42nd out of 83 qualifying receivers. The first-year Eagle will have his hands full once again with one of the top cover corners in the league. Talib has earned an 86.3 overall grade in 2017, 11th best at his position. The veteran also ranks third with 0.43 yards per coverage snap allowed. Opposing quarterbacks have a 59.8 passer rating when targeting the defensive back.