DETROIT -- The Philadelphia Eagles have gotten off to a memorable start under new coach Doug Pederson. He would prefer for them to forget it ever happened.
The Eagles were the most surprising success story during the opening month of the season, dismissing three opponents by a combined score of 92-27 despite starting rookie Carson Wentz at quarterback. That included a stunning 34-3 pummeling of Pittsburgh prior to their bye Week 4.
They return with a road game against the stumbling Detroit Lions, who have lost three straight. Philadelphia is one of three remaining unbeaten teams, along with Denver and Minnesota.
"Really, in my opinion, our season starts now," Pederson said. "What we've done already is great. We're in a good position but we need to buckle down and prepare as if this is Week One."
Wentz became the starter when Sam Bradford was traded to the Vikings just before the regular season. He has justified the team's faith in him, completing 64.7 percent of his pass attempts and throwing for five touchdowns without an interception.
"I'm going to continue to coach him up, coach him hard and try to put him in the best possible situations on Sunday, where he's not having to hold the ball a long time," Pederson said. "We'll utilize the run game, play-action passes, all that stuff you've seen in the first three games and keep that formula."
The offense should get a boost from the return of starting running back Ryan Mathews and tight end Zach Ertz. Mathews only had two carries against the Steelers before exiting with an ankle injury. Wendell Smallwood rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown in his absence.
"Ryan is still our primary guy, he's our go-to guy," Pederson said. "If he's 100 percent we'll go with Ryan and mix the other guys in according to the gameplan."
Ertz sat out the last two games after suffering a displaced rib during the opener but has been cleared to play and returned to practice on Monday. He has six catches for 58 yards in 2016. Philadelphia's leading receiver has been wideout Jordan Matthews with 15 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
But there are some looming issues for Philadelphia.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham could be facing a suspension after he was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to Miami International Airport over the weekend. Offensive tackle Lane Johnson is facing a 10-game suspension for taking a banned substance, pending the results of his appeal, which took place earlier this week.
Very little has gone right for the Lions since their opening-day victory at Indianapolis. They lost a late lead to Tennessee in their only home game thus far, then fell to division rivals Green Bay and Chicago.
The 17-14 defeat to the injury-ravaged Bears, who were without their starting quarterback, top two running backs and several key defenders, was particularly troubling.
All this has put coach Jim Caldwell on the hot seat.
"You know that's one of those things that we don't worry about," he said. "My job is to coach this team and to get this team headed in the right direction."
The Lions have been held to 66 and 50 yards rushing, respectively, over the last two games after starting running back Ameer Abdullah was sidelined with a foot injury.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn't overcome the lack of running game in Chicago, throwing for just 213 yards and getting picked off twice. He's eager to turn things around.
"Honestly, after you play like we did in Chicago that's the first thing I want to do, get back on the field," he said. "I wish we could practice after the flight home. But, practice is all just leading up to Sunday. We're preparing to try and play better this Sunday than we did last Sunday, and we need to, we have to."
Getting underperforming wide receiver Golden Tate more involved could help the cause. Tate had just one catch against the Bears, caught an earful from Stafford after a miscommunication led to an interception and was benched for part of the game.
Detroit's pass rush has been mostly ineffective since premier defensive end Ziggy Ansah left the Titans game in the first quarter with a high ankle sprain. He's questionable to return this week.
The teams met last Thanksgiving, with Detroit romping to a 45-14 victory.