The Philadelphia Eagles clearly weren’t themselves this past Sunday night in their 24-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Or were they?
Is it possible that you saw the true Birds and their previous 10-1 record was a beneficiary of playing inferior opponents?
Were these previous foes so bad that the only reason the Eagles won by double digits in five consecutive games was because of their level of competition, and not the fact their quarterback is a blossoming superstar, their defensive line is one of the most vicious in football and their head coach is the next best thing to Bill Belichick?
That’s what we’ll find out Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
No, we won’t find out if Wentz is a stud. He most certainly is and will be for a long time.
Sorry, the Birds’ defensive line is vicious even if Russell Wilson put on a clinic.
And Doug Pederson isn’t remotely close to Bill Belichick, but he’s still a good head coach that is going to perform poorly every now and then. They all do, including Belichick.
Sunday will prove whether or not the Eagles are good enough to go to the Super Bowl, or at least sniff the plane tickets to Minnesota in a NFC Championship setting.
It won’t 100 percent determine playoff seeding, but it will give you a good idea as to whether or not their first postseason game is the weekend of January 6th or January 13th.
The Eagles and Rams are so close, it’s scary. The Birds’ lone quality win was in Carolina. L.A. took down Jacksonville and New Orleans. In terms of statistics, they’re a near match, actually scoring the same amount of points, tied atop the NFL. Both sport young, inexperienced, but impressive head coaches who are candidates for NFL Coach of the Year. Both traded up to select their franchise quarterbacks at No. 1 and 2 in 2016.
It’s a phenomenal matchup that will be very telling.
If the Eagles are the 10-win team they’ve distinguished themselves as before their mistake-filled night in Seattle, they should dominate the Rams at Lincoln Financial Field West. But, if the Birds aren’t good enough yet to be at “The Big Boy Table,” you’ll learn that Sunday afternoon was a preview of the cup of coffee they’ll barely get to sip in January.
Before I forget…
• The Cleveland Browns fired general manager Sashi Brown after a 1-27 record throughout the past two seasons. Brown will be infamous for passing on Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson, and instead deciding to stockpile picks and build a core that a quarterback they truly valued could eventually join. Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta told ESPN a couple of years ago that it’s not worth taking a quarterback just to take you if you don’t view him as someone who could be in the top 20 in the league at that position. In terms of quarterback ratings this season, the top 20 in the NFL include the likes of Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor. All are serviceable players, but not as good or promising as Wentz and Watson. Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer is ranked 35th. Maybe the analytical “Moneyball” founder DePodesta should go back to baseball where he belongs.
• The spinal injury Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered on Monday Night Football was terrifying and extremely sad. It goes to show that immediate immobilization can happen from making any kind of tackle in the game of football. In the same game, Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bengals linebacker George Iloka were penalized for vicious hits to their opponent. Both were initially suspended. Iloka’s penalty was reduced to a fine. A day earlier, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski put on a flat out dirty cheap shot after a play against the Bills. What Gronk did could have been avoided and should have been hit with a harsher penalty than a one-game suspension. In light of these latest instances, the conversation about the safety of football has come to the forefront again. It’s leaving a lot of people questioning how safe the sport is and whether people, especially youth, should keep playing a sport that could very well lead to CTE. It’s sad to see what this extreme contact sport does to your body, but anyone who plays football now knows what they’re signing up for. It’s no secret. Are we bad people for loving a violent activity and for wanting to watch it on a weekly basis? No. Should children avoid football in light of its danger? No. The facts are out there. The research is being done. Football has its consequences. No one is hiding that. Anymore.
• Is Markelle Fultz ready for the NBA? I’d like to think he is if several people considered him a top draft pick, if not worthy of No. 1 overall, which is where he went. Maybe the 19-year-old was a victim of “Sixers Rookie-itis,” an unofficial affliction I just made up to describe 76ers rookies entering their NBA careers with injury problems. But, note his age; he’s 19 that’s pretty young for anyone to be thrust into a major role with a massive corporation in any field. Not to mention, this particular 19-year-old entered a league that possesses grown men who are physical specimens constantly fueling and taking care of their bodies. Fultz’s diet included Chick-fil-A. The guard is back with the 76ers after rehabbing his shoulder in Kentucky. There is no timetable for him to resume the disappointing start to his NBA career. The Washington product will still probably be a great talent in the NBA as most number one picks are. However, maybe the NBA should make its minimum age 21. Not everyone is LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Ben Simmons is 21 and Joel Embiid’s first season of action came when he was 22. As stupid as this usually sounds, maybe Fultz’s injury was a blessing in disguise. It will allow him to enroll in “Sixers University,” previously attended by Simmons and Embiid. They turned out more than A-OK.
• Every time I hear Gabe Kapler speak, I get more and more excited for the upcoming Phillies season, despite the Eagles possibly being in contention for a Super Bowl. His enthusiasm and energy is infectious. Whether he can manage is a mystery yet to be solved, but there’s no question, the 2018 Phils will not only be tolerable, they’ll be extremely fascinating.
• Despite losing 10 games in a row, the Flyers are well within playoff contention. Going into Thursday night at Vancouver, they’re only six points back of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. If they were in the Atlantic Division, they would only be two points back of the third place Canadiens. The Flyers’ seven overtime/shootout losses are the most in the NHL. You could easily question Dave Hakstol and Ron Hextall’s performance this season, but even so, you can’t count the Flyers out, which is quite remarkable considering their lack of success.