The vibe I receive from most people I speak to suggests to me that a decent portion of the Philadelphia fan base isn’t feeling too confident about the 13-3 Eagles heading to the postseason. Despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Carson Wentz’s injury and Nick Foles’ underwhelming performance the last two regular season games are understandably casting a major cloud over Saturday, January 13th.
Save yourself the angst. Life is far too short.
While I agree that the Birds’ chances to win its first Super Bowl are less with Foles than Wentz, how often do the Eagles find themselves in the position to host two home playoff games and be three wins in a row from a parade down Broad Street?
The last time it happened was the 2004-05 season. The previous two years were the same, and prior to that, it was 1980-81, and the Birds weren’t even the top seed then. They were No. 2, as Dallas happened to bump the No. 1 Falcons.
So, why dread two Saturdays from now? Believe it or not, reeling off three wins in a row isn’t impossible and I can give you ten reasons why. Here they are:
10. The receivers can help out Foles’ rhythm.
If Torrey Smith, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t drop a ball like Smith did against the Cowboys, Foles will be able to stay in a consistent rhythm. Smith’s drop put the Birds number one unit in a funk that was impossible to get out of on that meaningless Sunday. While near perfection by the Birds pass catchers won’t guarantee a trip to Minneapolis, it sure won’t hurt their chances.
9. Could the Eagles benefit from calls just by being at The Linc?
NFL referees often make mistakes and doesn’t it usually feel like the road team receives the worst of these instances? There are no stats to back this theory up, and an official’s blunder could easily be a detriment to the Eagles, but what if it doesn’t? What if a ref messes up and it helps out the Birds? Don’t count on it, but don’t rule it out. Every now and then it’s better to be lucky than good.
8. “Real” practices will help.
At least a little bit before January 13th, the Eagles will practice in pads, upping the intensity. Sounds like based on Pederson running more walkthroughs than practices the last two weeks didn’t help the Birds’ overall performance against the Raiders and Cowboys. More intense practices can only help. Think of that as a positive going to the Divisional Round.
7. Don’t forget about the special teams.
The Eagles’ special teams are one of the best in the NFL. They makes plays and sometimes score touchdowns. If the Birds go the distance, I would be shocked if this unit didn’t make multiple big plays along the way. You may not believe in Foles, but believe in Dave Fipp’s bunch.
6. They’ve done it this season.
The Eagles haven’t lost two straight games all season, and most importantly, after dropping one to the Chiefs and Seahawks, the reeled off at least three wins in a row. That’s all they need, three straight victories.
5. The cold weather does more good for the Eagles than their first-round opponent.
The weather at Lincoln Financial Field this month should be cold and possibly include elements. The other teams in the NFC playoffs are either dome or warm weather teams. That’s a plus for the Eagles.
4. The running attack is the key on offense.
If Pederson doesn’t abandon the run game like it feels like he has, that will make life easier on Foles, create more manageable third downs and help control the time of possession better. The Eagles’ strength on offense is their rushing attack with Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement. It’s no longer the quarterback position. Hopefully the head coach recognizes that.
3. The offense will be geared towards Foles’ strengths.
This reason feeds off of No. 4, which is Pederson catering the offense to Foles, like running more, calling for shorter passes and thus quicker decisions from the quarterback and tempo to keep the defense off balance. Foles has to be better on third downs. If he is, that’s a big plus for the Birds.
2. The defense plays great at home.
The defense plays lights out as they have just about all year at The Linc. If Jim Schwartz’s unit doesn’t carry this team, they’ll be in trouble.
1. This is a different home team than the one from the Chip Kelly Era.
You, the fan, and the home-field advantage the Eagles will possess can be the team’s greatest assets. The Birds are 7-1 at home this season and 13-3 during Pederson’s tenure. It was why getting the No. 1 seed was so important, even before Wentz injured himself. The last four Super Bowls featured teams with home field throughout their conference playoffs. Of the last 19 Super Bowls, 18 of them featured at least one squad who played just two home games prior to “The Big Game.” The Linc needs to and will be loud, hostile and a nightmare for opposing squads.
If most, if not all, of the above happen, the 13-3 Eagles can absolutely find themselves in Minnesota the first weekend of February.
So you want to get rid of Brett Brown?
Do you still feel frustration towards the 76ers head coach, who is nothing but a loyal representative of a franchise that’s given him very little in his tenure? If you do, the players likely disagree with you. A video released by the Sixers Twitter account suggests just that.
RING US INTO THE NEW YEAR, COACH! pic.twitter.com/eGKrO2jaMV
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 4, 2018
Brown is asking Ben Simmons to ring the celebratory Liberty Bell after hitting key foul shots to beat the short handed San Antonio Spurs. However, the players quickly shut that down and demand the head coach do the honors after beating his former boss, Gregg Popovich, for the first time. It was a really cool moment.
The victory over San Antonio was significant for more than just that bonding moment. Joel Embiid played through the significant pain of a sprained right shooting hand, scoring 21 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and producing four first quarter blocks. It showed the man can fight discomfort, and maybe in doctors orders, to be there for his team and the city that adores him. Don’t hesitate to expect more decisions by Embiid in the future.
The 18-19 Sixers will be fine. They still give up double digit leads, and should have blown out the really depleted Spurs, however as they grow and build chemistry, that will happen.
Patience. Isn’t that what a Sam Hinkie supporter is used to anyway?
Before I forget …
• The Flyers continue to be the definition of inconsistent. They are 2-4-1 since their six-game winning streak heading into Thursday night against the Islanders. They put up bad performances against the Sabres, but beat the Lightning. They take care of the Maple Leafs, yet start slow against the Panthers and get routed by their rivals the Penguins. The Orange and Black are a puzzle. It’s a shame because their loyal fan base deserves a better product.
• I can’t help but feel happy for Buffalo Bills fans. The last time that franchise made the playoffs before now was 1999. Most 25-year-olds were around seven at the time. An entire generation of Buffalo faithful never experienced this before. Good for them.
• If Jon Gruden does return to the Raiders, that will be a good thing. His act is getting a little old in the broadcast booth. Gruden is overly positive about people and often gushes about guys he really likes.
• There is only one more month of NFL football left before September. It is one of the great entertainments of our lives. Regardless of how far the Eagles go, don’t take it for granted. It’s a beautiful sport.