3 things to watch for when Eagles host Raiders on Christmas Day

The Eagles survived their road trip, going 2-1 and winning their first NFC East crown since 2013. But it didn’t come without a price. Carson Wentz is gone for the season with a torn ACL as Nick Foles ascends on the Linc to make his first start there since 2014.

Birds fans will get a special Christmas gift Monday night, as the Eagles and Raiders will do battle to wrap up the holiday season — an 8:30 p.m. start on ESPN. Here are three things to watch for:

Playoff implications

It is likely that the Eagles will be battling for the No. 1 seed against Oakland Monday. If, by some twist, the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers are able to upset the Vikings on Sunday, Philly will be handed homefield throughout the playoffs. But if Minnestoa does win, the Eagles will need to beat either the Raiders this week or the Cowboys next week to clinch at least two playoff games at home. 

Already having guaranteed a home playoff game and first round bye, the Eagles can also focus on getting perhaps Nate Sudfield — Nick Foles’ back up — some action over these last two games. Afterall he is one play away from being the Eagles playoff quarterback. And don’t be surprised to see a lot of second unit action over the next couple weeks as well, as Philly tries to stay healthy and well-rounded preparing for the playoffs in January.

Defensive rebound

On the season, the Eagles allow just 19.9 points per game, good for seventh in the NFL. But the last three games have not been played by a top 10 NFL defense. Over that stretch, Philly has allowed the fourth most points in the league, 29.3. The 29 points and 434 passing yards allowed to the 2-12 Giants last week is particularly troubling. Against Oakland, the secondary must tighten up, and tackling must improve.

“One thing that has hurt us particularly in this last game, were penalties and third down,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “The first three series of the game, I think we started 0-6 on third downs. You talk about a good formula for giving up points, there’s one right there.”

“When we’re playing our best, we don’t give teams a second chance.”

Ignore distractions

The trappings of being the No. 1 seed bring with them high expectations. More this season than recent seasons prior the national media is praising, criticizing and taking a very close interest in the Eagles, with or without Wentz. To assure postseason success, veteran voices like Malcolm Jenkins and LeGarrette Blount — each who have Super Bowl rings — will need to be loud in the locker room.

“Quite honestly, we just have to continue to talk to them and continue to educate them and just understand there’s going to be highs and lows,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “You got to maintain that level playing field as best you can and work through it.”

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