Many optimistic Eagles fans thought the upcoming four-pack of games to end the season — three of these comingboth at home and against NFC East foes — to be a bit more important.
But stuck in the mud at 5-7 after a 3-0 start, the Eagles will need not only to run the table but also to get help from nearly half a dozen teams to land in a wild card spot.
Their uphill battle will commence Sunday afternoon against the Redskins.
Here are three things to watch for in the Week 14 matchup:
Back on Oct. 16 in Washington, the Eagles were 3-1 — fresh off their first loss of the year against the Lions — and revved up to take control of the division against the Redskins.
A few big plays kept the Eagles in the game despite an atrocious run defenseand Carson Wentz had the ball in his hands with a chance to march down the field and tie things (before taking a controversial sack). It wasn’t so in the 27-20 setback.
“Felt like we had opportunities in the game,” Doug Pederson told the media this week, looking back at the bitter defeat.”We didn’t capitalize on a few things in the football game. Fell behind again defensively. Malcolm [Jenkins] had the pick-six and kind of kept us right in there. Special teams had a big play. So those are things that kept us in that football game. I know offensively we have to do a little bit better executing our game plan, just understanding. It’s great to now finally have a home game here with them, and a great opportunity against a good football team that’s playing extremely well.”
Defensive identity crisis
After their Week 10 win against the Falcons at home, Philadelphia’s total defense ranked sixth of 32 NFL teams. Over the last three games, the Eagles have averaged more than 412 yards allowed on defense, the third worst in that span. What the heck happened?
“You know, for nine weeks you probably could not mention best defenses in the NFL without mentioning the Eagles,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said this week.”The last three, you probably can’t mention worst defenses in the NFL without mentioning the Eagles. Hey, facts of life, man. That’s what it is. Same scheme, same players. … We’re in a slump. You know? We have to own that. We’re in a three-game slump.”
Philly needs its pass rush against Kirk Cousins and the Skins. Over those last three putrid weeks, the Eagles have averaged 0.3 sacks per game. Prior to that it was 2.8 per game, one of the best in football.
Wentz wearing out?
The Eagles will get back two of their biggest weapons in Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews Sunday as each were full participants in practice. With a full (at least full by Eagles standards) stockpile of offensive weapons can Wentz rebound from perhaps his worst game of the season?
“Every quarterback tries to do too much, especially when you’re not generating the points that we want to generate,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said of Wentz, who threw three interceptions in a whopping 60 attempts in a 32-14 loss in Cincinnati.”Are there going to be times when you try to do too much? Yes, absolutely. Has it happened? Yeah. But I don’t think it’s happened as much as it could have, to be honest with you. I think he’s handled it pretty well.”
Wentz’ quarterback rating has regressed with every passing month, dropping from 103.8 in September to 83.3 in October to 70.9 in November. Last week he posted a 58.2 rating to start December.