The Philadelphia Eagles are 13-1 and in the driver’s seat for their destiny. They faced adversity in a tough game at Soldier Field in Chicago but came away with a 25-20 win, also avoiding injuries.
With a Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Eagles need to win 1 of their 3 remaining games to win the NFC east and clinch the #1 seed.
Let’s look at the hungry dog (player/coach of the game) and bird in the doghouse (worst player/coach of the game) performances against the Chicago Bears. I’ll also be predicting the best and worst performers in the Eagles’ upcoming matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.
Week 15 – Hungry Dog, Eagles @ Bears
Jonathan Gannon’s defense wins hungry dog of the week here, as this is a different Eagles’ game if that unit does not step up.
- They allowed 20 total points to Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense, but context is needed here.
- One Bears touchdown was allowed because Fletcher Cox did not recover a Justin Fields fumble, and another because of conservative defense late in the game.
- We’re talking about 13 points allowed if Fletcher Cox falls on a ball instead of trying to scoop it.
Ultimately, Gannon’s unit did its job, forcing 2 turnovers (one on downs), and multiple punts despite being on the field early and often and facing a few short fields. They earned 9 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defended, and had 6 total quarterback hits.
The Eagles turned the ball over three times on offense, but the Eagles defense allowed only 7 total points off those turnovers. The Eagles’ defensive line sacked Justin Fields 6 times, with 2 sacks each by Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Jason Hargrave. This unit has sacked the opposing quarterback 15 times in the last 3 games and has tremendous success without blitzing.
Jonathan Gannon’s defense is far from perfect, but it’s consistent. It always gives the Eagles’ offense a chance to win the game, gets timely turnovers, and allows 20 points per game or less. This will bode well heading into the postseason, as the Eagles will face better offenses.
Week 15 – Bird In The Doghouse, Eagles @ Bears
Shane Steichen, what on earth were you doing? This was one of the worst called offensive games of the season, which makes Steichen the bird in the doghouse this week.
His playcalling against the Bears was a prime example of an offensive coordinator making a game harder than it needed to be for the Eagles roster.
- The Bears came into this game with the 27th-ranked run defense, yet Steichen refused to run.
- The Eagles’ passed 15 straight times on offense to start the game, and Miles Sanders didn’t receive a carry until their 4th offensive drive.
During this time, the offensive line suffered heavily in pass protection and Steichen’s playcalling didn’t adjust. This resulted in Jalen Hurts’ turnovers and the Eagles losing the time of possession battle early on. The lack of commitment to the run combined with swing passes and poorly planned screens to wide receivers had the Eagles punting early and often.
The Eagles’ next two touchdown drives coincidentally happened once Steichen eliminated those screens and called runs and vertical passing plays.
- Going forward, Steichen needs to play to the strengths of his offense.
- Miles Sanders had only 11 carries against a bad rush defense, and that cannot happen again.
- Over-complicating the offense can lead to crucial mistakes, and the Eagles cannot afford to have that happen with a #1 seed to clinch.
Furthermore, it’s one of the few things that could cost them a playoff game. It speaks to how good Jalen Hurts is, that he was able to put up 3 rushing touchdowns and deliver 100+ yards to AJ Brown and Devonta Smith respectively, with Steichen’s playcalling.
Week 16 – Hungry Dog Prediction, Eagles @ Cowboys
This Dallas Cowboys team is one of the best in the NFL, but they have flaws just like everyone else.
Despite having a ton of talent on their defensive front, the Cowboys have one of the poorer pass defenses in the NFL. They allow 131 rushing yards per game, good for 9th worst in the league.
If the Eagles want to win in Dallas, the key will be controlling the time of possession, and Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders’s legs will be the key to that. Both are my hungry dog picks for this game.
The key to countering a Dallas Cowboys rushing offense that could do the same is controlling the clock. In addition to poor running defense, the Dallas Cowboys also are the 9th worst in the league at passing the football.
If the Eagles can contain CeeDee Lamb, they’ll have an easier day because this Cowboys wide receiver group does not instill fear collectively. The Eagles’ defensive backs, James Bradberry and Darius Slay could be a potential honorable mention for the hungry dog.
Week 16 – Bird In The Doghouse Prediction, Eagles @ Cowboys
Although the Dallas Cowboys run defense is a liability, their pass defense is one of the best in the league.
They allow only 177 passing yards per game. Shane Steichen and Nick Sirianni have to be smart and realize that this is not the matchup to drop Jalen Hurts back 60 times a game.
It’s time to learn from the mistakes of the Bears game, pound the rock, and use Hurts, Sanders, and Gainwell in a great collective effort. If the Eagles lose this game, it will be because they tried to pass too much and lost the time of possession battle.
The Eagles have one of the best offenses in the league but they have to capitalize on their strength in this game, their rushing offense.
Shane Steichen is my prediction for the bird in the doghouse, as I worry he will get too pass-happy against the Cowboys’ defensive backs. Unfortunately, I will struggle to trust him going forward after the Bears game. Thanks, Shane!