After the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears in week 15, fans and media were flying high. The Dallas Cowboys loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that day instilled confidence the Eagles would wrap the division and first-round bye up quickly.
That was not the case, as Jalen Hurts was diagnosed with a sprained shoulder and the Gardner Minshew-led Eagles lost two straight games. The Eagles still control their playoff destiny for the one seed, but the team is facing the toughest adversity of the season.
- The Eagles can clinch the one seed and NFC East on Sunday with a win or tie over the New York Giants.
- They can still get the one seed if they lose, if both the Cowboys and 49ers also lose their Sunday matchups.
- They can clinch the NFC east with a loss if the Cowboys’ lose but could lose the one seed to the 49ers in that scenario.
I’m going to look at both sides of the argument, why the fans and media should be worried about clinching the one seed and why they shouldn’t.
Why Fans And Media SHOULD Panic
The Eagles roster managed to stay relatively healthy all season long, but crucial injuries occurred between the Bears, Cowboys, and Saints games.
- Jalen Hurts suffered a shoulder sprain against the Bears.
- Avonte Maddox, a crucial cornerstone in the secondary, suffered a significant toe injury against the Cowboys.
- Josh Sweat was carted off with a neck injury against the Saints.
- Lane Johnson is also OUT to an injury.
Since he was drafted, the Eagles are 12-22 when Lane Johnson does not suit up. They are 79-47-1 with him during that time, which shows his importance. He put off surgery to return for the playoffs, but he won’t be at 100%.
Lane not suiting up against the New York Giants is unsettling after the poor performance of Minshew against New Orleans. It’s even more unsettling to think that if Hurts plays, he’ll take extra hits from the right side.
Hurts participated in throwing drills last week. It appears progress has been made, but it’s very likely he’s still in pain. A sprained shoulder generally improves within one to two weeks but can take up to six to fully heal.
Six weeks from our current timeframe is the NFC championship game. It is speculated that Hurts has multiple medical hurdles to clear to be ready for the Giants game, and there’s no guarantee he’s cleared. Eagles fans and media expected the team to win at least one of the two Minshew starts, and the team did not.
They’re faced with a must-win that gives them the one seed and home-field advantage, or they’re heading to Tampa Bay as a fifth seed on wild card weekend. Although the Giants are an inferior opponent, the lack of a status update for Hurts and Steichen’s inconsistent game plans for Minshew is panic-worthy.
- Will Steichen wait too long to run the football?
- Will Jonathan Gannon play too much zone against the Giants?
We don’t know. It also should be noted that the Eagles have lost every second divisional matchup this season, and the Giants may want to play spoiler. Giants’ coach Brian Daboll is a competitor and may want to play his starters to keep the team’s momentum going into wild card weekend.
Why Fans And Media SHOULD NOT Panic
On the other side of the spectrum, the Eagles’ injuries could be much worse. CJ Gardner Johnson and Robert Quinn’s practice windows were activated, and both could play against the Giants. Josh Sweat tweeted that he’ll be back this season, showed up to NovaCare on Wednesday in great spirits, and is day-to-day.
Nick Sirianni even gave an update on Maddox and is hopeful he will return soon. Hurts was limited in practice on Wednesday and participated in the walkthrough, something he did not do last week. The belief is that resting him against the Saints was precautionary and would have been ready to play if the Cowboys had beaten the Jaguars.
He made excellent throws against the Bears, plays after he was speculated to have suffered the shoulder sprain. Hypothetically, if Hurts is even only 80%, it instills more confidence than throwing Minshew out there. The Eagles’ offensive line will have another week to gel in practice without Lane Johnson, and Jeff Stoutland is the best position coach in the NFL.
Although Steichen and Gannon are inconsistent, this Giants team is a great matchup for both. The Giants have a far inferior pass defense than the Saints, and the Eagles would have more success passing the football, regardless of who starts. Steichen seems to learn from his mistakes when he ignores the run the following week.
Luckily for Gannon, this Giants team lacks good-skill players, and reinforcements are coming on defense. The Eagles defense has also excelled in stopping running backs in the last two months. If we’ve learned anything about a Gannon defense this season, the Eagles will always be kept in the game unless the ball is turned over excessively on offense.
The Eagles are at home; this game will be seen as a playoff game. The Giants have already clinched a postseason berth and cannot advance in the standings. Seeing as though the Giants already have a massive injury report, it would be unwise to risk further injury heading into wild-card weekend.
Some say the Giants may have a vendetta after Doug Pederson pulled starters against the Commanders in 2020, but we have to remember that was a different Giants’ coaching staff and regime. They likely won’t care and are focused on what’s best for them. There is a lot of recency bias going around, and fans and media are applying a Minshew-led Eagles team to a Jalen-lead one.
The Eagles are 13-1 with Hurts under center. That is the real Eagles team and the biggest stat that matters.
I’m a “glass half full” person, so I’m taking the latter here.
Fans and media are justified in frustration over the last two weeks. It’s such a Philadelphia team thing to do to make the road much harder than it is, but here we are. At the end of the day, everything is in front of the Eagles, and they don’t have to depend on others. Go birds.