With Carson Wentz going down for the year this past Sunday, it’s hard not to have a pessimistic outlook on the rest of the season. It felt special, for so many reasons, and losing Wentz understandably lowers everyone’s expectations. I literally felt sick to my stomach the day after the game, I’ve never been more devastated over something sports related in my life. But, there’s nothing any of us can do now except move on and put our faith behind Nick Foles. We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves all we want, but what’s done is done, and believe me this season is far from over. It took me a couple days to digest Carson’s injury, but soon I was able to come to terms with it and realize this team still has a good chance at making a Super Bowl run. Call me crazy, but I still believe the Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC, and so should the rest of the league. Let’s dive into four reasons the Birds still have a shot at contending.
Wentz has been the Eagles MVP all season, there’s no doubt about that. And while our 11-2 record has a lot to do with his MVP caliber play, the Eagles are far from a one-person team. This isn’t the Packers, who without Aaron Rodgers barely managed to stay relevant in the NFC playoff picture. The Eagles are the most complete team in the NFL. They’ve been able to plug players in all season, and most of them have played well. They’re deep at nearly every position, and that includes Quarterback. Yes, there isn’t much behind Nick Foles if he goes down, but the fact that the Eagles even have Nick Foles as their backup is crazy. He’s by far the best backup QB in the NFL, and there’s about 3-4 teams he could start for. Not only does this team have the personnel required to still make a championship run, but they all play with a sense of unselfishness and their goal every week is to win, flat out. They don’t care about their stats, or whether they made a big play, all they want to do is win football games. The winning mentality that’s been built up in the locker room won’t just go out the window now that Wentz is down, if anything it should motivate the players to win even more.
When the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi before the deadline a few weeks back it was apparent that they were preparing themselves for a deep playoff run. The NFL is a Quarterback’s league and there’s no denying that. But, the key to winning late in the season will always be good defense and ball control — two things the Eagles are very good at. They lead the league in time of possession and I imagine it will only increase now that Foles in under center. I expect Doug Pederson to ride the three-headed monster he has in his backfield for the rest of season. Ajayi, Blount, and Clement should all get increased touches over these next few weeks. If they can get the running game going, they’ll be able to use play action and give Foles easy passes which will eat up clock all game. The Eagles have a very good defense as well, but they will need to step up a bit with their biggest offensive weapon sidelined. They’ve struggled somewhat the past two weeks against the Seahawks and the Rams, but I expect them to get back on track this week against the laughably bad New York Giants. We haven’t seen smash mouth football from the Birds in a long time, but from here on out the best chance the Birds have at winning is by doing just that.
Like I said before, Foles is by far the best backup QB in the league. He’s played in Philly before and he’s played well in this kind of offensive system before. The only time Foles really struggled in his career was when he played under Jeff Fisher in St. Louis, just like almost every other QB who has ever played for Fisher. For as long as he’s been a head coach in this league (22 years) he’s only ever had one successful quarterback, and that’s future Hall of Famer Steve McNair. For an offensive minded coach, that’s embarrassing. In Foles’ career with the Eagles, he had a 15-9 record, he threw 49 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and 6,288 yards. Not to mention his 2013 campaign was one of the best statistical seasons ever by a quarterback, he threw for 27 touchdowns to only two interceptions with a QB rating of 119.2. That passer rating is good for 3rd best all time, just behind Aaron Rodgers 2011 MVP season and Peyton Manning’s record breaking 2004 season.
As you can see, Foles is more than capable of winning games for the Eagles. Especially since he’s on the most talented team he’s ever been on. He won’t be asked to do much either, I expect Pederson to run the ball a lot over the next few weeks and build his game plans around the rushing attack. If Foles plays up to his ability in a familiar system, the Eagles really shouldn’t miss a step.
I don’t want to sound like I’m discrediting everything Wentz has done this season, because I’m not. I’m fully aware that he is a big reason the Eagles are 11-2 right now and sit atop the NFC. But there’s something about this season and this team, something that I’ve never felt with Philly sports. It’s something special — something that has built up from the start of mini camp back in May. The winning culture, the sense of togetherness and unselfishness, these things are rare in professional sports nowadays. This team wants a Super Bowl, and I’d be surprised if Wentz going down has changed any of those expectations. In past years I’d probably be chalking up the season as a lost cause. As a Philly fan, I’m used to disappointment and always having the feeling of “why us?” But now I’m thinking, why NOT us? This team still has everything they need to make a run. If they prepare and play the way they’re capable of playing, the Eagles Super Bowl chances are still very high.