Wow, what a weekend of football, and what a matchup we have in store for us next weekend in the NFC Championship game. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that the NFC would be decided by either Nick Foles or Case Keenum, I wouldn’t have even laughed, I probably would’ve just ignored you flat out. But here we are, and the NFC comes down to the Vikings (lead by Case Keenum) and our Eagles (lead by Nick Foles). Doesn’t it seem fitting almost? Two blue-collar championship deprived football cities, full of gritty working-class fans, with teams that are known for their dominant defenses, and both full of players who were cast offs from other teams. This is what football, and sports in general, is all about. In a time where analytical statistics and probabilities are so paramount in sports, these two teams win in the most improbable fashion.
The Eagles have been counted out since Wentz went down, no one has given them a chance, no one. And yet, what have they done since Carson’s injury? They’ve done nothing but win (Cowboy’s game doesn’t count, it was a meaningless game). Sure, they’ve had to tweak their formula for success a bit, but their end goal hasn’t changed at all. Like coach Doug said in his post-game press conference, it really doesn’t matter what any of us in the media say about the Eagles, they will continue to fight and work their asses off for each other and for their city. This team is special, there’s no other way to put it. Let’s get into this week’s roundup.
1. The Offense Needs to Continue to Spread the Ball Around
I got a chance to re-watch some of the game yesterday in prepping this piece, and I didn’t realize how many different Eagle players touched the football on offense. From Alshon to Mack Hollins, everyone got involved in the action on Saturday. This offense has been predicated on spreading the ball around all season, and most people believed that was just Carson spreading the ball around on his own. Since his injury, that aspect of the offense hasn’t changed, and for good reason. The Eagles possess great skill players at every position. It’ll be imperative that they continue to spread the ball around next weekend against the Vikings in order to keep them from keying in on any single player. The only player that I still think that Doug needs to give more touches to is Jay Ajayi. His stats from Saturday won’t blow you away, but he made some pivotal plays and he’s clearly our best back right now. Blount was second in carries on Saturday but third in rushing, Agholor had 20 yards on two carries. Blount ended with nine carries for 19 yards. Although he did get into the end zone, those numbers are just unacceptable. I would even give some of those carries to Corey Clement, who also made some nice plays down the stretch. Blount either needs to step up his productivity, or he needs to lose carries, bottom line.
2. Nicky – Six Showed up Big Time.
Foles didn’t get off to the greatest start against the Falcons, but he ended with a respectable 23/30 completions, 246 yards, and a 100.1 QB rating. Not bad for a back up huh? No one expected Foles to come out and play lights out, but this stat line is right where Foles needs to be from here on out. He was the perfect game manager on Saturday. He didn’t blow anyone away, but he didn’t turn it over and he did what he had to do to win. And, at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can ask out of Foles. I’m not asking him to go out and win us playoff games, I’m just asking him not to lose them for us. If he can duplicate these types of numbers against the Vikings, I like our chances in that game as well.
3. The Eagles Dominated the Line of Scrimmage on Both Sides of the Ball.
The main reason why I thought the Eagles were going to beat the Falcons was because I believed they were going to dominate defensively. While that did come to fruition, what really won the Eagles the game was their ability to dominate on both line of scrimmages. On the defensive side of the ball, Fletcher Cox may have had his best game all season. He was all over the field. He faced constant double teams and still managed to record seven tackles and a sack. The Falcons were hopeless trying to run between the tackles. Their only effective runs were the outside runs, mainly to the speedy Tevin Coleman.
On the offensive side of the ball, everyone on the line played lights out. Even Vaitai, whose been the subject of so much criticism all season, showed up and didn’t allow a single sack against a good defensive line for the Falcons. Steffen Wisniewski, who has been overlooked all season but has had a really solid year, had one of the best plays I’ve ever seen from an offensive lineman. On a screen play to Jay Ajayi on a key third down at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Wisniewski put three different Falcons’ defenders on the ground, springing Ajayi for a 30-or-so yard catch and run. Both Kelce and Johnson played like the All-Pros that they are as well. Both the offensive and defensive lines are going to need to show up again against the Vikings if they want to punch their tickets to the Super Bowl.
4. Keep Doubting Us.
Like I said at the beginning, no one, and I mean no one, has given the Eagles a chance since Wentz went down against LA. And you know what I say to those doubters? Go ahead and keep doubting us, it’s nothing but motivation for us fans and more importantly the players. Sure, this team doesn’t have their MVP candidate anymore, we all understand that. But this is why football is the greatest team sport in the World. No one player makes or breaks a team, and on any given Sunday any team can be beaten. The Eagles have defied the odds all season, and they’re continuing that in the post season. Every stat, every probability, every over/under is going to be in favor of the Vikings. But at the end of the day, none of those stats are going to matter come game time. The best team on Sunday is going to win and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl, and I cannot freakin’ wait. It’s going to be one hell of a game, Sunday can’t come soon enough.