Eagles Hit the Postseason with House Money
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (973espn.com) - The Eagles are in the playoffs and you'll likely know by next week if Doug Pederson's latest last-season run -- against the dreck that is the rest of the NFC East -- is legitimate or fool's gold.
Either way, it's impressive -- not the part where Philadelphia beat the four-win New York Giants in a home-and-home series, the three-win Washington Redskins with a late-game drive, or even the somewhat competent Dallas Cowboys with a quarterback needing multiple pain injections to get through the game. It was winning a war, you're never supposed to win -- against attrition.
In the Eagles' 34-17 NFC East-clinching win over the Giants at a rain-swept MetLife Stadium Sunday, they lost star rookie Miles Sanders (ankle) and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks (shoulder) in-game but still persevered with playmakers named Boston Scott, Josh Perkins, and Deontay Burnett.
Carson Wentz, meanwhile, set new franchise records for completions and passing yards while leading the Eagles back from the abyss of 5-7 to a division title and a home playoff game against the loser of San Francisco/Seattle on Sunday night, all without his star playmakers like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor and Darren Sproles never mind Ertz and the in-game injuries on Sunday. Wentz was also down two All-Pro level starters in the offensive line when Brooks joined his best friend Lane Johnson on the sidelines.
Yet, somehow both Pederson and Wentz hit the post-game podium with NFC East championship hats, the organization's second division title in three years, and the latter wearing a t-shirt saying the NFC East is not enough.
A better team through 16 games -- the loser of the NFC West matchup between San Francisco and Seattle -- will travel to Lincoln Financial Field on Wild Card Weekend because the NFL pays deference to division kingpins and from there you're just 60 minutes away in what is one of the most difficult venues for opponents to play in from the divisional round.
While Ertz is probably lost with a lacerated kidney Jalen Mills should be back at cornerback next weekend and there is a good chance Johnson is back at right tackle and Halapoulivaati Vaitai can slip inside to replace Brooks if the latter can't go. Jordan Howard should have enough conditioning under his belt to play a role next week if Sanders remains hampered and DeSean Jackson wants you to believe he could return for a divisional-round matchup.
If things do advance that far, the favorable matches stop and a very tough opponent on the road will be looming.
"Come playoff time, records don't matter," Wentz said. "They all go out the window."
Whenever the exit, however, the accomplishment has already overshadowed it. The Eagles are already playing with house money.
"Through all the ups and downs, through all the injuries, we've battled," Pederson said. "We put ourselves in a position to win the NFC East, we've done that. But, again what I've seen from our players is that they're already talking about next week and coming to work this week and preparing for next week. It just tells me that the guys are in the right state of mind."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen