Is Sean McVay jockeying for the Eagles?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It's a very rare juxtaposition in the NFL.
Just as an organization wraps up the No. 1 seed in its conference, the "smart" money in Las Vegas starts flowing in a different direction.
But that's what happened in Philadelphia after a lackluster Christmas night win over the dreadful Oakland Raiders gave the Eagles the top spot in the NFC.
The context is that once MVP-hopeful Carson Wentz is gone as the starting quarterback of the Birds and his understudy, Nick Foles, looked nothing like he was ready for the bright lights of the Broadway that is the NFL postseason.
From an opponent's standpoint, it certainly projects as an easier task to come into South Philadelphia and beat the Eagles without Wentz but "easier" doesn't not necessarily equate to easy.
Sean McVay, the coach of the Rams, has already talked about resting some of his key players in Week 17 despite the fact that his team could move from the No. 3 seed down to the fourth, the latter of which would have the Rams playing in Philadelphia during the divisional round if they handle their business on wild-card weekend.
"Being locked into that third or fourth seed -- every single game is important -- but I think it will provide an opportunity for us to potentially get some guys healthier, rest them, give some other guys a chance to step up," McVay said on Tuesday.
"How that affects the guys that are healthy that we want to be smart with is going to be determined as the week progresses," he continued. "But it is one of those deals where I think you might see us rest some guys and use this week where, you don't ever take anything for granted, but knowing that you do have a home playoff game regardless of how things play out, this might provide an opportunity for us to get some guys healthy."
Those who don't believe that mindset is all about the Eagles, ask yourself one question: would McVay really be saying the same kinds of things if Wentz was looming down the road?
The answer is obvious and that's the kind of arrogance that could spark an Eagles team which has been preaching winning ugly beats losing in a more aesthetic fashion every time.
The counter to the belief that the Eagles will all of a sudden become an easy out come January is that Doug Pederson's team continues to find ways to win football games.
On Christmas that meant finding a way to win in less-than-desirous conditions, featuring gusty winds from the west and air that felt like it was in the teens.
So, the road to Super Bowl LII runs through Lincoln Financial Field and some of the top potential playoff opponents play in domes - like Atlanta, New Orleans and Minnesota -- or call warm-weather climates home with a California kid playing quarterback like the Rams.
All the Eagles have to do is win one home game to get to the NFC Championship Game and from there they're 60 minutes away from the big game with the Linc also as the dropback.
Foles isn't Wentz obviously but he already closed against the Rams in Los Angeles and found a way to win two more football games for an NFL-best 13-2 team.
Ironically that record is also the Eagles' mark while playing in South Philadelphia during the Pederson era and the team has now won nine consecutive games at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Moving forward, they're all going to be dogfights," Pederson said. "Every team we face from here on out, obviously they're playoff-caliber teams. It's going to be a dogfight each week. You can't make the assignment errors and mistakes [that we did against the Raiders] and expect to win a post-season game moving forward. We’ve got some work to do still in these next couple of weeks."
--John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen