It would not be Philadelphia if things went smoothly. The Eagles began the post-Carson Wentz portion of their season with a 34-29 victory over the New York Giants.
While it kept the team in excellent playoff position, the win might have brought up even more concerns than it assuaged. With a Christmas night home game looming against the Oakland Raiders, Eagles fans are quickly trying to make amends with a certain gentleman who sports a snowy white beard and a belly that shakes like jelly.
These five burning questions will help decide just how merry things will be in the City of Brotherly love as Christmas comes to a close.
Five Burning Questions: Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles
What the heck is wrong with the Eagles defense?
When the Eagles struggled againstRussell Wilson in Seattle, no one worried that much. Philadelphia isn’t the only team to have trouble containing the Seahawks quarterback. When they had trouble against the Rams, it was overshadowed by the Wentz injury. Plus, Los Angeles is the highest scoring team in the league. Obviously, everyone else has trouble with the combo of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. No big deal.
But, then, Jim Schwartz’s defense went to New York and got toasted by the hapless Giants. That’s when the struggles of the defense suddenly became a very big deal.
The Eagles secondary, which had been the concern coming into the season, but which had played passably well, completely fell apart. Even without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall to deal with, the Philadelphia secondary couldn’t cover a New York receiver without grabbing. Once a Giants’ player made a catch, they couldn’t tackle.
Philly gift-wrapped an early Christmas present for Eli Manning, allowing the veteran signal caller to throw for 434 yards and three touchdowns. The normally stellar Eagles defensive line managed just one sack.
Adding insult to injury, the Rams went into Seattle and smacked Wilson around, sacking him seven times.
The optimist Eagles’ fan will point out that Schwartz had trouble with Manning earlier in the year, too, and that didn’t mean anything. They will also point out that Philadelphia was in the last game of a three-game road swing.
Considering the small margin of victory that Philadelphia now has, Doug Pederson better hope that fatigue really is the problem.
How do you gift wrap a defensive back?
The Raiders headed into the season full of promise, before the wheels fell off due, primarily, to injuries. Their playoff hopes are now down to basically every other AFC team losing every game for the rest of the season.
For Christmas, though, Santa brought Carr the aforementioned struggling Eagles secondary.
Philadelphia cornerback Ronald Darby, who was expected to stabilize the backfield, has struggled mightily since returning from injury. It was so bad during the Giants game that he refused to talk to the media afterward. Then, he took to social media and started blocking unruly followers.
He did dial that back, during the week, at least.
Carr hasn’t had the season that he was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not dangerous. Whether or not Amari Cooperplays, the Raiders offense, while predictable, can move the ball when it’s clicking.
Considering the way that the Eagles defensive backs have looked the last three weeks, Carr will be looking to unpack a new toaster on Monday night.
Can Nick Foles keep it going?
In his first start of the season, Nick Foles recaptured some of his 2013 glory. That was the season that the former third-round pick cemented his place in the NFL by guiding Chip Kelly’s offense to the tune of 27 touchdowns against two interceptions.
The backup quarterback managed to toss 4 scoring strikes against New York and was only sacked once.
It’s asking too much for Foles to do that every week, but it reminded Philadelphia that there are still teams in far worse shape under center.
The bigger danger remains the possibility of Foles getting hurt, something that has happened frequently in his career. The Eagles might be able to win with Foles under center, but if the team has to turn to Nick Sudfeld then its game over.
Will Philadelphia be staying home for the playoffs?
While the win over the Giants was ugly, it still counted as a win in the standings. The Eagles have now locked up the NFC East title and secured a first-round bye.
The next thing left on the list of season goals is to ensure that they’ll be playing at home for however long their playoff run goes.
One way to do that would be to just beat the Raiders. A victory would mean that the worst that they could do is finish tied for the best record in the NFC. In that scenario, they would win the tiebreakers with the Minnesota Vikings.
By the time the Eagles wake up on Christmas morning, though, the work might have already been done for them. If the Green Bay Packers take down the Vikings, Philadelphia would also clinch.
The Eagles might be wobbling a bit, but there’s a whole bunch of teams that would gladly change places with them.
Is Santa Claus safe?
Even casual sports fans know the cliche. Philadelphia sports fans are so mean that they booed Santa and pelted the Jolly Old Elf with snowballs.
In 1968, while the Eagles were mired in a miserable season, the team tried to have a bit of holiday fun. Unfortunately, the guy scheduled to be Santa Claus didn’t show up. The team’s PR staff pulled a kid out of the stands who had the misfortune of showing up in a shabby Santa suit, the float that he was supposed to ride on got stuck in slush and… well, the rest is history.
With a game on Christmas, the current Eagles management didn’t want to take any chances.
At old Veterans Stadium, a night game on Christmas might’ve been a dicey affair. The alcohol soaked 700 level would’ve made the debauchery of Office Christmas Party seem like White Christmas.
Lincoln Financial Field is no Vet, though, and, at best, the forecast is calling for just a dusting of snow before the Raiders game — not enough to make a decent ice ball.
Then again, why take chances? Trying to make nice with Saint Nick seems an appropriate way to garner some goodwill heading into the playoffs.
Just to be safe, however, Santa might want to just watch this game from the North Pole.