Leave it to a Philadelphia sports team to win and lose all at the same time. The Eagles victory over the Los Angeles Rams made them the NFC East champs this season.
As you might have heard, though, Carson Wentz was lost for the season during the game with a torn ACL. While Philly fans have spent the week arguing who’s fault it was that the quarterback was hurt, head coach Doug Pederson is left trying to keep a promising season going without his best player.
Perhaps feeling guilty, the football gods now offer up the 2-11 Giants to the reeling Eagles. A win over New York would go a long way towards Philadelphia earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
What are the Eagles prospects without Wentz? These five burning questions tell the tale.
Can Nick Foles be Jeff Hostetler (or Earl Morrall)?
Phil Simms was having an outstanding season for the Giants in 1990, leading them to an 11-2 start. He then suffered a season-ending foot injury in the team’s 14th game and New York was left to rely on backup, Jeff Hostetler. In one of the more improbable postseason runs in history, Bill Parcells relied on his outstanding defense and Hostetler did just enough to allow New York to stun the heavily favored Buffalo Bills.
Earl Morrall became the patron saint of backup quarterbacks after subbing in for Johnny Unitas during two Super Bowl runs (one win, one loss), and then saved the Miami Dolphins perfect season after Bob Griese was hurt.
That brings us to Nick Foles, who now has a chance to cement a place in football lore. The former fourth-round pick already has a footnote after his 27 touchdown and 2 interception season in 2013.
Plenty of backup quarterbacks have managed a single win in the playoffs. Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, is famous for his one-game save. Finishing out a championship run, though, is significantly harder.
Foles isn’t a top-tier quarterback, but he is just good enough to make a Hostetler style run at least plausible.
Who will be the Eagles left guard?
At the beginning of the season, left guard was a weak spot on Philadelphia’s offensive line. Former Oakland Raiders starter, Stefan Wisniewski, finally won a three-way battle and solidified the line.
Lost amid the Wentz remorse, was the ankle injury that knocked Wisniewski out of the Rams game.
Wisniewski has tried to practice this week but is officially listed as questionable. If he can’t go, it looks like Warmack will be given the start.
Considering the switch in mobility levels that the Eagles just underwent at quarterback, having an attack point on the offensive line is bad. Even against the Giants 31st ranked defense.
Is it now Ajayi time?
With Wentz lost for the season, the Eagles running game just became the focus of every opposing defense. That would be far more problematic if Philadelphia didn’t have a ground attack that’s averaging 143 yards a game.
Since coming over from Miami, Jay Ajayi has been averaging seven yards a carry and has broken a handful of long runs. What he hasn’t done, however, is carry the ball more than 15 times or rush for over 100 yards.
LeGarrette Blount is a punishing running back, who’s still leading the Eagles in rushing. Corey Clement has been a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie. Ajayi, though, is the one who can provide a home run threat to keep defenses from teeing off on Foles.
Can New York keep Eli Manning upright?
Eli Manning’s second start of his career came against Philadelphia. The Eagles harassed the first rounder out of Ole Miss into two interceptions and sacked him four times.
In what might be Manning’s final start against Philly in a Giants uniform, the veteran might get to feel like a rookie again.
New York’s offensive line had questions coming into the season, and so far, they haven’t been able to answer any of them.
Philadelphia’s run defense still tops in the NFL, even after Todd Gurley ripped off some big runs in the L.A. Coliseum. The Giants can’t run the ball even against lesser foes.
That puts everything on Manning’s shoulders, with no real weapons. The Eagles defensive line doesn’t need much to get to a quarterback as it is. With a porous line and a quarterback who wasn’t mobile even when he was young, it’s a recipe for disaster against Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and company.
Is the Eagles season over?
In a word, “no.”
It would be ridiculous to suggest that there isn’t a drop-off going from Wentz to Foles at quarterback. The Eagles margin for error just dropped to near zero just based on losing their MVP candidate signal caller.
Philadelphia’s defensive front is one of the best in the NFL, and that has nothing to do with the quarterback. The team’s running attack is similarly one of the best in the league. Those two components have carried an awful lot of teams an awful long way.
The seasons hinges on Foles ability to build a rapport with at least one of the Eagles receivers. Whether that’s Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor or anyone else. If he can find a security blanket to go to when the pressure starts collapsing the pocket, that could be enough.
Enough for what? Probably not the Super Bowl, but with a bye week, it really isn’t asking too much for the Eagles to at least make it to the NFC Championship game.
Considering what Wentz has quickly grown to mean to Philadelphia, that’s not a terrible place for the Eagles to make their last stand without him.