The Philadelphia Eagles had a chance to ease some qualms by taking care of business at home against the Saints and securing the #1 seed in the NFC on New Year’s Day. Well, that did not happen, as the Eagles put up a flat out stinker for the first time this season and now face what is legitimately a must-win game this Sunday against the Giants. 

The Giants secured their first playoff berth since 2016 by destroying the Colts, and are actually locked into the #6 seed. With nothing to play for other than potential intangible motivations such as maintaining positive momentum and spoiling the hopes of a division rival, I would not expect a 100% effort out of them this week. At minimum, I assume someone like Saquon Barkley – a crucial player with a ton of usage this season – will rest, and perhaps Daniel Jones does not receive a full workload.

Obviously, this is good news for the Eagles in terms of still being able to secure the top seed. Simply from an on-paper perspective, if they lose this game, they would need both the Cowboys and 49ers to lose to teams who are already thinking about Cabo in order to maintain the #1 spot. If the Giants and Cowboys win, the Eagles are playing Wild Card Weekend on the road against Tom Brady, which would really be an unbelievable outcome for a team that started 13-1. 

However, from a confidence standpoint, beating the Giants backups following a tough loss to Dallas and laying an egg against New Orleans is a pretty uninspiring way to back into the top seed after the aforementioned 13-1 start. Obviously, Jalen Hurts not playing has had a ton to do with it, but there are other areas of concern as well. The offensive line still has crucial sequences of plays where they can not stop committing penalties, particularly pre-snap ones. Even beyond that, the absence of Lane Johnson has been loudly felt, as the entire unit just does not perform the same without him, and Jack Driscoll got absolutely obliterated by Cameron Jordan on Sunday to the tune of three sacks by the veteran pass-rusher. Johnson will be back for the playoffs, but will he be the same player? It is hard for me to be confident in that, to be quite honest. Additionally, the defense, while still over criticized, can certainly be quite overly-conservative when faced with injuries, as we saw in Dallas on Christmas Eve. The Eagles’ defense is very good, but Jonathan Gannon needs to trust his best players to make plays for him in the playoffs rather than hoping the opposition will mess up on their own.

All of this bears the question: Is it time to panic? In my opinion, no. Remember in 2017 when the Eagles’ offense looked putrid down the stretch of the regular season under Nick Foles, and no one outside of Philadelphia gave them a chance of going on a playoff run? We know how that ended. Of course, this is a completely different team, but in both cases they have a great coaching staff and a loaded roster (this year’s roster is even better, in my opinion) and the 2022 Eagles will actually be getting their MVP candidate QB back. If they can not beat the Giants’ practice squad at home with Hurts, then yeah, we might be having a completely different discussion this time next week. I do not think that will happen, though, and in that case the Eagles will have to be knocked out of Lincoln Financial Field as a well-rested and largely healthy team. That is not easy to do in January. Call it delusion, but I still think the Eagles will win the NFC.


Photo: Hartline/USA Today

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