Yes, the Eagles are 13-2 and have locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. So why is it that so many of us have had major agita after each of the three December victories that have gotten us to this point?
On Dec. 10, the Eagles rebounded from a loss at Seattle the previous week with a huge 43-35 win over the Rams in Los Angeles that clinched the NFC East for the Birds. But the victory was overhadowed by the ACL injury suffered by Carson Wentz that ended the second-year quarterback’s fantastic season. (We’re all still reeling quite a bit from that event!)
On Dec. 17, Nick Foles officially took over as starting quarterback and played well (four touchdown passes) in helping the Eagles outscore the sorry New York Giants 34-29. But the real concern was the Birds’ defense, which allowed a two-win Giants team to put up more than 500 yards of total offense (a Giants team that was shut out 23-0 by the Arizona Cardinals the following week). Yep — more anxiety.
That brings us to Christmas night, when our anguish was elevated by a much-closer-than-the-final-score 19-10 Eagles victory over the visiting Oakland Raiders. Yes, the Birds’ defense played significantly better than it did against the Giants, but Foles and the offense overall looked horrible, mustering just 13 points against the league’s 19th-ranked defense that had been giving up an average 23 points per game. (Foles threw for just 163 yards in the game, and the Eagles ran for a mere 78 yards.)
It’s not a huge surprise to see that the Las Vegas odds for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, which had been as short as 4-1 in late November when Wentz was healthy, have tumbled to 12-1 following the unimpressive win over the Raiders. (There are now FIVE teams with shorter odds than the Eagles: the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams. At 12-1 odds, the Eagles are in the same boat with the not-so-powerful Jacksonville Jaguars. Ouch.)
Many of us told ourselves after the win over the Giants that everything would be alright – that Foles would be a fine game-manager, that the defense would step up, and that home-field advantage would help get the Birds to that early-February big game with the Roman numerals tied to it. Now? I admit it: I’m having lots of doubts about whether this Eagles team will even get past a divisional-round meeting against a Saints or Panthers squad. How about you? –Jim “Chet” Chesko