Can Old Saint Nick (Foles) Deliver Another Super Bowl to Philadelphia?
Is it just a coincidence that Nick Foles will be playing quarterback, in place of the injured Carson Wentz, for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams? Or is it just fate telling us that Old Saint Nick is about to repeat as Super Bowl MVP and deliver Eagles fans back-to-back Championships?
It is strange that Foles will be playing again for the Eagles in the exact same stadium where he took over for an injured Wentz last season and led the Eagles on the most unexpected Super Bowl Championship run in the history of the NFL. But can it really happen again?
Well, last season I told my son that the season was over after Wentz got hurt. I said, "See, this is why Eagles fans can't have nice things. Something always goes wrong and we get screwed." My son pointed out that Foles was the same guy who set an NFL record for TD-INT ratio with that magical 27 TD, 2 INT season, so all hope was not lost. As you know, he was right. It just took a little while for Foles to warm up before he out-dueled the guy who many consider to be the greatest QB of all time in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the 2018 Eagles, they don't have the luxury of waiting for the coaching staff to figure out how to best use Foles and for him to get hot.
The Eagles are a 6-7 mess, thanks mainly to a rash of injuries at CB and RB and the inexplicable inability of head coach Doug Pederson to call a running play. The Eagles are starting guys who were on the practice squad to start the season at CB and RB, so they definitely have some excuses for their record. But they would have at least 2 more wins if Pederson didn't channel his inner-Andy Reid and completely ignore the running game in a few games this season. Think the NFL is strictly a passing league these days? Well, five of the top six QBs in attempts will probably miss the playoffs this year (1. Roethlisberger 2. Luck 3. Cousins 5. Ryan 6. Rodgers). Run-pass balance matters and the Eagles don't have it.
Enter Nick Foles and the RPO.
The Eagles went on their incredible playoff run last year when Pederson starting using RPOs (Run-Pass options) for Foles. While Foles isn't much of a threat to run the ball, he can pick up a few yards. The reason RPOs work so well for Foles is that he knows exactly when to give the RB the football for a run and when to keep it for a pass. Now we just have to see if defenses bother to respect rookie RB Josh Adams and Darren Sproles as running threats. It was a bit different with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi at RB last year, but the Eagles have to at least try to run the ball if they have any hope of making the playoffs.
Yes, I said playoffs. I know you were all thinking that the Eagles are already cooked after blowing their chance to win the NFC East against the Cowboys (Thank you refs). But the thing is, the Eagles can actually make the playoffs as the second Wild Card. The Seahawks have the inside track on the first Wild Card at 8-5, but the Eagles are in a pack of four teams with the best shot at the second Wild Card. The Eagles are 6-7, the Panthers are 6-7, the Redskins are 6-7 and the Vikings are 6-6-1. Right now, the Vikings hold the 6th and last NFC playoff spot. Assuming the Eagles win all of their remaining games at Rams (11-2), vs. Texans (9-4) and at Redskins (6-7) to finish 9-7, here is what must happen for the Eagles to claim that last playoff spot.
Will the Eagles Make the Playoffs?
The Vikings need to lose at least one of their remaining games, vs. Dolphins (7-6), at Lions (5-8), vs. Bears (9-4). The Dolphins are still the AFC playoff hunt and unless the Bears clinch early and rest all their starters, they won't lose to the Vikings. Plus, the Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator in a panic move. Do you really think they will suddenly turn things around? Doubtful.
The Panthers need to lose at least one of their remaining games, since they beat the Eagles (remember blowing a 17-0 lead when Doug relapsed into a passaholic?), so a 9-7 tie between the teams would give the Panthers the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles. But they have a killer remaining schedule. Vs. Saints (11-2), vs. Falcons (4-9) and at Saints (11-2). There is absolutely positively no way the Panthers beat the Saints twice. Heck, they have a better chance of losing out, than they do of beating the Saints twice.
The Redskins are down to their third-string QB, after they inexplicably put Mark Sanchez back out on an NFL field. I'm not even bothering to explore this one. They are done.
So an Eagles team that has only won two games in a row once this season, thanks to Mark Sanchez, has to win three in a row, just to make the playoffs? Yes, I know that's highly unlikely. But who thought the Eagles were going to go on that run last year when Wentz went down in the Rams game and Foles came in and led then to victory? Anything is possible.
The problem is it isn't likely.
I have been uncharacteristically positive regarding the Eagles this season since they, you know, won the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history last season. But this isn't the same team and certainly not the same coaching staff.
It's hard to imagine the garbage the Eagles are starting in their defensive backfield can stop anyone, let alone the high-flying offenses of the Rams and Texans. Josh Adams has shown some promise, but Pederson continues to show that he completely ignores the run, even when it's working (last week's Dallas loss). The defensive line isn't getting enough sacks, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz won't blitz and the defense has about half the turnovers they had last season. They also aren't getting any points out of the special teams, which helped so much last season.
M-V-P M-V-P M-V-P
If the Eagles lose to the Rams, who I believe are now favored by 13 points, the season is over and the next time you'll be hearing from me is when I explain why it would be better for the Eagles to finish 6-10.
Put it all together and what you're left with is that the only hope the Eagles have of making the playoffs is blind faith that Nick Foles really has some magic left and really is a great QB when the games matter the most. That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for the Eagles to make the playoffs, but that's all Eagles fans have to cling to at this point. And if that somehow happens, we'll all be debating whether to sign Wentz to an extension or trade him and keep a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Foles.