Next 3 Eagles opponents should ease Nick Foles' transition

Next 3 Eagles opponents should ease Nick Foles' transition

Nick Foles has stepped into a pretty good situation. The team he is now the starting quarterback for owns the best record in its conference and is tied for the best record in the NFL. The Eagles have already clinched their division and could have a bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up by Sunday night. His offense is scoring the most points per game in the league. The Eagles rank second in rushing and 11th in passing. His defense is allowing the fifth fewest points per contest.

Beyond that, the first opponent he’ll face is the cover-your-eyes-bad, 2-11 New York Giants. Following that are the disappointing, 6-7 Raiders and the 7-6 Cowboys, who could very well be eliminated from the playoff race by the season finale on Dec. 31. Dig a little deeper into the teams that Foles will face and you’ll find three clubs that could aid greatly in Foles' getting some serious confidence under his belt before a postseason run.    

Giants (2-11)
New York is a four-alarm dumpster fire. The Giants have already canned their head coach and general manager. They’re 0-4 in the NFC East and 0-9 in the NFC. You may have heard, Eli Manning was benched, then he wasn’t. Defensively, they are dead last in the league in yards per game, second to last in rushing and passing yards, and 27th in points allowed. This team doesn’t just have tee-times made, they’re on the 17th hole. Yes, the Eagles needed a Jake Elliott 61-yard field goal to beat them at home in Week 3 but that was forever ago for both teams. This is an ideal launching spot for Nicky Six 2.0.

Raiders (6-7)
Oakland went 12-4 and made the postseason last year. This year’s version has been a major disappointment. The Raiders rank 20th or below defensively in points allowed, total defense and passing yards per game. The only reason they still presently cling to any playoff hope is that the Chiefs have won just two of their last eight games and the Chargers started the season 0-4 only to dig out and sit at 7-6. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio called out his club for its lack of urgency in a loss to K.C. on Sunday. Oakland trailed 26-0 in a game with everything on the line. The silver and black are on the mat and don’t appear really interested in getting up. Yet another great spot for Foles and the Eagles to tune up for the playoff run.

Cowboys (7-6)
There are four teams ahead of the Cowboys for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. They need some divine intervention type of miracles to get back to the playoffs this year. Ezekiel Elliott has one more game to serve from his suspension so he would be back for the Eagles … if it matters. The heavy odds are it won’t. The more realistic question is, how will Doug Pederson and the Eagles approach this one if the Birds have everything sewed up and a bye the next week? Will he sit Foles and the bulk of the starters? Will he take a preseason game No. 3 approach and give him a half? A cameo for a series perhaps? Andy Reid would sit his guys in these spots in years past but Pederson may want to get Foles some additional work since he became the starter so late in the season.

Any way you slice the three games, they give Foles an opportunity to get reacclimated to being an NFL starter and getting some game-time chemistry down with the ones against some not-so-great teams. 

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

I know you're feeling conflicted right now. The Eagles are 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. They've already clinched the NFC East. Home-field advantage and a playoff bye are a very real possibility. But the Carson Wentz injury is an equalizer and then some.

On the bright side, the Flyers steadied their sinking ship in Western Canada by winning three straight. But the Sixers have dropped four in a row. Maybe the Phils will land Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado? Dare to dream. You're up, you're down. Welcome to Philadelphia sports. So what better time to provide some nice, healthy Rob's Rants? Letting things out can be therapeutic and after the Wentz news, I need to vent a little.    

Run-pass-option
It's hard to find fault with Doug Pederson this season. He's done an excellent job game planning and having his team prepared week in and week out, and his most impressive work has been his ability to overcome injuries. The Eagles have lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, just to name a few. All of the above represent major core pieces and Pederson's team is 11-2. Losing Wentz trumps them all and presents the head coach's biggest challenge. So look at this not so much as a rant but a plea to Doug P. moving forward.     

Nick Foles entered the Rams game late in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing 35-31. Certainly a difficult spot for any backup. He hadn't taken a meaningful snap all season. Logic would dictate emphasizing the run to let him get his feet wet. This was not the late fourth quarter, no timeouts, need to move down the field quickly type of circumstances. Further, the Eagles have three very capable running backs.

Pederson elected to throw the ball five straight times and called pass plays on eight of nine in the possession. The Birds did wind up getting a field goal on the drive and Foles completed three passes, but you wonder if it's the wisest move to drop Foles back that much, that quickly. I know Doug has been aggressive all season and that in part has helped the Eagles get where they are, and I'm also well aware of the heat he took by many (including me) for being too passive in the Seattle loss. But with Foles' lack of mobility in the pocket and the left side of the Eagles' offensive line struggling mightily against the pass rush, a bigger dose of the run could have made his transition back to starter a little smoother. But beyond the Rams game, balance and a commitment to the run will be Foles' best friend, along with a strong defense.    

Sixers' struggles
It's one thing to lose in Cleveland and New Orleans, especially without Joel Embiid for both games and Robert Covington vs. the Pelicans. It's another to drop home games to the likes of the Suns and the Lakers prior to those defeats. For that, there is no excuse. The Sixers have lost four in a row and stand at 13-13. They continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and of late have not come to play to start games, particularly at home. Some of this can be chalked up to youth. Some not so much.

They are losing far too many 50-50 balls. Too many offensive rebounds and second chances allowed. That's just hustle and want. They also need veterans like Jerryd Bayless to be better, especially in the absence of T.J. McConnell. I've pointed this out before in this space but the Sixers are beyond losing to the NBA's dregs. It would also be nice to get the No. 1 overall pick from this past draft on the floor at some point.    

Army-Navy
Let's close out this Rob's Rants on two positives. First, the 118th edition of Army-Navy football was played Saturday right here in Philadelphia. It is everything that is right about sports and our country. The men doing battle on that field at the Linc put sports into the context it deserves. Battle hard on the field, win or lose, respect to your opponent, represent our service men and women and country. Then it's on to further protecting and serving. They are truly unique individuals. And to have it played in the snow in such a cool setting was awesome.

DJ and the Kernal
Lastly, Dick Jerardi and Mike Kern both recently announced their retirements from the Philadelphia Daily News. They were as good of writers as this city has ever seen. They were even better people. I grew up reading them and had the opportunity as an adult to work with them professionally as a producer, then as a host and the pleasure was all mine. They knew of what they wrote, you learned something every time you read them, and they provided a sense of humor while doing it. Nothing beat our yearly Daily News Live Christmas Eve shows with Hall of Famer John Chaney. Their bylines will be missed.

Carson Wentz injury more proof Philly fan paranoia is real

Carson Wentz injury more proof Philly fan paranoia is real

Woe Is Us.

“The sports gods have something against us.”

“These refs are out to get us.”

“We always go up against the hot goalie.”

“Things are going too well, something bad is going to happen.”

Admit it, if you’re a Philadelphia sports fan, those words to some degree or another have come out of your mouth more than once. True, you could probably apply those paranoid rants to most sports cities. But today, you, the Philadelphia sports fan, have every right to feel like there’s a higher power conspiring against you.

Carson Wentz's injury is not a gut-punch, it’s a haymaker that just connected clean on the jaw and down went the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes. With Wentz under center, the Eagles were capable of beating any team. With Nick Foles, a playoff win or two is surely possible. The Birds have overcome serious injuries this season. Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles were major losses for this team, and to the players' and the coach’s credit, they have been able overcome them.

But with all due respect to those guys, including future Hall of Famer Peters, this is different — 57 years of championship futility went to 58 with 3:53 left in the third quarter last night in Southern California when Wentz's left knee got crunched.

Things were just too perfect. Second year, MVP-front-running quarterback, tough defense, head coach proving all the naysayers wrong, leading his team to the best record in the conference. A bye, home-field advantage, Minnesota here we come. Finally putting an end to the “How many rings do you have?” discussion. Dare to dream. It was all setting up too perfectly ... then boom.

If you grew up here or have lived here long enough, you bare the scars of Philadelphia’s sports past. Whether it’s the Phillies' collapse in 1964, Black Friday, Bernie’s eye, Leon Stickle, the Sixers up 3-1 in 1981, Randall’s knee in 1991, Joe Carter, JVR over Patrick Kane, Ryan Howard’s Achilles ... and that's just to name a few. The list could go on and on and on. The Philadelphia sports fan's paranoia is not unfounded. And here is yet the latest, shining example.

To be blunt, Wentz has brass balls. We didn’t need to see him stay in the game for four additional plays after his knee injury Sunday to know that. He stands in the pocket with defenses bearing down on him like no quarterback I’ve ever seen. His fearlessness is perhaps the greatest attribute of his many. He’ll dip his shoulder and take off out of the pocket like a running back. He’s strong enough to shrug off a would-be sack in the pocket and make an incomprehensible play. But the courage comes with a price and the bill came due. And you know what? It sucks. Only in Philadelphia can you have the irony of winning a wild road game with a backup quarterback against a really good team while clinching the division title ... and yet you’re somehow left feeling deflated.

It’s not easy being green, as Kermit The Frog once said. Truer words have never been spoken.