Just to recap, the Eagles won their last two games. Both on the road. The first victory came against a team that is tied for the NFL lead in points per game with the Eagles. They won despite losing their MVP candidate quarterback late in the third quarter. That same Rams team the Birds beat throttled the Seahawks on the road, 42-7, Sunday and has the third-best record in the league.
That same day, the Eagles survived and beat the Giants. It was the third leg of a three-game road trip. Regardless of the opponent, not an easy task. The respective wins clinched the NFC East title and a first-round bye in the postseason. Heady stuff. But both wins felt muted a bit. The Rams game was clearly clouded by the Carson Wentz season-ending injury. The Giants win was all about how the game played out.
New York is a mess this season, that's been well-documented. Their stats and record heading into the game more than supported the chalk outline around their franchise. They stink. But despite it being a division road contest and the tail end of a grueling three-game road swing, fans and media expected the Eagles to crush the G-Men. That didn't happen; the Eagles more survived.
So now despite them having the best record in football at 12-2 and being one win or one Vikings loss away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, there is a lot of concern in Eagle-land. And rightfully so: Whenever you lose your starting quarterback, particularly one the caliber of Wentz, that's a deathblow to most teams.
The 2017 Eagles could be the exception. They have overcome significant injuries all season to get to where they are. And Nick Foles has taken a team to the playoffs in the past. Coincidentally, the Vikings are a case study of riding a backup to great success. However, regular-season success and playoff success are two different animals. Time will tell. But Foles certainly played well enough against the Giants for his team to win in the playoffs.
The Birds' defense is a whole other concern. Through 11 games, they allowed 17.3 points per game. In their last three games, they are surrendering 29.3 per contest. You could justify giving up 24 and 35 points on the road to the Seahawks and Rams. But 29 points to a Giants team that averages 16.3 per game? The Birds' secondary got fried in the first half and their tackling that was so sure for most of the season has gotten very shaky. New York put up 504 total yards and was within a whisker of winning for just the third time this season. So there is trepidation with Eagles fans despite the team's lofty accomplishments.
You do wonder how much greater the anxiety would be if, hypothetically, the Eagles had won 13-10 instead of 34-29. Say Foles threw two picks, and he and the receivers were not on the same page but the defense bailed the offense out? How high would the fear factor be now if those tables were turned? Foles may be the least of the issues. Maybe the loss of Jordan Hicks, the quarterback on defense, was a bigger factor than people thought? Perhaps the secondary that had overachieved all season is finally coming back to Earth?
There has been and will be much debate about sitting the starters in the last two regular-season games if the Eagles have home-field clinched. And most of that focus will center around Foles. But it may be the defense that needs the reps to get things corrected. Doug Pederson admitted Ronald "The Blocker" Darby is still not all the way back from the injury that cost him most of the season, and he is still learning the system.
Despite all of these "issues" and concerns, the Eagles have lost just once since Sept. 17. Their greatest trait all season has been their resiliency. Time will tell if they can overcome all the players they've lost but for now, they've earned a little rope with the folks on the outside looking in.