Eagles now forced to depend on Carson Wentz even more

Eagles now forced to depend on Carson Wentz even more

It's hard to imagine tougher losses coming from such a big win. 

Jason Peters is out for the season. So is Jordan Hicks. 

And just like that, there are two more incredibly important players added to the list of incredibly important players lost for the year. 

At the beginning of the season, had someone made a list of players the Eagles couldn't afford to lose, there's a good chance several of these names would be on it.  

Two of five team captains — Peters and Chris Maragos — are gone. So is their stud middle linebacker and defensive quarterback, Hicks. And don't forget about their most versatile offensive weapon, Darren Sproles. 

"When you look at the injury list and the guys that we've lost ... guys that are significant starters and role players and leaders on your football team, captains on your football team, it can make an impact," head coach Doug Pederson said. 

The Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 6-1, but they'll have to go the rest of the way without several of their most crucial pieces and most-respected leaders. 

But they haven't lost their most important piece. 

They still have Carson Wentz. 

And if he keeps up his torrid pace, he's going to mask these losses to injury. 

Wentz isn't just playing well; he's playing at an MVP level. If that continues, the Eagles still have a great chance to coast into the playoffs and then make something special happen as one of the top seeds. 

"You want everybody to play well, obviously," Pederson said, "and if your quarterback is playing well, then yeah, you definitely have a better opportunity and a better chance of winning that game." 

That's not to say losing Peters and Hicks won't hurt. It absolutely will. The Eagles just have no choice but to soldier on. Things felt a little gloomy briefly on Tuesday afternoon when Pederson announced the bad injury news, but he also seemed optimistic about his team's chances of overcoming. 

The Eagles have shown resiliency already this season, continuing their success without key players. "Next man up" has become an overused cliché but it has also served as a rallying cry for the 2017 Eagles. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai will fill in for Peters. Joe Walker and/or Najee Goode will fill in for Hicks. And the Eagles will face the 49ers on Sunday and the Broncos on the Sunday after that. 

"It's going to take everybody," Pederson said. "It's all hands on deck." 

That's true, of course. To say all the Eagles need is Wentz would be oversimplifying and simply not the case. They need other players to perform as well. 

But on Wednesday, when the team runs back onto the practice fields, No. 11 will be leading the way. 

As long as that's the case, this team might be able to overcome anything. 

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.