Eagles

Good luck trying to pick apart this Eagles team

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Good luck trying to pick apart this Eagles team

Eleven penalties, three fumbles lost versus the Bears. There it is. If you were searching for some kind of blemish, some minutia, some needle in the haystack of dominance that has been the Eagles' last nine games, you got it. Good luck digging any deeper for any warts. 

And by the way, if you are in any way focused on that after what's gone down this season, you have serious issues. You should turn in your fan card and take up a hobby on Sundays.

The 2017 Eagles define balance. Doesn't matter if it's home or away, division or conference foe, AFC or NFC. You know week in and week out the offense and the defense will show up and they will show up in a big way. They have won their last five games by 30-plus points. They allowed one defensive touchdown in November. Carson Wentz has thrown at least three touchdown passes in five straight. The defense has had multiple interceptions in four consecutive games.

The Bears had six rushing yards Sunday. Their running backs ran 10 times for minus-six yards. This is a team that entered the game ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing. They had zero first downs in the first half. Conversely, the Eagles have rushed for 100-plus yards in their last 10 games. Whether it's through the air or on the ground, defending the run or shutting down the pass, its advantage-Eagles any way you slice it.

Want to take a trip into the red zone? Wentz is 31 for 48 for 242 yards with 20 touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero sacks taken.

With the exception of Tom Brady's 251 yards passing, Wentz's red-zone numbers are as good or better than anyone's in the NFL. 

The Eagles' defense is third in red-zone scoring. The Birds rank third in takeaways with 22. They are 22nd in giveaways. They are a plus-nine on the season, which is second-best in the league.

Which brings up the coaching — this team is better prepared than the opponent every week. They don't just beat teams, they throttle them. We've been waiting for the letdown game all season. Hasn't happened. The only knock, if you can call it that, is they've beaten one team with a winning record thus far. And we will certainly find out a lot more the next two weeks with the Eagles traveling to face the 7-4 Seahawks and 8-3 Rams. 

But teams with this kind of balance can beat you in a multitude of ways. And they can overcome adversity when something is taken away or goes awry. Doug Pederson has done a phenomenal job thus far. He may lose as many as two assistants off of his staff at year's end and that's a good thing. No one is mining the fields of the Browns' or Bears' staffs. 

The other thing about Pederson is he gets it. Much has been made of the Eagles' celebrations but Pederson has allowed the players to be themselves and have fun. Far removed from the Chip Kelly drill sergeant routine.     

The quarterback is having an MVP year and a season for the ages and he's only getting better. Alshon Jeffery, after a bit of a slow start, is coming on strong, with five touchdowns in his last four games. Ronald Darby hasn't skipped a beat since rejoining the team. Brandon Graham is having a career year. Good luck finding a more dominant duo than Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan, or Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks for that matter.

Coaching, talent, depth and focus — all hallmarks of sustainable winning, all attributes the Eagles continue to deliver each week. Oh, and did I mention balance?

Colin Kaepernick or RG3 as backup? Eagles say no thanks

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Colin Kaepernick or RG3 as backup? Eagles say no thanks

If you're playing that whole Colin Kaepernick vs. RG3 game, don't bother.

The Eagles aren't bringing in a veteran quarterback.

Nick Foles is the starter. Nate Sudfeld is No. 2. And that's that.

Judging by Twitter and callers to sports talk radio, there are a ton of fans out there who believe the Eagles should sign a veteran off the street, like Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III or even Michael Vick, to back up Foles.

With Carson Wentz out for the year, Foles and Nate Sudfeld are the only quarterbacks on the Eagles' roster.

Kaepernick quarterbacked the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2012 and very nearly to another one in 2013 and started 11 games for the 49ers last year (going 1-10). 

RG3 is only 27 and was the Browns' opening-day starter last year — against the Eagles.

Vick hasn't played since 2015 with the Steelers, but he always seemed kind of ageless, right?

What if Foles gets hurt? What if he gets hurt in the NFC Championship Game?

Sudfeld has never thrown a regular-season pass. He spent training camp with the Redskins and was on the Eagles' practice squad at the beginning of last month. 

Would the Eagles honestly rather go into the Super Bowl with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback than Colin Kaepernick?

It's a valid question, and on Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson answered it with a resounding yes.

"Probably the biggest reason is the time invested," he said. "If you bring in a guy off the street this late in the season, you're talking about spending time with that player trying to get him just caught up to speed on our offense. 

"We've already spent the time with a guy with Nate. We've developed him and worked with him. So that's probably the biggest reason right there."

Guys like Kaepernick, RG3 and many of the other veterans whose names have been bandied about not only haven't played this year, they also weren't in training camps and haven't participated in any sort of practice in a year.

The Eagles believe it would be impossible to bring in a quarterback now, get him into football shape after being out of the league all year, and teach him the offense in a matter of weeks.

Sudfeld has been with the Eagles since they signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 4, so that's three months of meetings, film study and practice in Pederson's offense alongside Foles and Wentz.

And for the Eagles, play recognition is much more important than name recognition.

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

It's a pretty good problem to have, but it's still a problem that needs sorting. 

By the time the Eagles play the Raiders on Christmas night next Monday, they might have already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Then what? 

Do they rest some starters? Do they play everyone and try to win? What's the plan for the next two weeks? 

"I've begun thinking (about it), but my focus is winning the game on Monday night," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "Because that, to me, is the most important thing. Once we get to next week, we'll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football."

To put it in baseball terms, over the last two weeks of the season, the Eagles' magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is one. So either a win from the Eagles or a loss from the Vikings would ensure that the Birds have the top spot. 

That means if the Vikings lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Saturday night, the Eagles will have clinched and will have a couple days to make a decision before playing on Monday. (Whether Rodgers faces Minnesota may depend on tonight's Falcons-Bucs game. If Atlanta wins, Green Bay is eliminated from the playoffs.)

Even if the Vikings win, the Eagles could beat the Raiders and still clinch the top spot this weekend, which would set up a situation where that last game of the season is meaningless. 

"You just make the best decisions for your football team," Pederson said. "If that means resting a guy, you rest a guy or two or three. But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you've got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you've got to keep that alive.

"You just can't go — it's not a preseason game, you know what I'm saying, where you can rest in Week 4 and rest all your guys. You can't do that because you're still limited to the roster limits on game day. Guys are still going to have to play, but at the same time, I'm going to be smart about the decisions we make moving forward and getting guys who need it rest, if possible."

While rest is obviously helpful at this time of year, the Eagles could be in a spot where they have three straight weeks — two nothing games and a bye — without a meaningful game. Good for rest, potentially bad for momentum heading into the postseason. 

The quarterback position, specifically, is a bit of a quandary. Had Carson Wentz not torn his ACL, it would be a fairly easy decision — rest him. But Nick Foles hasn't played a lot this year and could probably use the work, especially with his relatively unfamiliar receivers. The problem with that is, if he gets hurt, the team is down to Nate Sudfeld. Pederson also said that he'd ideally like to get Sudfeld some work. 

The Eagles haven't been in this position in quite some time. You'd have to go all the way back to the 2004 Super Bowl season to find a similar situation. Like what could happen with a Minnesota loss on Saturday, the 2004 Eagles had home-field clinched with two games to go. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' starters played just one series in Week 16 and then most key players were rested in Week 17 before the bye in the wild-card round. 

Because of the rest, the Eagles lost their last two games heading into the playoffs, but it didn't matter. In the divisional round, they went up 14-0 early in the second quarter and took down the Vikings 27-14, their first step in the playoffs toward the Super Bowl. 

On Monday, Pederson didn't want to answer too many specific questions about hypothetical situations, but he and his coaches will probably have some sort of plan in place if the Vikings lose. That plan could either be to play like normal or begin the coasting process into the playoffs. 

"Like I've said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now," Pederson said. "So that's the focus for me."