Looking ahead to Eagles' final 8 games

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Looking ahead to Eagles' final 8 games

If you like boxes checked, you've come to the right place. Welcome to the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles through eight games.     

• Best record in the NFL at 7-1

• Perfect in the NFC at 6-0

• 3 for 3 vs. the NFC East

• Unbeaten at home (4-0)

• Just one loss on the road (3-1)

Throw in six straight wins for good measure and the Birds enter the second half of their season with some major mojo after a first half that has gone beyond even the wildest imaginations of their fans. So while Doug Pederson and the team need to stay focused on their next opponent, we can and will allow ourselves to look ahead to what's on the horizon the rest of the way. As everyone knows, to play in January you need to win in November and December. 

Nov. 5 vs. Broncos (3-4)
Denver lost Monday night to the Chiefs, who handed the Eagles their only loss. The Broncos' defense ranks in the top five against the run and the pass. Von Miller is still a ferocious pass rusher, but this is not a team that scares you offensively. Trevor Siemian should be a backup, and Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was non-committal about who would be the starter. They have Brock Osweiler in his second stint and Paxton Lynch, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, backing up Siemian. Keep in mind the Broncos have to travel to the East Coast on a short week. Denver should not be able to do much offensively against the Eagles' defense.  

The Eagles enjoyed a mini-bye when they had 11 days off between their Thursday night win over the Panthers and their home win over the Redskins. Now a few weeks later comes a full-blown off week, which should bode well considering their next opponent.

Nov. 19 at Cowboys (4-3)
A Sunday night matchup in Dallas, where the Birds lost a heartbreaker last season. The Cowboys, after a 2-3 start, have begun to resemble last year’s 13-3 team, winning their last two games by an average of more than three touchdowns. That said, the Ezekiel Elliott saga continues. On Monday, he lost his bid to block his six-game suspension, but he still has the option to appeal. Your guess is as good as mine whether he’ll play against the Eagles in Week 11. The Cowboys are once again leaning heavily on him — he’s racked up 297 yards and four touchdowns the last two games — and Dak Prescott is following up his phenomenal rookie season with a strong sophomore campaign. Dallas will get the Chiefs at home this week before traveling to Atlanta. This game could either give the Eagles serious distance in the division on what appears to be the only other team standing in their way or allow the Cowboys to back in it. But the Elliott factor will be huge.   

Nov. 26 vs. Bears (3-5)
The Bears are bad. They are rightfully allowing rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to learn on the job and he has shown flashes but doesn't have much help. Their lone bright spot is second-year running back Jordan Howard. He ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing. They're stronger defensively but this should be a win at home.  

Dec. 3 at Seahawks (5-2)
Seattle's defense is still strong and opportunistic. The Seahawks rank seventh in points allowed. And CenturyLink is one of the toughest places to play in sports. The Seahawks' offensive line just got a whole lot better with the acquisition of Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown from the Texans. This had been a major weak spot for Pete Carroll’s team. Russell Wilson’s uncanny ability to keep plays alive had made up for a lot of the shortcomings in front of him. Jimmy Graham has started to come on in the last couple of weeks, so he will be a problem. This is a tough spot for the Eagles and could result in a loss.

Dec. 10 at Rams (5-2)
The Rams are the pleasant surprise of the NFL. After going 4-12 last season and firing Jeff Fisher, L.A. brought in 30-year-old Sean McVay and he has not only transformed second-year quarterback Jared Goff but also the entire franchise. They are second in the league in scoring at 30.3 points per game. Goff, written off by some as a bust after just one season, looks worthy of that first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Todd Gurley looks reborn in McVay's system. And defensive tackle Aaron Donald might be the most disruptive player in the game. This looked like an automatic win before the season but not so fast, my friends. 

Dec. 17 at Giants (1-6)
We saw this mess up-close, and personal in Week 3. The Giants are 1-6 on merit. Not only are they bad but they're injured as well. You always have to take into account the NFC East factor, where goofy things happen. But if you're a team that is looking to close out the season strong and win a division or possibly post the best record in the conference, this is a game you should win, division or no division. 

Dec. 25 vs. Raiders (3-5)
Ho, ho, ho. In what sets up for a great day of sports in Philadelphia on Christmas, the Sixers kick off the festivities in New York at noon and the Eagles provide the nightcap. A lot could happen between now and Dec. 25 but the early returns for the Raiders have not been favorable. MVP candidate Derek Carr has been inconsistent and banged-up. Despite bringing in Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders have not developed a run game, and wide receiver Amari Cooper has been very quiet. Again, they still have Khalil Mack and were a 12-4, playoff team last year. Factoring in another West Coast team traveling East and this looks like an Eagles win. But again, there's a great deal of land between now and this game. 

Dec. 31 vs. Cowboys (4-3)
The Birds could close out 2017 in style with a win over the Cowboys on Dec. 31. Tough to know what this game will mean by then. With the Eagles off to a 7-1 start, the best-case scenario is this game is meaningless and they are resting their starters like the Cowboys did in the game last year. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. now, but this could be flexed out to later depending on the stakes. It would be a pretty sweet scenario, crushing the Cowboys then heading off to close out the year with visions of the playoffs dancing in Eagles fans' heads.

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.