Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

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Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

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.

Seventy-seven days passed between losses for the Eagles. So it’s been a while since the Birds have made an appearance in Rob’s Rants. And while I am a firm believer it’s not panic time, they weren’t going to run the table and that it was a tough spot in the ebb and flow of an NFL season, that doesn’t mean the Eagles are immune to a rant or two. The Sixers will be providing the Birds some company this week after a horrific home loss to a terrible Suns team. And since it 'tis the season, I’ll throw in my top-10 Christmas songs of all-time. 

Sleepwalking in Seattle
Winning in Seattle is never easy. The Seahawks were the more desperate team and played like it. The Eagles took a big step up in class from the competition they faced in the previous weeks and they were not up to the task.

However, what was truly frustrating was not so much the play on the field but the approach by both coach and players.

The Eagles have been a swagger team all season. Doug Pederson set the tone Week 1 against the Redskins with his aggressive play-calling and it had carried over through their nine-game winning streak. Look no further than the numerous end zone celebrations, going for it on fourth down, throwing in a run situation, taking a deep shot or whatever the case may be.

Pederson coached at best tentative and at worst scared against Seattle, and it was completely out of character. But was it the chicken or the egg?

Did Pederson just come up small thinking a conservative, run-heavy approach in the first half would work against a Seattle team that was good against the rush? Not to mention, the Seahawks were without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary. Surely attacking them through the air was the way to go, right?

Pederson twice passed on opportunities to go for it on fourth-and-short in the first half. Very much out of character. But is it possible the head coach decided he needed to play things safe because he felt his team wasn’t prepared? Both the players and Pederson himself admitted the team had not practiced well in the weeks leading up to its game against the Seahawks.

This wasn’t the Bears or 49ers it was facing. Either way, it was inexcusable. Pederson needs to stay true to this team’s personality and the players need to stop sniffing themselves. The hope is this loss will serve as a wake-up call and clean up either scenario. 

We may be only 23 games into the season, but the 2017-18 Sixers are a far cry from the tank-ridden doormats they were the previous four years. They should be a playoff team. They now play to win the games as Herm Edwards once said. In fact, they were 13-9 leading into Monday’s game against the Suns.

So when a loss to any team was no surprise when Tony Wroten was your best player on the floor, those days are gone. Losing at home Monday to a garbage Suns team that entered the game 8-16 and ranked last in points per game allowed is inexcusable. The Sixers are beyond this kind of thing now. And much like the Eagles, the team admitted after the game that it took Phoenix too lightly.

First, who is this group to look past anyone? There is a foundation for a sustained run and the Sixers have two superstars on the roster in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Still, this cast has no right looking past anyone.

The Sixers commit the second-to-most turnovers per game with 17.4 a night. Monday followed that troubling trend, as the Suns scored 22 points on the Sixers' 14 giveaways.

They are not good enough to cut corners and lack preparation, regardless of the opponent. Monday better have served as an alarm clock for this young group.

Top-10 Christmas songs
This is just to pivot off of the Eagles' and Sixers' losses and provide a little holiday cheer as we are less than three weeks away from the big day. Here are my top-10 Christmas songs. I can feel the comments and mentions coming already.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas Time — Band Aid 
2. Happy X-Mas — John Lennon and Yoko Ono
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — Bruce Springsteen    
4. Christmas Song — Nat King Cole
5. Someday At Christmas — Stevie Wonder
6. Father Christmas — The Kinks
7. Christmas In Hollis — Run-DMC 
8. All I Want For Christmas — Mariah Carey
9. Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy — Bing Crosby and David Bowie
10. White Christmas — Bing Crosby

Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles inactives vs Giants

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Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles inactives vs Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles will be without their starting left guard on Sunday afternoon against the Giants. 

Stefen Wisniewski (ankle) is officially inactive. Either Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo will play in his place. 

Wisniewsi came into the weekend listed as questionable after he injured his ankle during the first half of last Sunday's game in Los Angeles. After Wiz came out against the Rams, he was replaced by  Warmack and then Seumalo. Both struggled against LA and Aaron Donald. 

Since joining the Eagles as a free agent, Wisniewski had played in all 29 games with the team. He earned the starting left guard job earlier this season. 

Joining Wisniewski among the Eagles' inactive players are: Rasul Douglas, Wendell Smallwood, Marcus Johnson, Steven Means, Elijah Qualls and Dannell Ellerbe.  

Nick Foles will obviously get the start at quarterback and Nate Sudfeld will be the backup. This is the first time Sudfeld will be active for an NFL game. 

With Wiz out, offensive tackle Will Beatty is active for the first time as an Eagle. Douglas, the third-round rookie who played well when given a chance this season, is inactive for the first time since the season opener. 

Bryan Braman, who was brought back this week, is active and should immediately play a role on special teams. 

For the Giants, safety Landon Collins, who came into the weekend listed as doubtful, is active. 

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -8

A game that until recently looked like a speedbump on the Eagles’ path to the playoffs has all of a sudden become a matchup of intrigue and mystery.

NFC East rivalry or not, the 11-2 Eagles were expected to dispatch the 2-11 Giants with relative ease, and still very well may. However, the season’s second meeting between the two teams has taken on a decidedly different feel now that it will feature Nick Foles under center for the Birds.

It’s become appointment viewing for an Eagles fan base collectively holding its breath, hoping to catch a glimpse into whether Foles possesses the ability to lead the team deep into the postseason.

Foles has made 36 career NFL starts – seven more than the quarterback he replaces, Carson Wentz – and has appeared in 46 games total, most of that with the Eagles. Nonetheless, the sixth-year veteran is viewed as something of an unknown entity. Foles was productive for several seasons, even historically prolific, but also lost a pair of starting jobs, nearly playing himself out of the league along the way.

Now in his second stint with the Eagles, the question is which version of Foles are the Eagles getting this time around, and can they still reach the Super Bowl with a new signal caller? We will begin to get some answers Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

In a position to succeed
Regardless of whether Foles is up to the challenge, it wouldn’t hurt the Eagles’ chances if they were able to finish what they started and earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That could actually happen as early as Sunday.

A win over the Giants and a Vikings loss to the Bengals would be enough to clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Even if the Vikings don’t lose this week, the Eagles can secure the top seed in the conference with any two wins over the Giants, Raiders or Cowboys over the final three games. Of the three remaining opponents, only the Cowboys are currently above .500 at 7-6.

In other words, Foles shouldn’t have to do much heavy lifting until the postseason, while the Eagles can make his job a little easier in January if they take care of business down the stretch.

With a little help from his friends
Foles has been under the microscope all week, and the backup quarterback has been examined from just about every angle. There’s nothing much more to say about the Eagles from the offense’s standpoint, at least until we’ve seen it action.

The group that’s flying under the radar in the aftermath of the injury to Wentz is the defense. Even the unit’s role in last week’s 43-35 win over the Rams has been overlooked to a degree, despite coming up huge in the fourth quarter.

After allowing the Rams to go up and down the field for the better part of the contest, the Eagles made two pivotal stops after Wentz’s exit. A Chris Long strip sack set up the game-winning field goal and that was followed by a quick three-and-out that allowed Foles and the offense to milk nearly the entire final two minutes of regulation.

That was against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, and though the Eagles did surrender 35 points, the defense stepped up when it mattered.

Wentz might be out, but the Eagles’ defense still ranks first against the run, 13th against the pass, fourth in total yards, fifth in scoring and is tied for third in takeaways entering the week. This isn’t all on Foles and the offense. They are more than capable of limiting or completely shutting down an opponent.

Coming up short?
The one area of the offense that might be worth keeping an eye out moving forward is on third downs. The Eagles are third in the NFL with a 45.3 percent conversion rate, and Wentz just seemed to have a knack for making something happen even during third-and-long situations, often keeping the play alive or simply making a clutch throw.

Foles did find Nelson Agholor for a huge third-down conversion against the Rams, but Wentz has been uncanny in those situations. Foles is far less likely to extend a play with his feet, and he’s far more willing to make a safe throw to a checkdown receiver and live with a punt.

Perhaps more than anything else this season, that ability to keep drives alive was what made Wentz so dangerous and so difficult to defend. When it seemed the Eagles’ backs were against the wall, he’d throw a strike, or run around and find somebody or pick up the first down himself.

No matter what happens, the offense won’t be the same without Wentz. The guy is special. But on third down in particular, there was a feeling no distance was too far, and a conversion was inevitable – and on occasion, it would break the will of opposing defenses.

The Eagles better get used to the idea of running on first and second down to create manageable thirds, punting when it’s not there and playing defense. Foles will do fine, but he’s not quite an unstoppable force, unlike Wentz.