Eagles

Where Nick Foles ranks among 12 playoff QBs

Where Nick Foles ranks among 12 playoff QBs

The dozen quarterbacks whose teams made the playoffs vary in skill level, playoff experience and momentum.

Where does Nick Foles check in among the field, and where would a healthy Carson Wentz have landed? This order was not chosen based on one set metric, age or necessarily past accomplishments. This is also not about how they will be looked at once their careers are over.

1. Tom Brady
This one does not need much explanation. Brady has won five Super Bowls and been to seven. He is also a four-time MVP of the big game. And even at 39, he led the Patriots back to win from a 28-3 deficit in the second half of last year's Super Bowl.

2. Ben Roethlisberger
He's the only QB on the list other than Brady with multiple rings. Roethlisberger has won two. He also plays in an offense with a cadre of weapons, including the one-two punch of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (if healthy). He's participated in and won a ton of big postseason games.

3. Drew Brees
Unlike years past, the Saints' offense is not solely dependent on Brees' right arm. New Orleans has the best tandem running attack in football with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. However, Brees still threw for more than 4,000 yards and a 103.9 passer rating at the age of 39. Second-year wideout Michael Thomas is one of the more underrated players in the league, posting more than 1,100 receiving yards in both seasons.

4. Matt Ryan
This is where things tighten up a bit. Ryan's play and numbers have dipped from his 2016 MVP campaign. Kyle Shanahan's departure as the Falcons' offensive coordinator has had a major impact. But Ryan still has Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and the experience of getting to the big game last year. The big question is are the Falcons and Ryan still suffering from the hangover of that bitter collapse to the Patriots?

5. Cam Newton
Newton's pass-run ability is second to none among the remaining QBs. I put him behind Ryan because of the inconsistency of Carolina's passing game. Newton can look like a world-beater at times with his arm, but too many times his mechanics are off and his decision-making is poor, as evidenced by his 22-16 touchdown-interception ratio. But when he is in a zone, he is brutal to contain.

6. Alex Smith
I know what you're thinking. "This guy is a game manager who hasn't won any big ones." Smith threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He also has 12 TDs to just two interceptions in six postseason games. He's better than people give him credit for.

7. Jared Goff
Goff has no playoff experience. However, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Sean McVay, the second-year QB came into his own and proved worthy of being the first overall pick. The Rams will lean heavily on all-world running back Todd Gurley, which will make Goff's first exposure to the postseason much smoother.

8. Case Keenum
Keenum had shuttled between the bench and starting in his previous four seasons in the NFL. But when given a chance this year, he's played extremely well and done more than play not to lose. He also has an excellent trio of receivers in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph. People all season have been trying to write Keenum off or send him to the bench when Teddy Bridgewater returned from IR, but all Keenum did was win.

9. Marcus Mariota
The man many Eagles fans wanted during the Chip Kelly era has not quite lived up to the hype. Injuries and inconsistent play have defined Mariota's early career. He threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) this year but is still a threat with his legs.

10. Nick Foles
Tenth out of 12 does not exactly inspire hope for Eagles fans. I am a firm believer Foles should be the starter in the Eagles' divisional round game and barring injury, we should not see Nate Sudfeld. But there is no other way to spin this: Foles has been terrible since taking the reins from Wentz. He looks scared and hesitant in the pocket and his decision-making has been bad. However, he has started and played well in a playoff game, which should count for something. (I'm trying here.)

11. Tyrod Taylor
I'm not a big fan of either of these last two guys. That said, Taylor has done a decent job this season. He too can make plays with his legs to either move the chains or keep plays alive. The Bills hope to lean heavily on LeSean McCoy, who sprained his ankle in the season finale and is a game-time decision. Any kind of big deficit and the Bills are done.

12. Blake Bortles
The Jaguars' defense is why they are in the postseason. Bortles has been better than he was in years past but that's not saying much. Leonard Fournette and that ferocious defense are the combo-plate for the Jags to advance.

• • •

As for where Wentz would have ranked had he not gotten injured ... 

I would have placed him third behind Brady and Roethlisberger. Wentz doesn't strike me as the type who would have been swallowed up by postseason hype. His command of the Eagles' offense and feel for the NFL lead me to believe he would have thrived in that type of environment. Oh, what could have been.

Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

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Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

Mike Trout hasn't decided if he will travel to Minneapolis to watch his beloved Eagles play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Trout said he enjoys staying at home and watching the game on television with his family. (There's something cool about that.) He also digs the commercials.

Wherever baseball's best — and highest paid — player decides to watch the game, he will have one important accessory with him: his dog mask. The same one he wore at Lincoln Financial Field during the Eagles' trouncing of the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

"I will definitely be wearing that dog mask," Trout said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Gotta ride with it."

Eagles tackle Lane Johnson gave Trout the dog mask that has come to symbolize the Eagles' place as an underdog in the playoffs and again in the Super Bowl. The Eagles have come to relish that status.

"A lot of people doubted them," Trout said. "They lost the majority of their captains and starters (to injury), but they're still fighting. Next-man-up mentality."

Even some of Trout's teammates with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doubted the Eagles. But no more.

"They give me grief all the time," Trout said. "Now they're all rooting for them. Throughout the season, there were a lot of ups and downs. But now we're going to the Super Bowl."

Trout, of course, was raised and still lives in Millville, New Jersey, less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia. He grew up a fan of all the Philly teams and, in fact, was in the parking lot outside of Citizens Bank Park celebrating with friends the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Trout, 26, is a season-ticket holder with the Eagles and a close friend and hunting buddy of Carson Wentz. Trout, who saw his first Eagles game back in the Veterans Stadium days, was able to visit with several Eagles players after Sunday's big win over the Vikings.

"I told them to go get it," he said. "Obviously, there hasn't been a Super Bowl champion in Philadelphia. I told them to go get it."

Trout recalled watching Super Bowl XXXIX more than a decade ago. The Patriots beat the Eagles, 24-21, in that one.

Trout sees a different Eagles team in the rematch.

"This team is just a little bit different," he said. "They want to win and it's not just one guy carrying them. Every guy has a part in it."

Trout's buddy, Wentz, won't be playing in the Super Bowl. He may have been on his way to the NFL's MVP award hadn't he been knocked out by a season-ending knee injury in December. Nick Foles has taken over and been at the helm for two playoff wins.

In six spectacular seasons in the majors, Trout has won two American League MVP awards and finished second three times. (That's why he will make $34 million in 2018.) He finished fourth in the voting in 2017 and would have finished higher if he hadn't missed significant time with a thumb injury that required surgery. He feels for Wentz, who has to watch from the sidelines.

"It's definitely difficult," Trout said. "I went through it last year. It's tough for him. I thought he was the MVP. It was hard to watch when he went down. But he's working hard. He's walking. I'm sure he'll be ready for next season.

"What he did on the field this season was amazing, and now Nick has stepped up."

Tuesday's conference call was set up by the Angels' media relations department because of the large demand to speak with Trout, who has emerged as the Eagles' most visible fan, woofing and pumping his fist in triumph with the rest of the fans at the Linc. Trout said he'd never heard the place louder than it was as Patrick Robinson ran back that game-turning pick-six in the first quarter Sunday night.

Philadelphia fans dream of a day when they will be cheering for Trout rounding the bases in a Phillies uniform. He is signed through 2020. His free agency is not that far away.

As always, Trout deflected a question about whether he could see himself playing in Philadelphia someday.

"I'm an Eagles fan," he said. "Obviously, I grew up a Philly sports fan. I love playing in Anaheim. I have a couple more years on my contract. I love Anaheim and the West Coast."

That wasn't exactly a no.

Trout was more direct when asked about what he expected in the Super Bowl.

"It's going to be tough," he said. "Anybody that goes against Tom Brady is going against the best and maybe greatest of all time.

"I still think the Eagles will pull it out and they're going to win, 31-24."

And the decisive play will be?

"An interception of Brady," Trout said.

Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

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Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

After the Eagles celebrated their win in the NFC Championship Game, Carson Wentz limped off the field at Lincoln Financial Field with the help of a cane. He wore an Eagles NFC champions hat, T-shirt and a giant smile.  

Wentz didn't get to play Sunday night, but he still played a huge role in the Eagles' getting to the Super Bowl. 

That was the message offensive coordinator Frank Reich tried to get across to Wentz when he had a brief chat with him during the fourth quarter of the blowout win. Wentz was one of the main reasons the Eagles got a chance to play the championship game at the Linc. 

Wentz wasn't just happy for the Eagles on Sunday. He was happy for Nick Foles, the guy who took over for him. 

"To me, one of the greatest things about a person that you can say, is when you see him celebrating somebody else's success," Reich said. "Even when you know it's at the same position. I don't care; human nature tells you that's hard to do. And it's been fun to see those two do that. It's fun to see Carson truly have the maturity to celebrate Nick's success and understanding how he's helping this team, also with the frustration knowing that he wants to be in there." 

For the last couple of games, Wentz has progressed enough in his ACL rehab to be allowed on the sideline during games and that's meant a lot to the Eagles, especially Foles and Nate Sudfeld. The three have spent all year together so it feels more natural to be together during games. 

During Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Wentz was on the sideline but part of him was on the field. The second touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery came on a play Wentz brought with him from North Dakota State. A FOX camera caught his reaction after the score: 

"Every time we score on his play," Reich said, "the smile's gonna light up."

Reich has some experience with watching big moments. Spending most of his career as a backup quarterback, he had to watch Jim Kelly play in big moments and he knows how hard that can be. 

"It's absolutely human to wish you were in there," Reich said. "But the whole key, it's a very fine line. That fine line to me is that you can still not just be happy for the team winning, but to be happy for Nick, who could potentially be stealing another person's thunder. That's the pretty cool thing. Of all the great things he's done this year, (this) even more exemplifies the leader he is."