Eagles

Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

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USA Today Images

Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

Eagles-Cowboys
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles +2.5

The Eagles’ Week 17 tilt with the Dallas Cowboys may be meaningless in terms of the playoffs, but the NFC East rivals have plenty to play for in the final game of the regular season.

Dallas is eliminated from postseason contention, yet still has an opportunity to finish above .500. Redemption may be on the Cowboys’ minds as well after losing the first meeting of the season 37-9 at JerryWorld.

As for the Eagles, the top seed in the NFC is wrapped up, though most of the starters will see at least some action as the squad looks to maintain its edge heading into the tournament.

The game matters, even if the outcome doesn’t.

Milestone watch
The Eagles may have more motivation to win than it would seem, as a victory would set off some cool milestones — and even put them in the history books.

They can set a franchise record with 14 wins in a season. They can go undefeated at home for the first time since 1992. And they can sweep their six divisional matchups for the first time since 2004.

Ultimately, none of those marks are as important as getting to January as healthy as possible. That being said, the Eagles probably wouldn’t mind making a little history along the way.

Bold strategy?
Some would argue the health of the team is paramount, so it would be a mistake to play the starters at all Sunday. Yet, while one more key injury has the potential to devastate the Eagles, there isn’t a whole lot of choice in the matter.

Sure, Eagles coach Doug Pederson could sit a guy or there. But with gameday rosters maxing out at 46 players, some regular players inevitably will have to take the field. For example, there are only eight offensive linemen and nine defensive backs on the roster, but often, at least five of each playing at a time.

Plus, if the goal is to get the offense some additional reps with Nick Foles under center, would you want him standing in the pocket behind anything less than the best five offensive linemen?

Pederson said he wants the team to get some work in, but also acknowledged his hands are tied to an extent. Even when a starter comes out of the game, an injury to the backup could force the starter back into the game.

Naturally, if a key starter gets hurt, Pederson is going to get torched by the fans. Regardless, the reality is some of the starters have to play.

It’s Sudfeld time
While Pederson stressed most of the starters will play, the coach also acknowledged Nate Sudfeld will replace Foles at quarterback at some point during the contest.

The chance to see Sudfeld play is arguably the most compelling reason to tune in — right up there with the debut of second-round draft pick Sidney Jones at cornerback. The difference is expectations are sky high for Jones, whereas Sudfeld is a total mystery.

Sudfeld has become an incredibly important name for the Eagles because he’s one play away from becoming the starting quarterback. And if he performs well Sunday, his profile may be on the rise.

The Eagles could opt to trade Foles if there’s a market in the offseason, and install Sudfeld as the No. 2 behind Carson Wentz. Or, another team may view Sudfeld as a prospect and try to engineer a swap for the second-year player.

A sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016, Sudfeld has garnered quite a bit of attention. The Eagles swiped him from Washington after training camp, stashed him on the practice squad and then added him to the 53-man roster when another team attempted to sign him. It’s time to find out what all the commotion is about.

Coming up with the inactive list
Pederson more or less confirmed defensive end Brandon Graham will not play because of an ankle injury. But in doing so, the coach also provided some insight into how the inactive list will look Sunday.

Expect players who are a little banged up right now to take a seat this week.

Joining Graham could be cornerback Jalen Mills, who has also been dealing with an ankle injury. Running back Jay Ajayi could also make the list. Though Ajayi is not on the injury report, his chronic knee condition might be reason enough to give him a rest.

Pederson also said left guard Stefen Wisniewski will play after missing the last couple games with an ankle, so maybe it’s not so simple.

Whatever the case is, the inactive list is the place to stash the few starters who won’t be taking the field at all. With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to stash key players like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Nigel Bradham there, too.

How ‘bout them Cowboys?
Whether the game matters or not, what would Dallas week be without a little trash talk?

With a 21-12 loss to the Seahawks last week, the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, and the Eagles have a chance to leave their divisional foe stranded at eight wins for the season. And while All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott has returned from a suspension, Dallas still looks like a mess.

The Eagles may very well beat the Cowboys while using the back end of their bench, including a bunch players who are ordinarily inactive. Who wouldn’t get a kick out of that?

Just one more reason to tune in at 1 p.m.

QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

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AP Images/USA Today Images

QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

Life is just too darn predictable. Death, taxes, partisan politics, some form of Law and Order running on cable, Liam Neeson rescuing someone.

That predictability often seeps into the sporting world as well. Alabama playing for a national title, the Cleveland Browns playing for no title and the Patriots owning the NFL. We’ve been there, done that, too many times.

That’s why the Nick Foles-Case Keenum South Philly showdown for the right to play in the Super Bowl is an awesome, unexpected gift bestowed upon us by the sports gods.

Think about the premise of someone suggesting to you prior to the season that Foles and Keenum would be playing for an NFC title. You wouldn’t even have gotten to the point of laughing them off. You would have dismissed that person and probably sought an intervention for them before it even got to that point. But that’s what makes this matchup so unique. Take last year’s final four quarterbacks for example. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Three Hall of Fame locks. With the exception of Ryan, all have won a ring and all are perennial Pro Bowlers. The blue bloods of the league. Predictable.

This year’s box of QB chocolates is what makes sports great. Foles and Keenum were overlooked, written off, one-time starters who washed out at their previous stops. Foles even contemplated retirement. Yet here they are, one guaranteed to be playing in their sport's ultimate game. If you throw Blake Bortles into the mix in the AFC, three of the four quarterbacks left standing would have been completely unthinkable prior to the season.

It’s also what makes this Eagles season and this run that much sweeter. Even if they had stayed healthy all season, few of us saw them playing for the right to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Let alone with Foles, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jake Elliott and the fill-in crew. Foles' and Keenum’s success could also go a long way in dispelling the myth that if your starting quarterback goes down, your season is over. Granted, the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars all have phenomenal defenses, which helps quite a bit. 

Both quarterbacks have their work cut out for them considering the ferociousness of those defenses they will be facing. But taking into account what both have been through to get to this point, I don’t think either will be daunted. One thing we also know for sure, the game and the quarterback matchup will be anything but predictable.

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.