Up against postseason odds, Eagles realize what's at stake in final 6 games

Up against postseason odds, Eagles realize what's at stake in final 6 games

Malcolm Jenkins never looks at the standings. Doesn’t analyze potential tiebreakers. Doesn’t even try to figure out who to root for or against.
Because to him it all boils down to one thing.
If the Eagles don’t win a bunch of games here the last month and a half of the season, none of the other stuff matters.
“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure it out,” Jenkins said. “There’s two questions. Really one question. Do we have a chance? And if mathematically you still have a chance, then the solution is easy. Just win. That’s how you get in. You win. 
“And so right now we’ve still got a chance, so there’s no need to look at what other teams are doing and who needs to do what. We know all we need to do is win, and the rest of it will take care of itself and the only thing we can control is this week, what we prepare for and how we show up for that game on Monday night.”
Jenkins is right and wrong.
Yes, the Eagles need to win, but they also need some help because even if they go 6-0 the rest of the way, mathematically, they don’t control their own destiny.
The Cowboys at 10-1 have the NFC East virtually locked up, and the Giants, at 7-3 with the winless Browns up Sunday, are in great shape for the first wild card. 

That leaves the Redskins, Eagles, Buccaneers and whoever doesn’t win the NFC North — probably the Vikings — fighting for one spot, with four-win teams like the Packers, Cards and Panthers hoping for miracles.
The Redskins’ loss Thursday to the Cowboys helped, as did the Vikings’ loss to the Lions, since the Eagles have a win over the Vikings and loss to the Lions, so they would rather be in a tiebreaker with Minnesota.
But even if the Redskins just go 2-3 the rest of the way — and they only have one winning team left on their schedule — they get to 8-7-1 and the Eagles need nine wins to get ahead of them. That means 4-2. 
If the Redskins finish out 3-2? Then they’re 9-6-1, and the Eagles’ margin of error is down to one loss the next six weeks.
For a team that’s 1-5 on the road and has lost five of its last seven games, that’s a lot to ask.
The Eagles start this final stretch Monday night at home — where they haven’t lost since Chip Kelly was their coach — against the Packers.
“It’s obvious there’s an urgency,” Brent Celek said. “We’ve got to win football games. There’s a lot of good teams in this division, there’s a lot of good teams in the NFC period, so we’ve got to step it up. 
“But all we can do is focus on Monday night. In all the games we’ve lost it’s us killing ourselves. It’s just getting back to the basics. We’ve got a good football team. I think guys in this locker room understand that. This is one of the better football teams I’ve been on. But you can’t make the small mistakes that add up to big things. That’s what it is.”
Considering Celek played on the 2008 team that was five minutes from reaching the Super Bowl that’s quite a statement.
The Eagles are tough to figure out. They’re one of only three teams in the NFL that’s undefeated at home, but they haven’t won on the road since Week 2.
“We’re all smart guys,” Carson Wentz said. “We realize what’s at stake. We realize where we’re at in the season. We have six games left, we’re going to put our best foot forward, but at the same time, we don’t change our preparation, we don’t change how we approach things. 
“Because one thing about this team, the effort’s always there, so we just have to be sharp with our details, like I always say.”
It’s already been a strange season for the Eagles.
Nobody’s been within a touchdown of them at the Linc, but they can’t buy a win on the road.
Their last seven opponents have a winning record, and only two of their last 13 opponents — the Packers Monday and the Bengals next Sunday in Cincinnati — have losing records.
After Cincinnati, the Eagles finish with the Redskins home, at Baltimore, then the Giants and Cowboys at the Linc. 
“My head’s been really down and focused on the one-week schedule, but I know we’re still in a position to where we can really create our own destiny making these next six games count,” Jordan Hicks said.
“If we handle our business, we’ll be all right. But I think the way you have to approach it is to see the light at the end of tunnel and understand that it’s there, but in no way shape or form should we look ahead. 
“We have to look at the task in front of us and we’ve got to handle business each and every week and treat it as an individual opportunity.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does if we don’t handle our business. Nobody else matters except for what’s in this building, and we understand that.”
What are the odds the Eagles reach the playoffs? 
PlayoffStatus.com says 20 percent. FiveThirtyEight.com says 29 percent. FootballOutsiders says 41 percent. PredictionMachine.com says 21 percent. And the New York Times’ Playoff Simulator says 26 percent.
But four of their last six games, including all three division rematches, are at home. Four wins could do it. But most likely, the Eagles will need to win out at home and win one of the two remaining road AFC games.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” Rodney McLeod said. “We want to be at the top of the division at this point, but you play with the cards that you’re dealt, all you can control is the next game and hopefully we’re 1-0 (Monday) and we get this thing rolling. 
“Monday night will be a good stage for us back at home. Going to be loud, and hopefully it gets us started making this run.”

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring, and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious, but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are – just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do every that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games, and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

USA Today Images

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction -- the next step in the legal process -- until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm -- among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted -- faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.