Dalton Balthaser

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles continue to lead the pack

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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles continue to lead the pack

The Eagles were back at the Linc last Sunday afternoon for a matchup against the Chicago Bears, whose defense has been quite underrated this season. 

That didn’t prevent tight end Zach Ertz from turning in a 10-catch performance to help the Birds handily defeat the Bears, 31-3.

The Eagles still hold the best record in the NFL and have a chance to clinch the NFC East this week with a win or a Dallas loss or tie to the Redskins on Thursday night.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to the Seattle Seahawks for a Sunday night matchup in the Pacific Northwest. 

Here’s a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings after Week 12:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Stayed at No. 1
Florio wrote, “They’re making it look too easy. At some point, it won’t be.”

The Eagles have been on cruise control since losing to former coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs in Week 2. They have now reeled off nine straight victories and it doesn’t seem like they are ready to slow down. Florio might be hinting that the Eagles’ West Coast trip coming up against Seattle and Los Angeles to play the Seahawks and the Rams might be the real test for them at this point (see story).

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 1
Harrison wrote, “The Eagles are rolling through the league right now — or electric sliding, if you happened to catch the late stages of their declawing of the Bears. Carson Wentz continues to be the talk of the league, but as my colleague Steve Mariucci pointed out this weekend, general manager Howie Roseman must be given credit for the depth he's acquired to bolster Doug Pederson's roster.”

The Eagles have been one of the most fun teams in the NFL this season (see story). The Birds have celebrated in many ways, whether it was hitting a home run or getting hit by a pitch. However, the choreographed Electric Slide after an interception by Corey Graham has to top the list. 

USA TODAY: Stayed at No. 1
USA TODAY wrote, “Peaking too soon? They've won past three games by 28 points apiece, which is why NFC East may be wrapped before three-game road trip starts Sunday.”

The Eagles could clinch the NFC East before even stepping on the field in Seattle. Something to consider here: In Week 17 last season, the Cowboys rested their key skill players in an effort to keep them fresh and healthy for the divisional round of the playoffs, a game they would lose to Green Bay. The Eagles might be in a similar situation coming down the stretch, which could be concerning. But with the Vikings, Saints, Panthers and Rams all within striking distance for a top-two seed and home-field advantage, the Eagles can't afford to step off the gas now.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Stayed at No. 1
Schwab wrote, “The Jay Ajayi trade looks peculiar three weeks into it. Ajayi has just 22 total touches in three games. He had just six touches on Sunday. It seems that rookie Corey Clement could have handled the role Ajayi has and it wouldn’t have cost the Eagles a draft pick.”

Ajayi seemed frustrated after the game against the Bears and you would be too if you fumbled at the goal line after breaking a long run (see story). He ended up with six total touches in Week 12 for a total of 33 yards. Ajayi has been the game-breaker for the Eagles in the run game, while LeGarrette Blount has been bulldozing defenses for short gains. Expect this running back by committee with Ajayi, Blount and Clement to continue.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Stayed at No. 1
Prisco wrote, “They just keep right on rolling and Carson Wentz is getting better. They are the class of the NFC — by far.”

They are the class of the NFC without a doubt and the Patriots and Steelers are the same in the AFC. The Patriots and Steelers play in Week 15, so one of those teams will cement itself as the head of the conference after that matchup. There is a lot of football left, but the Eagles should be the class of the NFL right now, not just the NFC.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Stayed at No. 1
Maske wrote, “The Eagles’ last three wins have come by 28 points each. They haven’t had a single-digit margin of victory since a five-point triumph at Carolina on Oct. 12.”

The Eagles have been destroying every team in their path over the last 2½ months. They are the top-scoring offense in the league with an average of 32 points per game, two points better than any other team in the NFL. 

ESPN: Stayed at No. 1
ESPN wrote, “The Eagles have the best record in the NFL and are the most efficient team, according to FPI — and that's all thanks to balance. They've thrown for the most touchdowns, rushed for the most yards after contact, allowed the fewest rushing yards per game and allowed the second-fewest yards per pass attempt.”

This balance has been terrific for this offense and especially to take the pressure off of Wentz. Wentz’s ability to spread the football around only enhances the offensive prowess of this team. It also helps when the defense continues to dominate opponents (see story).

Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

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Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

Temple (5-5, 3-3 AAC) vs. No. 15 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Last time out
Temple beat Cincinnati, 35-24, last Friday.

UCF beat UConn, 49-24, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams have a lot at stake in Saturday’s game. An Owls win would make them bowl eligible and give them a victory against a high-ranked opponent, which would certainly help when it comes time for bowl selection. On the other hand, UCF will look to preserve its perfect season and stay atop the AAC's East Division with a crucial matchup against 8-1 South Florida looming.

Frank Nutile, who will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback, has sparked Temple’s offense. Since he stepped in, he has completed 61 of 89 passes for 803 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and led the Owls to two wins. He will need to continue his stellar play for Temple to beat UCF, which boasts the second-best total and scoring defense in the AAC, allowing 371 yards per game and 20.7 points per game.

The Knights also have the best total offense in the conference, putting up 538 yards per game and 48.6 points per game, which is more than six points better than the second-best team. The Owls must keep UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) and the Knights' rushing attack, which averages 210.2 yards per game, in check if they want a chance at the upset.

Series history
The series is tied at 2-2 and Temple has won the past two matchups, including a 26-25 come-from-behind win last year.

What's next?
Temple travels to play Tulsa next Saturday.

UCF hosts No. 23 South Florida on Friday night.

Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) vs. Cornell (3-6, 3-3 Ivy)
Franklin Field
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last time out
Penn defeated Harvard, 23-6, last Saturday.

Cornell lost to Columbia, 18-8, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn has won its last three Ivy League contests and has gained a lot of momentum after losing its first three Ivy League games this season. Cornell shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Quakers since the Big Red are second worst in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and pass efficiency. The Quakers’ strength is their rushing attack, as they average 192 yards per game on the ground. Cornell’s rush defense is sixth in the conference, so look for the Quakers to take advantage of this matchup.

Series history
This is the 124th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 72-46-5 advantage and won, 42-20, last season. 

What's next?
This is the final game of the season for both teams.

Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA) vs. Delaware (7-3, 5-2 CAA)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania 
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last time out
Villanova lost to Rhode Island, 20-6, last Saturday.

Delaware beat Albany, 22-3, last Saturday.

Scouting report
What stands out about this regular-season finale are the defenses for Delaware and Villanova. Delaware’s scoring defense is second to James Madison as the Blue Hens allow just 15.7 points per game. The Wildcats’ specialty on the defensive side of the football is their run defense. Villanova allows only 72 yards per game on the ground and will look to slow down a Delaware rushing attack that averages 200 yards per game. Also to note, the Blue Hens come in fighting for a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 28-21-1. The Wildcats won, 41-10, last season.

What's next?
This is the regular-season finale for both Villanova and Delaware. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Wildcats won't make the FCS playoffs.

Temple primed for late season run; Penn looking for three in a row; Villanova eyes bounce back

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Temple primed for late season run; Penn looking for three in a row; Villanova eyes bounce back

Temple (4-5, 2-3 AAC) vs. Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4 AAC)
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Last time out
Temple beat Navy, 34-26, on Thursday.

Cincinnati beat Tulane, 17-16, on Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams are fighting to stay bowl eligible. An Owls' win would knock the Bearcats out of bowl contention and an Owls' loss would leave them with zero margin for error and a game against top-25 ranked UCF on the horizon.

Temple has played two solid offensive games in a row behind new starting QB Frank Nutile, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 289 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception in last week’s upset victory against Navy. Nutile will face a tough Bearcats' pass defense this weekend that gives up just 208 yards per game, which is second in the AAC, and has allowed 16 touchdowns on the season.

What it means
If Temple wants to have any chance to make a bowl game, they have to win two of their last three.

Series history
Temple owns the series lead 11-7-1 and has won the last two matchups between the teams, including a 34-13 blowout last year.

What’s next?
Temple hosts Central Florida.

Cincinnati travels to play East Carolina.

Penn (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) at Harvard (5-3, 3-2 Ivy)
Harvard Stadium, Boston, Massachusetts
12:00 p.m. Saturday

Last time out
Penn defeated Princeton, 38-35, Saturday.

Harvard defeated Columbia 21-14, Saturday.

Scouting report
The matchup to watch this weekend is the battle in the trenches. Harvard has a strong rush defense that is one of the best in the Ivy League and Penn’s rushing offense is second in the conference. Harvard allows only 102 yards per game on the ground, second in the conference. Penn rushes for 180 yards per game. Only Yale (230) averages more on a per game basis. Since Harvard has eight interceptions (second in the Ivy) this season, look for Penn to pound the football to try to add to its win total.

Series history
This is the 88th meeting between the teams. The Crimson hold a 48-37-2 advantage and the Quakers won 27-14 last season.

What’s next?
Penn hosts Cornell.

Harvard is at Yale.

Villanova (4-5, 2-4 CAA) at Rhode Island (2-7, 1-5 CAA)
Meade Stadium, Kingston, Rhode Island
12:00 p.m. Saturday

Last time out
Villanova lost to Richmond, 22-0, Saturday.

Rhode Island lost to James Madison, 38-3, Saturday.

Scouting report
Villanova is known this season for its run defense, which is the best in the Colonial. The Wildcats allow just 71 yards per game on the ground and Rhode Island is the 10th best rushing offense in the conference. The Rams, on the other hand, are one of the better passing offenses in the Colonial. They average 231 yards through the air, third best in the conference. Whoever can sustain success in their respective strength will come out on top in this matchup.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 19-3. The Wildcats won 35-0 last season.

What’s next?
Villanova hosts Delaware.

Rhode Island is at Towson.