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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

After beating up on the Cardinals, 34-7, in Week 5, the Eagles traveled to North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup against the Panthers. The Birds would use another composed and meticulous performance from Carson Wentz to sneak past the Panthers, 28-23.

Wentz finished with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns — backing up his best performance of the season so far in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

A victory over the Panthers puts the Birds at 5-1. They now hold the best record in the NFC and a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Redskins, who sit at 3-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to Washington, which is coming off of a 26-24 victory over the 49ers.

Before the Birds host Washington on Monday night, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up three spots to No. 2
Florio wrote, “Carson Wentz needs to avoid contact, or the Eagles won’t be able to avoid having to play multiple games without him.”

Wentz has been hit a total of 41 times this season on dropbacks, the eighth most in the NFL. And that doesn’t include the number of times he has been hit when running. Wentz has to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting hit because the Eagles would take a huge hit in performance, morale and confidence if he were to be out for a significant amount of time.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 2
Harrison wrote, “Two things I like — LeGarrette Blount getting 14 carries. Keep working him. Also, Nelson Agholor contributing big plays including the touchdown reception to end a second-half drive.”

Agholor received a lot of criticism the past two seasons because of his inability to catch the football and deservedly so. He has had a solid start to the season thus far. In total, he has caught 20 balls on 30 targets for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns through six games this season are more than his total in his previous 28 games (three). Agholor has become a large part of the passing offense along with tight end Zach Ertz. Don’t expect it to change.

USA TODAY: Up three spots to No. 2
USA TODAY wrote, “Fletcher Cox leads front four that anchors league's best run defense and consistently jeopardizes quarterbacks without much blitz help."

Cox has been invaluable for the Birds this season and as a result, the run defense is in the top five. In the four games he has played this season, he has six total tackles and 2½ sacks. The Eagles haven’t been rushing more than four on most occasions and have been able to get to the quarterback with ease. Moving forward, Cox’s value is huge to disrupting opposing offenses because of his size and speed in the middle of the line.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 2
Schwab wrote, “A good argument can be made for them being No. 1. However, they played the No. 1 team and lost. It was a competitive game in Kansas City, but it’s still part of the resumes.”

Each rankings outlet used in this piece outside of The Washington Post is reluctant to put the Birds at the top spot. While losing to the Chiefs in a close one at Arrowhead could be the tiebreaker for most, I think it is worth considering the Eagles at No. 1. The Chiefs losing at home to a lost Steelers team is something to be taken note of for later.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot at No. 2
Prisco wrote, “They are on a roll and showed at Carolina that they are one of the best teams right now. The defensive front is nasty.”

Last week, I wrote the game against Carolina was the Eagles’ biggest test thus far and they passed with flying colors. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated because of a late Carolina touchdown. Cam Newton didn’t have any time to throw and his three interceptions came as a result of the defensive front for the Birds stepping up once again.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Up two spots to No. 1
Maske wrote, “They have earned the top spot after an impressive triumph Thursday night at Carolina. Second-year QB Carson Wentz is getting better all the time while utilizing the help he has around him on a bolstered offense.”

Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top and they have earned it. The fact of the matter is rankers can’t come to terms with the Eagles at the top because of what happened last year after a 3-1 start. Waiting in the wings on Monday night is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who are looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance against the Eagles in Week 1.

ESPN: Up two spots to No. 2
ESPN wrote, “The 5-1 start to the Eagles' season is bolstered by the fact they've won three on the road. Now they get to play their next three at home, where they're 2-0 this season and 8-2 over the past two years.”

Lincoln Financial Field has been good to the Eagles over the last two seasons and fans should expect the Linc to be filled to capacity on Monday night. The buzz surrounding the team continues to grow exponentially. Now all the Birds have to do is keep the momentum going.

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

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Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

There was a time as Sixers fans when being 16 games into the season meant it legitimately felt like there was no chance the team would ever win another game of basketball. Now, we're beating teams at home by a lot because we're better than them, moving to multiple games over .500, and -- as of last night -- even breaking even with our overall scoring differential. Yawn. 

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz last night by a score of 107-86. Joel Embiid had something of an off night (15 points on 7-16 shooting), our shooters couldn't quite get it going (4-15 from deep), but we still won by 21. It wasn't quite a blowout, but it definitely wasn't a nail-biter. It wasn't an upset or a moral loss or a validating triumph. It wasn't anything, really, except a win. 

In it's own way, of course, that makes it the most meaningful W of the season for Philly. It has been a very long time -- maybe since the Doug Collins era -- since the Sixers won a game without it being a referendum on either team. The Sixers simply won because they're a better team with more good players -- especially with the Jazz missing a couple key dudes, though we also beat them in Utah a couple weeks ago without Joel Embiid, so whatever. And the Jazz aren't even the worst team in the league, or really even one of them -- they're just a not-totally-terrible team that the Sixers are still decisively superior to. 

Long have I dreamed of wins like this, to have a game where there was nothing to say in the recap except how there's nothing really to say in the recap. Next time the Sixers pick up another W this casual -- and it probably won't take all that long, either -- I won't even be able to write this column again. I'll probably have to try writing in haiku or cryptogram or something to attempt to make the story interesting. 

And that's fine: After four years of historic losing, we'll trade narratives for Ws any time. You keep it real boring, Sixers.

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

We didn't even know if Joel Embiid was going to play just hours before tonight's contest as he was listed as a game-time decision with knee soreness.

Play he did. And he treated the Wells Fargo Center crowd to one of the more energetic moments of the evening. 

The Sixers beat the Jazz in South Philly on Monday night, 107-86, to bounce back from that tough loss on Saturday (see observations).

Embiid was a big part of that. He finished with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a couple of blocks.

It was one block on Donovan Mitchell in particular that had The Center going bonkers.

Watch:

The block, the stare down, the technical foul signal, the crowd pumping ... Embiid provided a perfect moment.

"It was some good theater and the two embraced afterwards. It was fun to watch," Marc Zumoff said after the game.

Mitchell wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

"Just gotta keep my head," Mitchell said. "It's a learning experience, especially in that situation when we're making a comeback."

Whether they were making a comeback or not is debatable. 

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let it go."

Brett Brown was OK with the play.

"I'm always mindful of how do we stay disciplined," Brown said. "Jo understands it's risky if you taunt. I want my guys playing with an edge. I want them to feel some level of swagger and feel good about themselves. That was a big play. It certainly got the crowd involved."

As for his part in the incident, Embiid admitted he may have embellished just a bit. The big guy is not that easy to move.

"I flopped and he got a technical for it," Embiid said. "That's basically how it happened. It's all fun. After the game, we shook hands."