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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles soar to the top

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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles soar to the top

The Eagles used the energy of a packed Lincoln Financial Field and a four-touchdown performance from Carson Wentz to defeat the Washington Redskins, 34-24, on Monday Night Football.

Wentz finished with 268 passing yards to go with his four scores — yet another tremendous effort from the sophomore quarterback.

A victory over the Redskins put the Birds at 6-1. They now hold the best record in the NFL after the Chiefs lost to the Raiders on Thursday night and a 2.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Cowboys, who sit at 3-3.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to the San Francisco 49ers, who are coming off of an embarrassing 40-10 loss to the Cowboys.

Before the Birds host the winless 49ers on Sunday afternoon, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up one spot to No. 1
Florio wrote, “Before they can be a Team of Density, they need to be sure that it’s not Carson Wentz‘s destiny to get injured while being reckless with his body.”

Last week, Florio expressed similar sentiments with Wentz and honestly, it is true. Yes, backup quarterback Nick Foles has had past success with the Eagles including a seven-touchdown game against the Raiders in 2013. But the fact of the matter is he isn’t Carson Wentz and there aren’t many like him in the entire NFL. As Wentz proved with his Houdini escape from what seemed to be a sure sack on Monday.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Up one spot to No. 1
Harrison wrote, “There's a new No. 1, and it's not a familiar one. When was the last time the Eagles were the best team in pro football? Maybe in the first two months of the 2004 campaign.”

It is definitely an unfamiliar position for the Eagles because they are clearly the best team for the first time in a long time. The team owns the best record in the NFL, it has a commanding NFC East lead and hosts a winless 49ers team Sunday and then a reeling Broncos team. There is definitely a good chance for the Birds to enter their Week 10 bye at 8-1.

USA TODAY: Up one spot to No. 1
USA TODAY wrote, “Is Carson Wentz ready to follow Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson as second-year starters to lead the franchise on Super Bowl magic carpet ride?”

The last time the Eagles reached the Super Bowl was in the 2004 season, a 24-21 defeat to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. That team included the likes of Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Terrell Owens, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins. The team finished 13-3 and made the big game for the first time since the 1980 season. This team sure has the potential to get back to Super Sunday.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up one spot to No. 1
Schwab wrote, “There should be as much excitement as possible about Carson Wentz, but the loss of left tackle Jason Peters is really tough. He’s going to be very hard to replace. Still, as the lone one-loss team remaining in the NFL, they deserve the top spot.”

Losing a future Hall of Famer in Peters for the season is a huge blow to the offensive line, but Wentz’s mobility helps in some senses. If he starts taking more hits and more sacks, there will definitely be a cause for concern.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot to No. 1
Prisco wrote, “Carson Wentz has three straight games with at least three touchdown passes. The loss of left tackle Jason Peters with a leg injury will hurt in a big way.”

Wentz leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 17. His ability to deliver the ball down the field was evident on against the 'Skins with his 64-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins. No one on this team maybe other than Malcolm Jenkins is more valuable to the Birds than Wentz.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Down one spot to No. 2
Maske wrote, “QB Carson Wentz was terrific Monday night against the Redskins and is becoming very prominent in the race for the NFL’s MVP award. It wasn’t only his passing, it was his ability to escape the Washington pass rush and make something out of nothing.”

Last week, Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top. This week, he moves them down a spot to No. 2 and I don’t understand it at all. The Eagles have the best record in the NFL and have won five consecutive games. He bumped them for a 5-2 Patriots team that beat up on a struggling Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Maybe Maske got cold feet but there isn’t any reason the Birds shouldn’t be No. 1.

ESPN: Stayed at No. 2
ESPN wrote, “Carson Wentz leads the NFL in passing touchdowns (17) and already has surpassed his TD total from last season (16). He also has led the Eagles to their best start since 2004 and has given them the best chance of winning the NFC East.”

Another interesting choice here. Just like Maske, ESPN places the Patriots ahead of the Eagles in its power rankings although the Birds have a better record. I think it is simple. The Patriots have proven they can get it done in the big moments and the Eagles haven’t.

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

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Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.