Eagles

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

It's a pretty good problem to have, but it's still a problem that needs sorting. 

By the time the Eagles play the Raiders on Christmas night next Monday, they might have already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Then what? 

Do they rest some starters? Do they play everyone and try to win? What's the plan for the next two weeks? 

"I've begun thinking (about it), but my focus is winning the game on Monday night," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "Because that, to me, is the most important thing. Once we get to next week, we'll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football."

To put it in baseball terms, over the last two weeks of the season, the Eagles' magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is one. So either a win from the Eagles or a loss from the Vikings would ensure that the Birds have the top spot. 

That means if the Vikings lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Saturday night, the Eagles will have clinched and will have a couple days to make a decision before playing on Monday. (Whether Rodgers faces Minnesota may depend on tonight's Falcons-Bucs game. If Atlanta wins, Green Bay is eliminated from the playoffs.)

Even if the Vikings win, the Eagles could beat the Raiders and still clinch the top spot this weekend, which would set up a situation where that last game of the season is meaningless. 

"You just make the best decisions for your football team," Pederson said. "If that means resting a guy, you rest a guy or two or three. But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you've got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you've got to keep that alive.

"You just can't go — it's not a preseason game, you know what I'm saying, where you can rest in Week 4 and rest all your guys. You can't do that because you're still limited to the roster limits on game day. Guys are still going to have to play, but at the same time, I'm going to be smart about the decisions we make moving forward and getting guys who need it rest, if possible."

While rest is obviously helpful at this time of year, the Eagles could be in a spot where they have three straight weeks — two nothing games and a bye — without a meaningful game. Good for rest, potentially bad for momentum heading into the postseason. 

The quarterback position, specifically, is a bit of a quandary. Had Carson Wentz not torn his ACL, it would be a fairly easy decision — rest him. But Nick Foles hasn't played a lot this year and could probably use the work, especially with his relatively unfamiliar receivers. The problem with that is, if he gets hurt, the team is down to Nate Sudfeld. Pederson also said that he'd ideally like to get Sudfeld some work. 

The Eagles haven't been in this position in quite some time. You'd have to go all the way back to the 2004 Super Bowl season to find a similar situation. Like what could happen with a Minnesota loss on Saturday, the 2004 Eagles had home-field clinched with two games to go. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' starters played just one series in Week 16 and then most key players were rested in Week 17 before the bye in the wild-card round. 

Because of the rest, the Eagles lost their last two games heading into the playoffs, but it didn't matter. In the divisional round, they went up 14-0 early in the second quarter and took down the Vikings 27-14, their first step in the playoffs toward the Super Bowl. 

On Monday, Pederson didn't want to answer too many specific questions about hypothetical situations, but he and his coaches will probably have some sort of plan in place if the Vikings lose. That plan could either be to play like normal or begin the coasting process into the playoffs. 

"Like I've said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now," Pederson said. "So that's the focus for me."

Roob Knows Podcast: The great Nick Foles vs. Carson Wentz debate

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Roob Knows Podcast: The great Nick Foles vs. Carson Wentz debate

On this edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro react to the stunning win in L.A. What are the things Nick Foles does better than Carson Wentz? Is this the beginning of a true quarterback controversy?

How realistic is a playoff berth for the Eagles? Also, which players were the unsung heroes in Sunday night's upset victory?

1:00 - Nick Foles leads the Eagles to a huge, unexpected win.
5:00 - Is there anything Nick Foles can do to become the franchise QB?
11:30 - How can the Eagles make the playoffs?
19:00 - Unsung heroes from Sunday night's win.
24:30 - Wendell Smallwood comes up big.
29:00 - How does the rest of the season play out?

Subscribe and rate the Roob Knows podcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

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Fletcher Cox battles through injury to ruin Jared Goff’s night

Fletcher Cox battles through injury to ruin Jared Goff’s night

LOS ANGELES — It was enough to shake your head in disbelief, throw your hands in the air and start to think, maybe this just isn’t their year.

In the first half of Sunday’s eventual win over the Rams at the LA Coliseum, Fletcher Cox hurt his hip. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle made a visit to that damned blue popup tent that has claimed many of his teammates this season. He walked out of the tent holding his body stiff. Then he rode shotgun on a trainer’s cart, taking the same route Carson Wentz walked on a torn ACL about a year ago. 

The Eagles have overcome a lot of injuries this year. They’ve been decimated, in fact. But in the biggest game of the year, with the entire season hanging in the balance, this felt like it could have been a finishing blow. 

It wasn’t, of course. Cox returned to the field in time to ruin Jared Goff’s evening as the defensive line got great pressure to help the Eagles pull off an improbable 30-23 win to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

“Nothing was going to stop me from finishing that game,” Cox said after the game like it was obvious. 

Nothing. 

Not only did Cox return to the game, on his first series back in the second quarter, but he also made a huge play. In a contest that featured some of the best pass rushers in the league, including the NFL’s sack leader on the other sideline, Cox in the second quarter picked up the only sack for either team on Sunday night. 

It was a big one too. At the time, the Rams were up 7-6 and a touchdown in that spot would have stretched that lead. But on 3rd-and-11 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line, Cox took down Goff and forced the Rams to settle for a 41-yard field goal. The Eagles took the lead a few minutes later. 

“It’s a big relief,” Chris Long said about seeing Cox return to the game. “He’s our best player. He might be our best player on our team. So having him out there, he’s the straw that stirs the drink for us, especially on third down. He creates so many opportunities for so many other people. He works his ass off every day and he’s a tough player as you can see.”

Cox, who just turned 28, came into spring workouts with a big, lofty goal in his sights. He had been to the Pro Bowl, had won a Super Bowl. Cox said he wanted to become the Defensive Player of the Year. 

Now, Cox has 7 1/2 sacks this season and, typically, a defensive lineman who wins DPOY needs to get well into double digits. There’s a lot more to Cox’s game than sacks, but that’s sort of been the precedent for the prestigious award. 

That’s why, despite getting blanked by the Eagles in the sack department on Sunday, Aaron Donald is still probably the frontrunner to win the award in back-to-back seasons. He has 16 1/2 sacks through 14 games. 

But Sunday, Cox proved he’s perhaps as important — perhaps more — to his team. 

“I’m a fan of Aaron Donald,” Cox said. “Obviously, that’s my boy. We talk all the time about going out and just being yourself. I think today, I just went out and played my style of football, be physical and get after the quarterback. It was a good day for me.”

It certainly was. As for that hip injury, Cox said he felt fine. He knew might feel some pain in the morning, but Cox was happy to deal with it then. He had a win to celebrate.

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