The expectation was that Old Saint Nick would bring presents to all of the good little boys and girls on Christmas morning, while a young “Saint Nick” would deliver the #1 seed and homefield advantage to all of the Eagles fans, both naughty and nice, come Christmas night.
But while Old Saint Nick delivered on his promise, young Saint Nick almost delivered a bag of coal instead.
Clinching the #1 seed in your conference is usually a cause for celebration, but as the Eagles trotted off the field last Monday night after a victory over the Raiders, they looked more like they were walking out of a funeral.
And who could blame them? What we witnessed last week was a less than stellar performance by the offense. What makes it even more concerning was that it was against a team that flew cross country into the cold weather with absolutely nothing to play for save pride.
After the close win against another bad team in the Giants two weeks back, the feeling was that the offense would be fine with Saint Nick at the helm, especially after he threw four touchdowns in the process in his first start this season.
The area of concern was how easily the defense was getting torched against a bad offensive team like New York, but against the Raiders, everything got flipped.
The defense redeemed itself somewhat, but it was the play of Foles and the whole offense which was doing anything but making spirits bright for the 70,000 fans who braved the cold to watch that Christmas Night snoozer.
Foles was hitting them low, hitting them high, but no one was watching the Eagles fly. More like limp into the postseason.
To be fair, not everything that was happening to the offense was Foles’ fault. The receivers, who have been quite an improvement from 2016, seemed like they were trying to untangle themselves from a string of Christmas lights, and were unable to get any kind of separation from the defenders.
Two wins in two weeks against two bad teams, yet the way the Eagles played has caused more consternation than optimism.
When the Eagles were blowing out their opponents back in October & November, I made the point that watching the Birds was actually getting somewhat boring. By the 2nd half, I found myself sitting in my seat at the Linc in a very laid back manner, almost acting more like I was watching one of 162 Phillies game on a lazy summer day at Citizens Bank Park.
But all of the Bird watching boredom (a rarity I know due to all those one-sided contests) has now been replaced by a return to the “mean” for Eagles fans – the teeth clenching, fingernail biting, blood pressure rising is back and here to stay as long as the Eagles are still playing.
Things were just too good to be true back in the fall. We can’t have it easy – the starting quarterback who seemed to be the golden child of the franchise and who’s play was elevated compared to so many others HAS to get hurt to make things interesting.
The one hit-wonder who once threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a single season and who tied a record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game in that same spectacular season, HAS to come down to earth to make things interesting. Otherwise, it would be just too easy for Philadelphia and we won’t know what to do with ourselves.
No, doing things the hard way is what we’re used to. It’s what we thrive on, especially with the playoffs approaching.
If the Eagles play their first playoff game in four years at the same level as they did the last two weeks, their playoff push will be short-lived, regardless of whether they face the Vikings, Rams, Saints or Panthers. And we’re now placing all our hopes with a quarterback who has the ability to throw four touchdowns…or kill a lot of worms while throwing the football.
When Carson Wentz first got hurt, I made the point that while the Eagles “replacement engine” is not as good as the original, it was still capable of doing the job. And I still feel that way.
But if Wentz was starting last week, the Birds would have looked much more crisp on offense, as he had the ability to mask some of the deficiencies of this team with his play. Unfortunately, Foles does not have that luxury, so the “wrinkles and grey hair” are starting to show.
The Birds will need to play better in all aspects if they want to make this a season to remember. But before they embark on that quest, there is the matter of finishing out the string of the regular season first.
The Cowboys will come in with nothing to play for, but will play all of their starters for most of the game (I think) in order to finish the season at 9-7 and with a win. The Birds would do well to give their starting offense a “tune-up” of sorts before the playoffs begin.
Ideally, the offense comes in and scores 10 or 14 points in its first two drives and is then lifted for the backups. But if they struggle as they did last week, it will only raise the alarm bells as to whether this team can last even one round in the playoffs.
Hard to predict this game, so I won’t. But let’s hope that the offense can get back on track and that the defense continues to play as it did last week against the Raiders. Otherwise, what seemed to be a promising start to 2018 just a few weeks back may be another winter of our discontent.
Amit’s Marquee Matchup of the Week (only one this week):
Panthers at Falcons 4:25 PM FOX
The Last Word:
Thanks to Amanda Moran for the pic from the Green Legion pregame tailgate at Santa Monica pier prior to the Eagles – Rams game. With frigid temps in the forecast here at least through next week, I’d go back in a heartbeat.