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Philadelphia Eagles: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 16

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Philadelphia Eagles: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 16
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

All good things must come to an end eventually, but why is Cary Williams happy the Philadelphia Eagles faltered last Sunday?

The Birds received quite a scare in Minnesota, their five-game winning streak snapped in a 48-30 beat-down at the hands of the Vikings. Had the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Green Bay Packers like they were supposed to, Philadelphia would be facing elimination in Week 16. Instead, the Eagles may be able to clinch a division championship and the playoff berth that comes with it.

The scenarios wound up working out well for Philly, all things considered. In fact, Williams, a veteran cornerback who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with the Baltimore Ravens last season, is “glad it happened” this way. CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank caught up with the outspoken defensive back, who explained why the Eagles needed to lose.

“It definitely knocked us off our high horse,” Williams said. “We thought we were good. We thought we were going to be able to just go into Minnesota and win and those guys were going to lay down.”

“We didn’t want to go into this week thinking that we were invincible. It was great that they were able to knock us off.”

Should the Cowboys lose in Washington this Sunday, the Eagles will be able to lock up the NFC East with a win over the Chicago Bears in prime time. No matter the outcomes of either game, though, Philadelphia cannot be knocked out of postseason contention this week.

As long as the Cowboys take care of business, the rivals will remain on a collision course for their long-awaited Week 17 tilt in Dallas—a play-in game, if you will. The NFL doesn’t get much better than that.

If it’s all the same to the Eagles, though, the sooner they wrap this thing up, the better. Then again, it’s been three years since Lincoln Financial Field hosted a playoff game. What’s waiting another week?

 

NFC East Standings

NFC East Standings
Record Division Last Next
Philadelphia Eagles 8-6 3-2 L @ MIN vs. CHI
Dallas Cowboys 7-7 4-0 L vs. GB @ WAS
New York Giants 5-9 2-3 L vs. SEA @ DET
Washington Redskins 3-11 0-4 L @ ATL vs. DAL

NFL.com

 

Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)

The Eagles got a reprieve and remain in first place. It's Week 16 of a supposed "rebuilding year." Just enjoy it.

 

Dallas Cowboys (7-7)

Two notes from the Cowboys’ historic collapse this past Sunday. One, Tony Romo actually audibled out of a running play with 2:58 remaining in the fourth quarter to throw the interception that allowed the Packers to take the lead. The man continues to invent new ways to give away games.

Second, the Cowboys defense is brutal. They haven’t surrendered fewer than 21 points in seven consecutive games. The unit is ranked 26th in scoring and dead last out of 32 teams overall.

 

New York Giants (5-9)

Does anybody know what the Giants have in Eli Manning anymore? The 10th-year veteran tied his career high with 25 interceptions, and there are still two games left to play. The single-season record is 42, by the way, set by George Blanda with the Houston Oilers in 1962, so that’s probably safe.

Sure, Eli has two Super Bowl rings, so who are we to judge? Well, this has been by far the younger Manning’s worst season since he was a rookie. He turns 33 next year. It’s fair to wonder whether he might be fading.

 

Washington Redskins (3-11)

Is Mike Shanahan the biggest fraud in the coaching business? The man has only won one playoff game in 14 seasons since winning a pair of Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, and those were a couple of veritable dream teams. I usually defer to rings, but having him in the division the last four years has exposed a lot of flaws.

I'm pretty sure the only reason he’s still employed is because Washington owner Dan Snyder would have to can his son, Kyle, too. With both of them out the door, who would have run the offense these final few games?

 

This Week’s Opponent: Chicago Bears (8-6)

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No matter what Cary Williams says, this was not a good time for the Eagles to show vulnerability in their secondary. Chicago features perhaps the top receiving duo in the NFL today in four-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and rising star Alshon Jeffery, who have combined for 170 receptions, more than 2,400 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns this season.

Running back Matt Forte is enjoying a career year as well, setting a new personal best with 1,722 yards from scrimmage, third behind only LeSean McCoy and Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles.

The Bears are ranked fifth in the NFL in passing this season and have had success no matter who is under center. They’re also seventh in total offense. However, this isn’t your father’s Bears defense. The Chicago D is 27th in yards and 28th in scoring, so we should anticipate another shootout.

 

Injury Report

Philadelphia Eagles Injury Report
Injury Status
S Colt Anderson Knee Left Game Week 15
CB Brandon Boykin Concussion Left Game Week 15
S Kurt Coleman Hamstring Left Game Week 15
LB Najee Goode Hamstring Did Not Play Week 15
S Earl Wolff Knee Did Not Play Week 15

Pro Football Reference

Good news for the Eagles. After weeks of enduring Patrick Chung, who defensive coordinator Bill Davis admitted has been in a “slump,” Earl Wolff is finally set to return to the secondary from a knee injury.

The bad news: Wolff will likely be used in a rotation at safety with Chung. At his weekly news conference via PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Davis expressed concern over inserting a fifth-round rookie into the starting lineup after missing four games.

[Wolff] was starting to really show some play‑making ability, getting some of those rookie mistakes out. … He got injured and has been out for a while. We have to crawl him back into the mix as we go.

To account for injuries to backup safeties Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson, both major contributors on special teams as well, CSNPhilly.com reports the Eagles activated Keelan Johnson from the practice squad.

No official word yet on Brandon Boykin’s status for Sunday. The nickel cornerback suffered a concussion during a kickoff return against Minnesota and is currently going through league protocol, according to Davis. Here’s a scary thought: if Boykin can’t go this week, Chung will likely be responsible for some of his slot duties.

 

What Must Improve (Besides the Secondary Edition)

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Matt Cassel—Matt Cassel!—threw for 382 yards against the Philly defense on Sunday, setting the tone for a 48-point outburst from the Minnesota Vikings offense. Needless to say, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey coming to town, the Eagles need to figure that out.

The secondary wasn’t the only problem the Birds had on Sunday. Here’s a quick rundown of a few more changes the club could stand to make this week.

 

LeSean McCoy’s Involvement

Eight carries for LeSean McCoy against the Vikings? Eight?! What are you, Chip Kelly, insane? One week earlier, Shady broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 217, and the following week the head coach calls eight running plays?

 

Kickoff Strategy

Talk radio raised a good point the day after the Eagles refused to kick off to Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson. Will Devin Hester receive the same treatment this week? He is, after all, the NFL’s all-time leader in return touchdowns.

The concept of taking the ball out of an elite returner’s hands is a good one, but in practice, the philosophy didn’t work. The Vikings wound up starting a number of possessions around midfield anyway and, in turn, put up 48 points. It’s better to take your chances.

 

Nick Foles’ Release Time

Despite receiving fairly good protection throughout the day, Nick Foles managed to get sacked four times on Sunday. Three of those were drive-killers.

The second-year passer is simply spending too much time in the pocket. According to signature stats by Pro Football Focus (subscription only), only four regular starters hold the ball as long or longer—Seattle’s Russell Wilson, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith for the New York Jets and Carolina’s Cam Newton. Three of those four are great scramblers.

Yes, Foles has shown some ability to break the pocket, but not in the same vein of those players. The sacks are starting to pile up now, and while he threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday, a lot of points were left on the field as a result.

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