Here we are, team! In a “must-win game” for Philadelphia.
I’m sorry, but that’s just peak to me. Must-win games have slowly and surely forayed into earlier and earlier weeks over the years: suddenly, 1-3 teams are in must-win games by Week 5. Seeking to augment the gravity of the moment, we can often inflate pedestrian match-ups into straight farces.
This is a very important game for Philadelphia; it is not a must-win game. If Philadelphia wants to have control over their destiny as a first-round bye team in the NFC, they need to win this game, yes—but by the same token, if Philadelphia wanted control over their destiny as a #1 seed in the NFC, they needed to beat Seattle.
But nobody called that match-up a must-win game.
It was an important game, certainly, as is this Rams game—even more important, given the Seattle loss—but Philadelphia needs to go 1-3 over their next 4 games to at least make the playoffs. If we get a must-win match-up at all, we’ll get it on a 5-game losing streak in Week 17.
It’s important for playoff seeding that Philadelphia beats the Rams. If they want to stay in control of the 2nd seed and in position for the 1st seed, they must win this game. But Philadelphia will get into the postseason this year. Must-win games start then.
2) More over-reactions
I’m here to tell you that Philadelphia is still the Super Bowl favorite in the NFC.
A few weeks ago, it was the hot New Orleans Saints and their 8-game winning streak that inexplicably meant more than the hot Philadelphia Eagles and their *cough* 9-game winning streak. After Philly dropped one to Seattle, it’ll be the hot Seahawks or well-rounded Vikings. The narrative doesn’t change: it isn’t fun to talk about the same team at the top. If it were, Brady would win MVP and Belichick would win Coach of the Year every season, and we’d all yawn right through it.
But Philadelphia remains the Super Bowl favorite in the NFC: TopBet NFL Sportsbook has Philadelphia at +250 to win the NFC Championship, with the Vikings next at +375 and the Saints and Rams tied behind at +550. The Rams are currently -2 point favorites at home against Philadelphia (which means Philly would be favored at a neutral site) despite the fact that Philadelphia is coming off of an ugly performance against Seattle.
If the storyline of “Yeah, it still looks like Philadelphia is still going to compete for a Super Bowl” reeled in viewers, we’d hear it. However, “Is Seattle heating up?” and “Are the Rams a dark-horse contender?” hold the audience far more effectively, so here we are.
I’ve been very vocal about not predicting a Super Bowl berth for Philadelphia: plainly, that’s some bad voodoo, and you can’t mess with that stuff. But Philadelphia remains the team to beat in the NFC, no matter if they’re treated like it or not.
3) This conversational pathway
The Browns are in the news once again—of course, for good and productive reasons. After firing executive vice president Sashi Brown, owner Jimmy Haslam and head coach Hue Jackson have seemingly formed the Let’s Go Draft A QB Coalition. Their press conferences following the firing and consequent hiring of ex-Chiefs GM Jim Dorsey? It’s been a bloodbath of blame games and absenteeism, to be frank.
I’ve been outspoken in my belief that I thought Sashi was the best part of that franchise. If the Browns are successful in drafting a top QB and become competitive in 2018, it will be in large part to Sashi’s work in the rebuild. The fact that more power has gone into Haslam/Hue’s hands in this shake-up is, in my opinion, bad news for Cleveland.
Given the recent firing and eternal link between the Browns and Carson Wentz, Cleveland will undoubtedly be mentioned by Troy and Joe in the broadcast on Sunday afternoon. I have constructed, for their benefit, a flowchart detailing the circumstances under which they can discuss the nature of the Browns franchise.
4) Home game madness
There are certainly mitigating circumstances: the Rams have just recently moved to LA, they share the city with the Chargers, etc...
But the fact that the Coliseum is expected to be 50/50 Eagles-Rams fan is truly something else.
Philadelphia is 4-2 on the road this season (only 2 losses on the season, of course), but they played tough games against the Chargers, Redskins, and Panthers and walked out of hostile territory with a win. However, we’ve seen a premier offense sputter to start road games against the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Seahawks—and the Pederson and Wentz duo went 1-7 in road games in 2016. They still have significant questions to answer when they are outside of Philadelphia.
But Philadelphia fans have travelled well this season, and are expected in droves in Los Angeles. If anything speaks to this city’s thirst for a champion, and the belief in these Eagles, it’s that. It’s a great pleasure to watch.
5) Bounce back
A 1-1 split ain’t a bad way to handle two West Coast NFC playoff teams. All things considered—Philadelphia’s recent brush with mortality, their distinct message of improved practice this week, the lack of home field advantage for the Rams, Zach Ertz’s health—I expect the Eagles to handle their business in his must-win clash.
The name of the game is the rushing attack of Philadelphia (2nd in NFL, 143.3 yards/game) v. the rushing defense of LA (27th in NFL, 122.8 yards allowed/game). In an effort to bridge a two-score divide and get Carson Wentz in rhythm, Philadelphia stepped away from an effective ground game. While it was justified, it may have been too drastic a measure. If Philly falls behind early to the best first quarter scoring offense in the league, they cannot afford to become one-dimensional.
I like Jay Ajayi for his first 100-yard game as an Eagle (most of it comes on one carry), and a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount as well (an actual goal line TD?!) The Rams will score points no matter what; Philadelphia likely will as well. This will come down to game script: the Rams win their best games in pass-heavy, breakneck situations; the Eagles, when they can take a lead into the second half and milk the clock.
Defensively, let’s get an eternally under-appreciated Malcolm Jenkins an interception to bolster his Pro Bowl voting. The Eagles’ pass-rush must disrupt the precise timing of Jared Goff’s dropbacks and progressions to take the air out of Los Angeles’ sails—I expect a low-stat, but high-impact game for Fletcher Cox up the middle, and give Mychal Kendricks a sack and a half as a blitzer (Schwartz will dial up some pressure).
Anyone else want a long Carson scramble tuddy? A 40-yarder with multiple broken tackles and a pylon dive would fit the bill.
38-34, Philly dilly. NFC East locked.