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8 takeaways from 2018 Wild Card weekend (with an Eagles slant)

Leftover thoughts from the first round of the playoffs.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

By earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles had the luxury of sitting back and relaxing during Wild Card weekend.

Eight other teams were not so fortunate. Four of them were eliminated from the 2018 NFL Playoffs by losing over the weekend and four of them are now advancing to the Divisional Round. One of the teams advancing is obviously the Atlanta Falcons, whom the Eagles will be hosting this Saturday.

Before we dive deep into previewing this week’s game, however, here are some Eagles-slanted takeaways from Wild Card weekend.

1 - There won’t be a head coach opening in Tennessee

Well, you never know with the Volunteers, but I’m talking about the Titans here. Prior to Saturday’s game, there was speculation that Titans head coach Mike Mularkey would be fired if his team lost to the Chiefs. With the Titans down 21-3, it looked like that might be the case. But then Tennessee made a big comeback and ending up winning the game. The Titans’ owner has since released a statement ensuring Mularkey will return for the 2018 season.

This is good news for the Eagles because it means one fewer head coach vacancy. There are really only five openings left with Jon Gruden taking the Oakland Raiders job. And with Matt Patricia linked to the Lions job (though that isn’t official), maybe it’s really just four spots left.

Those four opening include: Giants, Bears, Colts, and Cardinals. Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo has been linked to Chicago and Arizona. He reportedly interviewed with the Bears over the weekend. Although there’s been a lot of buzz about Flip getting a head coach job, some aren’t so sure it happens this offseason.

Here are the “names floated” that Gabriel is referring to.

Even if Flip doesn’t get picked for a head coaching job, there’s still a reasonable chance he doesn’t return to Philadelphia in 2018. His contract is reportedly up once the Eagles’ season ends. He could still pursue an offensive coordinator job somewhere if he misses out on being a head coach.

As for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, he’s been linked to the Giants and Cardinals opening. The talk about Schwartz being a favorite NYG has died down lately, especially since the Giants somehow couldn’t work out scheduling an interview with him. Now New York will have to wait until the Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs in order to meet with him.

It’s important to remember Flip and Schwartz are just two of many candidates out there available for head coach jobs. Pat Shurmur, Steve Wilks, Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Eric Studesville, George Edwards, Kris Richard, Mike Vrabel, and Teryl Austin are among coaches who have received head coach interviews so far this offseason.

I still think it’s likely the Eagles will hold on to Schwartz. I’m less optimistic about Flip returning since the decision will be up to him.

UPDATE: Now there are only four head coach openings remaining. Really only three for Schwartz since the Lions won’t be re-hiring him.

2 - Andy Reid is still Andy Reid

Look, Big Red obviously did a lot of great things in Philly. But boy, he’s still frustrating as hell, and Eagles fans should be thankful he’s not the head coach anymore.

After their playoff loss, Reid even admitted the Chiefs got away from the run too much after getting up 21-3. Vintage Andy.

Reid is now the first and only head coach in NFL history to lose two post-season games in which he led by at least 17 points at any point. That’s brutal.

Even more brutal for Chiefs fans: Kansas City has lost six home playoff games in a row. Five was already a record. Now they’re making their futility even worse.

Maybe Pat Mahomes can be the guy who finally gets Reid over the hump. Until then, Eagles fans should have a familiarity with the frustration Chiefs fans are suffering from.

3 - Time to slow down the Sean McVay hype machine

Make no mistake: Sean McVay did a great job with the Rams this year. The improvement they made is remarkable. But maybe let’s slow down before crowning McVay as a future Hall of Famer. Only managing to score 13 points at home against the No. 6 seed isn’t a good look.

Even before the Rams’ loss, we were talking on BGN Radio about how the McVay hype has gotten to be a little much.

I’ve argued all along that Doug Pederson, not McVay, should be the Coach of the Year. And again, that’s not a slight to McVay. It’s just that Pederson makes more sense for the award:

  • Pederson beat McVay.
  • The Eagles finished with a better record than the Rams.
  • Pederson overcame way more skepticism than McVay did. A former NFL general manager literally called Pederson the “least qualified head coach in the last 30 years.”
  • Pederson dealt with WAY more crucial injuries than McVay did. Pederson lost Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, Jordan Hicks, and Caleb Strugis for the season. Ronald Darby also missed a big stretch. The Rams, meanwhile, lost ... a starting cornerback (Kayvon Webster) and their starting kicker (Greg Zuerlein) ... both late in the season. The injury situations don’t even compare.

So, yeah, Pederson > McVay.

Also, Carson Wentz >>>> Jared Goff. Goff is a big reason why the Rams were never all THAT scary to me as a playoff team. The second-year quarterback finished with the following stat-line against the Falcons: 24/45, 259 yards (5.8 average), 1 TD, 0 INT, 77.9 passer rating.

4 - Good news on the Joe Douglas front

I don’t wanna jinx anything here but I’d be surprised if Douglas leaves for a general manager job this offseason. So far, the Eagles blocked his interview with the Texans. Keep in mind that’s only a temporary action. Philadelphia can’t block Douglas if/when the Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs.

But I don’t think the Texans are super hot for Douglas. I think former Texans personnel guy Brian Gaine is their man. That’s what the national buzz seems to be, as well.

5 - Early thoughts on the Falcons

Once again, we’ll dive deeper in the Eagles-Falcons matchup leading up to the game this weekend. For now, two quick thoughts.

  • Falcons running backs struggled to do much against a bad Rams run defense. The combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman averaged 3.31 yards per carry. Philadelphia should be able to stop the run and force the Falcons into a lot of passing. From there, it’s really up to Fletcher Cox and this defensive line to take advantage of Atlanta’s weakness at guard.
  • Atlanta’s defense might be more concerning than their offense. The Falcons showed they have a lot of speed on that side of the ball in shutting down the Rams’ offense. They recorded one pick and 10 pass deflections. Deion Jones could be a nuisance.

6 - The Eagles might not have the worst quarterback in the playoffs?

I saw some people say this after watching the Bills-Jaguars game.

Even if you believe that’s true, Nick Foles is still the second worst quarterback, at best. And even though Blake Bortles was absolutely AWFUL as a passer, he still contributed with 88 rushing yards on 10 carries. That’s hardly insignificant. He made some really crucial drive-extending plays with his legs on Sunday. Foles obviously doesn’t nearly have the same amount of mobility, which could be frustrating to watch in the playoffs, especially if Foles is missing easy throws in the passing game.

7 - There’s no true juggernaut in the NFC

The Saints sure didn’t look bad in their win against the Panthers, but they didn’t look unstoppable, either. That New Orleans defense, though talented, is still suspect. The Saints really had a chance to put the Panthers away and they couldn’t do it until the final drive.

New Orleans will now travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings, who they lost to in Week 1 this year. If the Eagles beat the Falcons, do you really feel like Philly can’t beat whoever they play in the NFC Championship Game? I think the answer to that question would be no.

That’s not to say the Eagles should be favored over the Saints or Vikings. Just that it wouldn’t be impossible for Philly to win.

8 - The Eagles are the first No. 1 seed to be underdogs in their first playoff game

This stat has already been shared a billion times, I know, but it’s just so depressing. Some people were saying the Eagles would’ve been favored by as much as seven points if Carson Wentz was healthy. Sigh.

On the bright side, here’s hoping the Eagles really use the fact that they’re underdogs as a motivational factor. I know many Eagles fans like the idea of not being favord to win. That way it’s sweeter if they do. Especially opposed to being favored to win and then being disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

BONUS: The Eagles need to bring out Brian Dawkins to get the crowd fired up this weekend

Folks, the Eagles need your help now more than ever. Enjoy your tailgating on Saturday, yes, but also make an effort to get in to the stadium on time (kickoff is 4:35 PM) to be loud from the jump. This team needs you to make life as hard as you possibly can on the Falcons.

And what would fire up the home crowd at the Linc more than Weapon X himself?

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