The Eagles are 14-3 after beating the New York Giants in Week 18. The No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff picture is officially theirs. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
This may have been one of the more anticlimactic No. 1 seed clinches recently, if not ever.
But that such a scenario was possible speaks to how impressive the 2022 Eagles were. To be able to secure home field advantage with just one win over the final three weeks? It’s hardly every season that that happens in the NFL, let alone for the Eagles.
Fair or not, this year will ultimately be defined by what happens in the postseason. But all that the Birds accomplished in the regular season should not be taken for granted. Gotta take a moment to appreciate this. And there’s certainly enough time to do that during a first-round bye.
There were two main objectives for the Eagles on Sunday.
1) Clinch the No. 1 seed.
2) Avoid injuries.
The Eagles seemingly did both. Success.
(Nakobe Dean did get banged up so we’ll have to see where he’s at. But we likely would’ve heard something by now if it was something serious. And we’re ultimately talking about a backup linebacker here.)
Hurts did not have his sharpest game. His final passing stat line: 20/35 (57.1%), 6.5 average, 0 TD, 1 INT, 65.0 passer rating.
There were some inaccuracy issues, such as when Hurts overthrew A.J. Brown on some deep shots.
For the most part, though, Hurts looked relatively fine in his first game back from a shoulder sprain. He made a number of good throws, including a touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith that was wiped off the board due to an illegal man downfield penalty on Landon Dickerson that had no impact on the outcome. Hurts then uncharacteristically forced a throw that got picked off on the next play.
The best thing that Hurts did was keep himself out of harm’s way. He avoided taking big hits. Crucial.
Hurts now gets to avoid game action until either January 21 or January 22. More rest for his shoulder figures to be a good thing. Especially since Nick Sirianni indicated he played through a lot of soreness and pain.
Assuming the injury doesn’t linger and severely hamper him in the playoffs (TBD), there’s every reason to believe Hurts can and will lead the Eagles on a deep run. They went 14-1 with him the starter in the regular season. The sole loss was the Washington Commanders game.
Jalen Hurts is the second-youngest QB in NFL history to win 14 regular-season games, only behind Dan Marino with Miami in 1984.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 9, 2023
Elliott has been lightly used this season since the Eagles’ offense has been so great. But he certainly isn’t rusty.
With Philly’s red zone offense struggling, Elliott stepped up to ensure the Eagles were still getting points. He made all five field goal attempts with makes from 32, 52, 39, 54, and 22. He also made his PAT attempt to account for 16 of the Eagles’ 22 total points scored, tying a career single-game high.
Elliott is only the second player in franchise history to make two 50+ yard field goals in a game. Paul McFadden previously did so in 1984.
Good question posed by my friend James Seltzer:
Has there ever been anything like the Boston Scott vs. the Giants thing? Basically a backup who just owns a particular team. 10 touchdowns in 8 games against the Giants is insane.— James Seltzer (@JamesSeltzer) January 8, 2023
Scott’s nine carries went for 54 yards (6.0 average) and a score. The Eagles probably should’ve gotten the ball to him a bit more; not sure that Hurts needed 35 throws in this one.
A.J. Brown is somehow so good that it’s almost boring.
Broke the Eagles’ single-season receiving record. Ho hum. 1,496 total yards in 17 games to surpass Mike Quick’s previous lead of 1,409 yards. A very impressive feat and yet no surprise that he got there.
Brown would’ve had an even bigger day against the Giant if Hurts didn’t miss him when he was open for some deep targets. Easily would’ve gone over 1,500.
And to think he only turns 26 in June. Is this the peak or might he have even bigger season(s) in store?
By virtue of Brown’s presence, DeVonta may have had one of the most overshadowed wide receiver seasons of all time. The second-year pass catcher set a new franchise record for WR catches with 95.
With his volume increased from last season, his efficiency dipped in one area. He went from 14.3 yards per reception down to 12.6 in Year 2. But that’s OK. He’s a player worth force-feeding. And he actually significantly improved when it came to catch percentage and passer rating while targeted.
DeVonta is great and methinks he’ll have some signature moments in the playoffs. He went over 100 yards in four of his last six games.
The Eagles shouldn’t have had to play their starters for the entire Giants game. That being said, it’s good to see that CJGJ was able to handle a 100% defensive snap workload after missing five games due to a lacerated kidney. He played pretty well, too, allowing just a 79.2 passer rating when targeted and logging two “stops” (tackles that constitute a ‘failure’ for the offense).
CJGJ made the start at safety but lined up in the slot when the Eagles shifted to their nickel packages. That option seems preferable to keeping CJGJ at safety and putting Josiah Scott, who has been picked on as a weak point, on the field to replace Avonte Maddox.
Getting trucked by Davis Webb to allow a touchdown run certainly wasn’t a great look for the undrafted rookie free agent. Of course, Webb is a 6’5”, 225 pound 27-year-old while Blankenship is a 6’1”, 203 pound 23-year-old.
Outside of that play, though, Blankenship played pretty well. He’s earned the right to play safety when CJGJ drops to play in the slot.
Must be a good feeling to get two wins over the team that cut you (and cost you a chance to make more money) in the same season.
Bradberry logged two pass breakups in this game, including one on third down that led to the Giants’ failed fake field goal attempt.
Bradberry finished the regular season with 17 passes defensed, which is the same number he had last year. He was one shy of his career high that he set in 2020.
Bradberry is only allowing a 54.2 passer rating when targeted this year. Only Sauce Gardner and Jaycee Horn are allowing lower ratings. Bradberry has only allowed a passer rating of 100+ in one game.
Such a relief to see he’s doing better.
Make sure to check out the latest on Damar over at Buffalo Rumblings.
#LoveforDamar pic.twitter.com/3ztOouBM7P— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 8, 2023
OVERREACTIONS TO THE EAGLES NOT LOOKING GREAT
Ideally, the Eagles would’ve beaten up on the Giants’ backups and pulled their starters at some point. Credit to New York for playing tough and not allowing that to happen.
But it’s not like the Eagles were that far off from putting up a lot more points. They went 1/5 in the red zone while taking an unusually conservative approach where they did not utilize Hurts’ mobility.
Are you really worried about a team that entered Week 18 as the league’s leader in red zone touchdown percentage (72.22%) suddenly struggling in that area in the postseason?
The idea that the Eagles needed to score style points is silly. The Cowboys did a great job of doing that against Philly’s backups in Week 18 last year. Dallas put up 51 at The Linc in the regular season finale ... only to then score 17 points at home against the San Francisco 49ers the next weekend.
I’m not going to sit here and say the Eagles have nothing to worry about. There are a number of question marks and concerns. But most other teams would trade to be in the Eagles’ current position.
They’re two home wins away from going back to the Super Bowl. You have to like their chances.
The Eagles don’t punt a lot; only four teams punted less often in 2022.
So, maybe it’s not the biggest deal that their punter is bad.
But their punter is definitely bad.
Kern’s undoubtedly had a great career ... but it appears he’s cooked at this point (except as a holder).
Kern is the NFL’s second-worst graded punter by Pro Football Focus. He ranks 34th out of 35 punters (minimum 10 attempts) in net average at 45.0. He ranks 35th out of 35 punters in average hangtime at 3.83 seconds.
For context, Jake Elliott’s sole punt while filling in as an emergency punter had a 4.26 hang time. Arryn Siposs is tied for 26th at 4.23 seconds.
Unfortunately, it does not seem like Siposs is healthy enough to return to the roster even though he’s now eligible to be activated from injured reserve.
It feels like the Eagles should’ve tried out a different punter in Week 18. They could’ve added one to the practice squad to test out instead of signing Kern to the roster since his three PS elevations were used up. There are unlimited elevations in the postseason so they would’ve been able to keep temporarily bumping Kern for playoff games if they wanted to stick with him.
But now here the Eagles are in a less than ideal spot.
And it’s not like Kern has been bad due to cold weather. His best average this season actually came when the Birds played in Chicago.
OK, this was way too many words to spend on a punter.
They lost to the Commanders with Washington starting a rookie Sam Howell and siting a number of key starters.
Dak Prescott has thrown at least one pick in 10 out of 12 games this year. He leads the league in interceptions despite missing five games!
Had the Eagles somehow blown their lead to the Giants, they still would’ve clinched the NFC East (but not the No. 1 seed) with Dallas losing.
I DON’T KNOWS
Closer to putting Quinn in the “winners” section than the “losers” section. But felt a bit conflicted about doing that for a player who did not log a traditional stat in this game.
That said, I thought Quinn played better than the box score indicated. PFF credited him for a team-high four “hurries.” Perhaps the time off did him favors and he can provide some legitimate pass rush juice in the playoffs? I don’t know (hence: IDK placement). Still would like to see some actual production before fully believing that much.
Quinn also missed two tackles, including one on a play that allowed a Giants chunk run for a first down.
As noted on BGN earlier today, Slay is allowing a 139.1 passer when targeted over the last four weeks.
Slay is having a good season on the whole. But he inspired a lot more confidence earlier in the year than recently.
And ‘good enough’ shouldn’t really be good enough for a player who has the highest cap number on the team this season. Slay alone accounts for over 13% of the Eagles’ 2022 spending when measured by the Top 51 rule.
I know it sounds obvious but the Eagles are going to need their biggest stars to play like stars (as opposed to merely good players) in order to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles need better results from their top corner who hasn’t had an interception since he picked off Cooper Rush nearly three months ago on October 16.
BGN Radio Ep.3⃣0⃣3⃣— BGN Radio (@BGN_Radio) January 9, 2023
w/ @JimmyKempski & @BrandonGowton
Kind of a weird clinch but the Eagles got it done
We'll see what type of player Darius Slay is in the playoffs
Ranking teams that Eagles most/ least want to face in divisional round
: https://t.co/SwmrLiB03z pic.twitter.com/XBp99OVziw