I don’t know what the 2024 Philadelphia Eagles are going to look like.
It’s largely assumed there will be massive changes in the coaching staff, certainly with a defense that will almost certainly see a new coordinator and, hopefully, an entirely new scheme. Offensively, I suspect Brian Johnson will be back for a second year calling plays, if only to provide continuity, while at the same time bringing in voices from the outside to inject creativity into Nick Sirianni’s stale, three-year-old concepts.
But here in 2023, there are still a few games left to be played. The Eagles are in the playoffs, that much we know. They will most likely be the No. 5 seed, traveling to the winner of the NFC South (likely the Tampa Bay Bucs) for a wild card match-up that no one is confident they can win. They also still have a Week 18 match-up this Sunday afternoon against the New York Giants, the only team they’ve managed to beat in the last five weeks.
On Monday, Sirianni discussed the possibility of sitting some/most of his starters against the Giants this Sunday, a move that seems ludicrous given there is still an outside chance they could win the division if the Cowboys somehow lose to the Commanders in Washington this week.
”Obviously, we always try to think through everything at all times and we are always thinking about those things,” Sirianni said. “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win this game. But still, that’s a consideration because we think through all those different things.”
On its face, it seems ridiculous that the team would consider resting starters with a No. 2 seed potentially still to play for, but I have five reasons why it’s better for the Eagles to do that rather than try to go all-out for a victory against New York this Sunday.
Create Your Own Bye Week Heading Into the Playoffs
Yes, the Cowboys are 3-5 on the road, but does anyone really believe they’re going to lose to the Commanders with a chance to lock up the division on the line? Despite their struggles to maintain success over the last 25 years, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott are not going to let Sam freaking Howell beat them on Sunday.
The Eagles and Cowboys both play at 4:25, so if the Eagles’ starters do begin the game, scoreboard-watching will be in full effect. In this exact same scenario last year, the Cowboys pulled their starters at halftime when they saw Philadelphia had a halftime lead on the Giants and contented themselves with the No. 5 seed.
For the Eagles, they should at least follow suit if not begin the game with key starters on the bench. With the way they’re playing right now, there is little difference between the Eagles hosting a team like the Green Bay Packers at home as the No. 2 seed in the wild card round vs. traveling to Tampa as the No. 5 seed. Generally, being the home team for a playoff game is of huge importance, but this is an Eagles team that just lost to the Cardinals in Philadelphia, and I’d rather face Baker Mayfield on the road than Jordan Love at home. Home field advantage right now for the Birds is a myth.
By losing their opportunity to be the NFC’s top seed and get that all-important bye week heading into the playoffs, they can create one for themselves heading into the postseason.
Rest Tired Linemen
The Eagles’ high-priced defensive line has been noticeably missing in action over the last two months. This is not new information. Just one sack a week ago against an offensive line leading the league in sacks allowed, and just one sack last week against the Cardinals, while giving up 221 yards on the ground. This video clip by Dan Orlovsky tells you everything you need to know about how the Eagles’ defensive line, specifically the interior, is getting pushed around.
After their brutally long game against the Bills in Week 12, Eagles’ defenders have played a ridiculously large number of snaps of late. They appear to be utterly gassed. Some of that is on a horrific defensive scheme that doesn’t allow them to get off the field on third downs, but the defensive line, most notably young tackles Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter, have hit a rookie wall. They’re providing nothing. Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham are not getting to the quarterback. In the secondary, James Bradberry could probably use a week of rest, as could some of the veteran linebackers and safeties they’ve signed this year.
Offensively, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce to get a blow, too. Let DeVonta Smith get a week to rest his injured leg, and you might as well get Hurts fully rested for a potential playoff run, too. After all, even if you lose to the Giants with your second and third-string players, you’re still the No. 5 seed, which is the most likely outcome even if you play your main guys.
Perhaps a week of rest, specifically for the younger Georgia Bulldogs, will help energize them for the playoffs. It’s worth a try.
Coaching Staff Regroup
It’s pretty clear the coaching staff has no answers for anything right now, so maybe they need to hit the reset button, too. They can start to game plan for the wild card round, likely Tampa, now, rather than try to make this Sunday a must-win game against the Giants.
I don’t know what they’re going to be able to accomplish by setting their minds to the postseason a week early, and certainly they’ll need to do SOME coaching this Sunday, but perhaps making this week a mini-bye will allow them to put their collective heads together and figure out how to confuse opposing offenses WITHOUT DROPPING HAASON REDDICK INTO COVERAGE SEVEN TIMES or CALLING QUARTERBACK DRAWS ON 1ST AND 20!!!
Do Something Different
Let’s put it bluntly: what they have been doing isn’t working.
I don’t know what’s going on inside that locker room, but it’s clear things were rotting even before the three-game losing streak. Jeff McLane reported the Eagles were the “most miserable 10-1 team in the league,” a few weeks ago. That was BEFORE everything starting falling apart.
Did Nick Sirianni have the Eagles playing too tight? Was he too hard on a team that was winning games in crazy ways but still not playing their best football? Did he suck the joy out of the team? Are the veteran players not doing enough to get them through this rough patch?
The change in defensive coordinators didn’t help. Whatever changes they’ve tried to make on offense haven’t worked. Changing practice habits hasn’t worked. Maybe giving the starters an opportunity to sit back for a week and watch a little bit will do the trick. It’s akin to benching a hitter who is in a slump for a couple games. The Eagles are pressing, specifically on defense. Maybe having a week where the pressure to perform will be good for their psyche.
It may not be, but why not try something different at this point?
Can Probably Beat the Giants Anyway
Look, as bad as the Eagles have played recently, the Giants are worse. They absolutely stink. Tyrod Taylor is certainly better than Tommy Cutlets, but even with most of their starters out the Eagles should still be able to beat New York and give themselves a shot at the No. 2 seed. And hey, maybe allowing some of the younger guys to get their reps will give the team a little more energy on the field, something they desperately need.
This team needs to start having some fun. Rooting on the young guys, allowing the veterans to mentor some of these guys and actively root for them to beat the Giants could potentially rebuild some camaraderie and restore some good vibes.
The Giants are so bad, the Eagles’ back-ups still should probably win the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish the Birds weren’t in this position. I wish the No. 1 seed was still there to be had, and if the Eagles controlled their own destiny for the No. 2 seed, I would not advocate for the starters to be rested. But it is not.
This seems like a reasonable roll of the dice to try and avoid this end-of-year collapse that for all the world looks like it will end in a one-and-down playoff appearance and one of the worst season finishes in NFL history.