Good morning. The Eagles will practice at 1:10 this afternoon and players will meet with reporters after practice. It will be the Eagles' first practice of this week. Nick Foles would have been limited if the Eagles had practiced yesterday, so pay attention to whether he’s a full participant today. (Foles said his ribs are “drastically” improving.)
— Zach Berman
There aren’t many hotter teams in the NFL right now than the Eagles, who have won five of six games, including two December games against division champions. So they have momentum, if that matters.
“You hope so,” coach Doug Pederson said. “This is a different season now. ... You’re in the postseason, so obviously expectations increase. Sense of urgency increases. Speed of the game gets faster. … But I think everybody kind of has that clean slate and the momentum thing, you try to continue it. You try to keep it going.”
The Bears, by the way, also fit in this category. They were 3-3 at one point before a 9-1 stretch. So just as the Eagles might not be a desirable opponent, neither are the Bears.
It’s clear the Eagles are playing well right now. They don’t view themselves as a team that back-doored its way into the playoffs. Even though they needed help in Week 17 just to earn the sixth seed, the Eagles look at the fact that they needed to win tough December games as a reason to be confident.
“We didn’t sneak into this thing — we had to earn our way into it,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “But at the same time, everything is 0-0 right now.”
The Bears helped make the Eagles their opponent this weekend. If the Bears had lost to the Vikings last week, the Eagles would have been eliminated from playoff contention. However, Bears coach Matt Nagy said he did not consider the opening-round opponent when he decided to keep his starters in the game against the Vikings.
“There were just too many scenarios and what-ifs,” Nagy said.
There was talk all week about whether the Bears would pull their starters, especially if the Rams built a big lead elsewhere to clinch the No. 2 seed. Yet when that happened, and the Bears were essentially locked into the No. 3 seed, Nagy still played his starters. The Bears were leading at the time, too, and Nagy acknowledged it was “most difficult” in the fourth quarter because he didn’t want a key contributor to get injured at that point, but he thought playing (and coaching) to win was the right call.
“It’s so easy to coach when you coach to win,” Nagy said. “And when you start getting into all these other variables … then your guys aren’t going to play because there’s reservations in how they’re going to do it, and we weren’t going to do that. That’s the approach we took.”
Zach Ertz makes it clear when asked about Nick Foles that his answer should not be viewed as a criticism about Carson Wentz, aware that outside the facility, the debate about Foles vs. Wentz is rampant. The Eagles don’t believe they have a quarterback controversy, but Ertz knows how an answer to a question can be interpreted, which is why he’s prefaced comments by saying he’s not comparing the two.
“I think it’s just the nature [of society] that we’re in right now,” Ertz said. “This entire society is always comparing one thing to the other. It’s very seldom that you can enjoy two things; you’re always going to try to compare the two. ... And often times, when you praise one, people are going to want to think you’re demeaning the other.”
It’s clear that the Eagles (and the fan base) appreciate what Foles is doing right now. But the players also know Wentz is the franchise quarterback, and barring something foreseen, that won’t change.
“We’re lucky to have both of them,” Ertz said. “Because there was a time we had neither, and it was tough sledding.”
I believe so. Golden Tate has been a factor in recent weeks, although he obviously hasn’t been used as much as he was in Detroit. But he has been targeted 14 times in the past three games and has 11 catches for 89 yards.
They’re using him mostly in the short passing game. He’s not going to be a featured receiver with the way the Eagles use Alshon Jeffery and Ertz and the number of two-tight-end sets they play, too.