Good morning. The Eagles' playoff chances became more realistic last night, as you can read about below. Yesterday, Doug Pederson announced Nick Foles is the starting quarterback this week. The players have off today. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have news conferences at noon.

This is a Tuesday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins eludes the Eagles' Chris Long during the Eagles' loss to Minnesota in October.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins eludes the Eagles' Chris Long during the Eagles' loss to Minnesota in October.

Eagles' path to playoffs

The Eagles’ path to the playoffs became easier after Carolina’s loss to New Orleans on Monday.

Now, the only team in the way of the Eagles if the Eagles win their final two games is Minnesota. That means if the Eagles beat Houston and Washington to close the season, and the Vikings lose to either Detroit or Chicago, the Eagles would earn a wild card bid.

To make it more interesting, if Dallas loses out and the Eagles win out, the Eagles could still win the NFC East. But with the Cowboys playing Tampa Bay and the Giants, don’t look for that to happen. If Seattle loses out and the Eagles win out, the Eagles would get a wild card bid over the Seahawks, who play Kansas City and Arizona.

There are also scenarios in which the Eagles could split their final two games and make the playoffs, but that requires more help elsewhere. The surest way for the Eagles to get in would be if Minnesota loses to either the Lions or the Bears, and the Eagles beat the Texans and Washington. It’s certainly possible.

An underrated part of Doug Pederson’s coaching

When evaluating Doug Pederson, so much attention goes to scheme, play-calling, game management, and lineup decisions. All of those are the head coach’s responsibility.

But one area that Pederson considers critical to his job is making sure the team is ready to play, that they’re engaged and motivated. Sunday’s win over the Rams was a great example. It was Week 15, the Eagles were 6-7, they just had a crushing loss that made their path to the postseason difficult, and they lost their franchise quarterback. There are teams that would begin to check out in that moment. Instead, Pederson had the Eagles play their finest game of the season. The leaders on the team deserve credit, but Pederson has something to do with it, too.

“I take a lot of pride in it, quite frankly,” Pederson said. “Sometimes I’m not the smartest guy, and probably not the best communicator all the time, but there are moments where maybe something I’ve read or something I’ve seen or something like that, that sort of sparks a little fire inside of me that says, ‘That’s something I need to share with the team.’ ”

“I think, too, I know what these guys are battling through each week. It’s tough to win games in this league and I’ve been there. I’ve been on teams that have done that. I think to show a little bit of care and concern and love for the players goes a long way, and they will respond as they did [on Sunday].”

Playing time vs. the Rams

What stood out about the Eagles’ playing time distribution against the Rams?

Dallas Goedert played 60 percent of the offensive snaps as the Eagles continue to trust their two-tight end formation. It makes sense, even it comes at the expense of playing three receivers. Golden Tate took only 34 percent of the snaps. The Eagles could have Tate take some of Nelson Agholor’s snaps (Agholor played 98 percent of the snaps), but the Eagles clearly want to get Goedert more involved.

At running back, it was a near-even split. Josh Adams played 38 percent of the snaps, Wendell Smallwood played 31 percent of the snaps, and Darren Sproles played 31 percent of the snaps. Adams missed some time because of injury evaluation.

On defense, how about Avonte Maddox taking 100 percent of the snaps? He started as an outside cornerback and didn’t come off the field. Cre’von LeBlanc also played 97 percent of the snaps because the Rams were in three-receiver sets most of the game. Michael Bennett (80 percent), Brandon Graham (75 percent), and Chris Long (67 percent) carried the defensive end load. Newcomer Daeshon Hall took 12 percent of the snaps in his first game with the team. At defensive tackle, Haloti Ngata was the No. 2 player with 42 percent of the snaps.

Avonte Maddox (left) celebrates after intercepting a Jared Goff pass on Sunday.
DAVID MAIALETTI
Avonte Maddox (left) celebrates after intercepting a Jared Goff pass on Sunday.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

In this case, I don’t think correlation implies causation. The Eagles didn’t play better because Zach Ertz wasn’t getting as many catches. (He was still targeted seven times.) However, they were throwing downfield more, which got those receivers involved (Alshon Jeffery, in particular). They ran the ball more often. So there were these other factors you can point to, and those corresponded with Ertz getting fewer catches. But Ertz is effective when the ball is thrown in his direction, and I don’t think the Eagles should curb that. It’s nice for the offense to have other contributions, though.