We’re not counting out the Eagles. We would never do that. Not after last year. Having said that, we might have to count out the Eagles.
Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz has a fractured vertebra and is unlikely to play against the Rams on Sunday Night Football, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’s unclear when the injury occurred; the Eagles conducted multiple CT scans throughout the season but only uncovered it this week, according to Schefter, and Wentz is seeking an opinion outside of the team’s medical staff, according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That staff is filled with new doctors and trainers after Philadelphia’s head team physician, team internist, and head athletic trainer were not retained for the 2018 season after the Eagles’ injury-riddled Super Bowl campaign. This also marks another significant injury for Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL and LCL that ended his season in 2017, fractured ribs in August 2016, and a broken wrist in October of his final year at North Dakota State in 2015.
The team believes Wentz can avoid surgery and heal the vertebra with rest, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Wentz was shut down for the remainder of the season. For any other team on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, losing its starting quarterback would be akin to waving a white flag. But this is the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the Super Bowl with backup Nick Foles and then decided not to trade him with this kind of scenario in mind. Foles has already shown what happens to those who doubt him. Ironically, Foles took over the squad last December 10 when Wentz tore his ACL against the Rams.
But beyond the surface similarities, the team Foles will likely take over looks nothing like last year’s. In 2017, Philly’s offense was on its way to finishing third in points, seventh in yards, fourth in first downs, and led the league in passing touchdowns as Wentz had the offense running like a well-oiled machine. This year’s squad is currently 21st, 19th, 12th, and 18th respectively in those categories, running like a … poorly oiled machine. In 2017, Philadelphia’s defense ranked in the top five in points, yards, turnovers, and first downs, while this year’s defense is currently 13th, 25th, 28th, and eighth, respectively. When Foles stepped in last year, the Eagles were 11-2 and in first place; this year, Foles inherits a flawed 6-7 team that is worse on both sides of the ball. Foles himself looked abysmal in his Week 1 start against Atlanta, and Eagles fans let him hear it: The Philly crowd booed the Foles-led Philly squad that trailed 6-3 at halftime despite, ya know, just winning the Super Bowl. (Good to know that winning hasn’t changed you, Philadelphia.) He looked better the following week against Tampa Bay, but the Eagles lost, and Foles’s performance is less impressive in retrospect considering the Bucs have a bottom-five pass defense by DVOA.
The Eagles have been hit with injuries, especially to their secondary, but they overcame worse injury luck last year and made it a central component of their identity. They also suffered an offseason brain drain, losing offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who became the head coach of the Colts, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who was hired (and just fired) by the Minnesota Vikings as offensive coordinator. Perhaps Philadelphia could bring back DeFilippo for some late-season magic.
Sunday night’s Eagles-Rams game was originally billed as a rematch between Jared Goff and Wentz, the no. 1 and no. 2 overall picks in the 2016 NFL draft, and their two NFC juggernauts. Now, it’s a referendum on Philly’s season. If the Eagles win, they will have a roughly 1-in-3 chance of making the playoffs, according to The New York Times’ playoff calculator. If they lose, that number falls to 1-in-50. The Eagles like being dogs, but so far this year, they have been more bark than bite.