Somehow, someway, the Philadelphia Eagles have their name in the conversation for a wildcard spot. And even though the Dallas Cowboys swept them this year, the Birds still have a faint chance of winning the NFC East. Their miraculous push to playoffs stems from a surprising upset victory over the Rams in Los Angeles last Sunday night. As if this season hasn’t been bizarre enough with the amount of injuries that have piled up, Nick Foles did (almost) the same exact thing as last year in starting a Super Bowl run by winning in LA.
Speaking of Week 15, the Cowboys suffered a gut punch of a loss to the Colts where they were shut out for the first time since 2003. Sign me up for a Dak long-term deal; I can get used to that type of performance for the next 5-6 years. Instead of focusing on forces beyond the Eagles’ control, aka the Cowboys’ choking, the Eagles have quite the matchup on their hands. The Houston Texans come to town in a stretch to end the season that will truly test this team’s playoff pedigree.
I am worried about the Clemson Connection taking over
The “Bird Watching Journal” typically has a common thread that ties them all together, given this team’s personnel and strengths. And it holds true for almost every NFL team trying to win against high-powered offenses: make the quarterback uncomfortable with pressure from the get go and never let him settle down.
The Eagles did just that on Sunday night as Jared Goff missed his targets and never truly settled into a rhythm, especially with Todd Gurley missing some of the action. A lot of credit can be given to the front four and Jim Schwartz, who deserves a ton of praise. After bashing him for a majority of the year, I can admit I was wrong and hand it to Schwartz for how he’s transformed this ragtag group of defensive backs and unit as a whole. Fletcher Cox was an absolute beast in that game. He showed out in prime time while sharing the field with the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald.
Cox has played like a maniac lately and will continue on the interior in order to knock around Deshaun Watson. Watson is known for his ability to keep plays alive and has, in my opinion, the best wide receiver in football this season. DeAndre Hopkins is a catch machine and probably has about a quarter of the NFL’s best grabs this season.
With the well-documented decimation of the secondary, the Eagles will definitely have their toughest matchup defending the pass this week. The All-Pro wide receiver from Clemson is on the cusp of putting up some of the best numbers of his career, as well as back-to-back dominant seasons with Deshaun Watson at the helm. The Clemson Connection has gone for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Stopping Deshaun Watson’s primary target and security blanket should be the defense’s top priority after getting pressure.
Most Important Player
Houston poses one of the most lethal pass rushing duos in the NFL. JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney can both single-handedly ruin an offensive series, so both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson will need to be at their best to avoid one of them taking over the LOS.
But the most important player for the rest of the season is Nick Foles. Last Sunday still feels like some out of body experience as the Eagles offense looked like a completely different animal. I mentioned last week that Foles would be more willing to take deep shots, but never expected anything like this…
And that Foles to Alshon Jeffery connection was lethal against the Rams. Houston’s biggest vulnerability on defense, like the Rams, is their secondary. They rank 26th in passing yards allowed per game (258.3) this season and dead last over the past three games, allowing a whopping 337 yards per game.
During that span, the Texans have allowed the opposing teams’ number one receiver to go off. Jarvis Landry went for 100+ and a touchdown while T.Y. Hilton ran all over them for 199 receiving yards just two weeks ago. And last week, Jets receiver Robby Anderson had 7 catches for 96 yards and a score as rookie Sam Darnold put up 22 points on this defense.
Last week, Nick Foles trusted Alshon went it mattered most and Alshon made the most of those targets. I think he continues his hot streak over the final two weeks with Foles at the helm and has another monster Sunday. Making the playoffs is beyond the Eagles’ control, but they can put a smack down on the Texans and prove to the NFL that they are at least worthy of the postseason tournament.
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