PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hello darkness, our old friend — or is that Eli Manning, a glimpse of light for Eagles fans? The Eagles’ backs are up against the wall and much of it is their own doing. After losing last Sunday in Miami, the Eagles have no room for error if they want to win the NFC East.
It begins Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field against the New York Giants.
CBS3’s football experts have your weekly breakdown and predictions.
That was an unmitigated disaster. The Eagles’ defense picked the wrong time to fall apart and, once again, the offense couldn’t come up with critical plays when needed. Should fans hold onto any hope or did Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins put the final nail in the coffin of this head-scratching season?
Sports Director Don Bell: It depends on what you mean by “hope.” The preseason Super Bowl talk is a thing of the past. Those dreams are long gone. But fans can still hope for a playoff appearance. Not because Eagles’ cornerbacks are going to miraculously grow three inches and play with better ball skills, but because the Cowboys are imploding before our very eyes.
Sports Reporter Lesley Van Arsdall: Of course hold onto hope. That’s what it’s all about. As poorly as the Eagles played Sunday, they still control their own destiny. Is it bleak? Sure. But is the season over? Not yet and maybe not even close.
Reporter Pat Gallen: Of course there’s still hope, especially with this remaining schedule. So no, until they are eliminated, hope is not lost, which is kinda brutal. On one hand, I’d like to see this team get a top-10 pick and start over in some respects. But on the other hand, they’ve paid some veterans handsomely, so they won’t just lay down.
Reporter Dan Koob: It feels more like the delaying of the inevitable. We’ve seen a mixture of injuries and the erosion of ingenuity offensively this season under Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh. Last week, we looked at the schedule and said the Eagles can make a run, but they’re just 3-3 against the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, Bears, Falcons and Lions. Those teams are combined 22-49-1. You know what that makes the Eagles? Average.
Sports Producer Andy Wheeler: There is hope until they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. However, I’ve personally lost any hope at all of them making any kind of significant postseason run.
Head coach Doug Pederson said in an interview with WIP a day after the loss that the Dolphins “played harder than we did.” Will that resonate with the players or do you feel Doug and his coaches might have lost the locker room a little bit?
Bell: It’s the second time Doug Pederson has retracted a strong statement on the same day. Remember when he issued the non-guarantee guarantee before the Cowboys game? This is in the same vein. The Dolphins wanted it more and played harder and Doug knows it. It’s time he stopped protecting players in the press and start holding guys accountable. Coaches can’t take that approach all the time, but if not now, then when?
Van Arsdall: It’s all about accountability. Of course the Dolphins played harder last Sunday. If a player can’t admit that or doesn’t see that as the truth, then the locker room is already lost. Everyone seems to be all over Doug for stating something that was crystal clear to anyone who saw the game. If the players are oblivious to that, then it’s on them, not the coach.
Gallen: I do not believe that. And I also don’t believe that effort is the only issue with the team. I do believe the issues run much deeper than the coach and the relationship with his players. They’ve struggled to catch the ball, the defense has had lapses at the wrong times and players they expected to thrive have not. There’s a laundry list of things to complain about, but Doug losing the locker room isn’t very high on it for me.
Koob: Hard to argue the message may be growing a little stale after four seasons. The Eagles have fallen into a nasty habit of thinking they can just turn it on between Thanksgiving and December. Are they resting on their laurels from two years ago?
Wheeler: I think that Doug threw players under the bus to an extent with that comment. “Playing harder” speaks to effort and honestly I don’t think the effort should be questioned. The coaching, decisions and choices are why they lost that game. I think, once again, the team played down to an inferior opponent and got burned.
The Giants have the eighth-worst passing defense in the league, so you can already imagine Carson Wentz chucking the ball up nearly 50 times on Monday night. What would be your pitch to Doug to utilize Miles Sanders and the running game more?
Bell: I don’t understand what the Eagles are doing. Maybe they’ve been watching too many Sixers games over the last couple of years. Why are they load-managing a second-round rookie with no significant injury issues? Miles Sanders left Penn State relatively fresh after spending most of his career backing up Saquon Barkley. The theory here is that, not only does Doug want the Eagles to win, but he wants Carson Wentz to be THE REASON why. He’s giving Carson ample opportunity to win over a locker room that may still have eyes for Nick Foles. Do I know this for a fact? Nope. I may be wrong, but I doubt it.
Van Arsdall: My pitch to Doug Pederson to run the ball more? Hmm… maybe use a hypnotist? Hold an intervention? At this point, we all know that Pederson is married to the passing game. The only thing that MIGHT work is if Wentz voices the need to run more — and that seems unlikely to happen.
Gallen: In theory, sure. But I don’t know that, without Jordan Howard, it’s a good idea to give Sanders 35 carries. He touched the ball 22 times on Sunday — that’s a decent amount. However, the issue is with the backup. Jay Ajayi carried it twice. He doesn’t look ready to be a major contributor right now, but they could have used someone for seven or eight extra carries to balance it out.
Koob: Getting Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks back last week, I would have expected a more run-heavy approach. Clearly the offensive staff saw their defense couldn’t stop anyone and wanted to get more points on the board. Expect Sanders to run more against New York.
Wheeler: There is nothing you can say to make Doug stop throwing the ball. The Dolphins had one of the worst rushing defenses in all of football and the Eagles still threw the ball. Doug is going to do what Doug does — throw even when the situation calls for a run.
One of the worst offenses in the league decimated a defense that held opponents to 17 points or under the previous four games. How concerned are you about the Eagles’ D heading into Monday night’s game against the G-Men?
Bell: Before that debacle in Miami, I was worried about the Eagles’ defense. I said before the game – and I still believe this – Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ceiling is as high as any quarterback in the league. For one day, one game, for four quarters, he can be the best. The problem is it doesn’t happen often enough and his floor is in the basement. The Eagles shouldn’t have those kind of concerns this week. They’re playing at home where they held Tom Brady and Russell Wilson to a total of 34 points. A the time of this writing, Eli Manning appears slated to start. He has always struggled in Philly.
Van Arsdall: Believe it or not, I’m not that concerned about the defense. And that’s because of what I witnessed against the Patriots and the Seahawks. They have the ability to be great and this week is a perfect opportunity to dominate once again, especially against the Giants’ offense.
Gallen: Not super concerned. I think it was a fluky performance at the EXACT wrong time. I think they’ll bounce back just fine, the Giants are not very good. But it speaks to the preparedness for that game in Miami. They fell asleep at the wheel.
Koob: I wrote in Koobservations this week that the Eagles continue to play down to the competition. I mentioned their win/loss record earlier in this post. They’ve become impossible to predict because their level of interest seems to fluctuate depending on who they play. But they are likely to see Eli Manning, who is just 10-22 in his career against the Eagles.
Wheeler: If they can be beaten by the Dolphins, the Giants can beat them, too. The season may come down to winning out for the Eagles and I have no confidence they can sweep both games with the Giants.
Bell: We’ve learned that the opponent doesn’t matter. This is another two-win team but the difference is the venue. Eagles fans won’t accept nonsense on a Monday night. Deep down, the players know it. I expect them to play well enough to win. Eagles 27 – Giants 19.
Van Arsdall: Eagles win 31-17.
Gallen: Eagles, 32-23
Koob: More Eli stats! He has lost nine of the last 10 games he’s started against the Eagles. He hasn’t played a meaningful snap in three months — and he’s completely washed. If he beats the Eagles on Monday night, Philly’s season is over and I will walk home from the stadium. Eagles, 24-17.
Wheeler: Eagles win 21-20.