Oftentimes when a team, especially our beloved Eagles, lose in the postseason, it’s followed by a brief period of what feels like a funeral. We mourn the opportunity that was lost, the end of the great times that preceded the season’s abrupt ending. Fans dread not only having to watch other teams compete for something that this city covets so desperately, but then the drudge of 7-8 months of offseason after that.
Throughout the 2017 regular season, the great times have been plentiful. For the most part, this team demolished any and all competition. Whether it was a 61-yard field goal as time expired or a kick-your-feet-up-and-relax blowout win, the magical moments and joyous Sundays kept coming. Many who came into the season hoping for maybe 9 wins and some improvement out of Carson Wentz in year 2 were instead treated to 10 wins by Thanksgiving and MVP-caliber quarterback play. Largely because of Number 11, the Eagles were able to withstand injury after injury and jump to an 11-2 start to their season.
Then December 10 happened.
Trailing late in the 3rd quarter in Los Angeles, Wentz scrambled to his right, dove for the end zone, and had his left leg sandwiched between two Rams. Wentz popped right back up, stayed in the game, and threw his franchise-record 33rd touchdown pass. Then, as Wentz walked up the tunnel to the locker room to be medically evaluated, many grew nervous. Then, reports broke that the Eagles were fearing an ACL tear, but nothing was confirmed. The Eagles went on to win and clinch the NFC East, but it was easily the most somber win in recent times.
The next morning, coach Doug Pederson confirmed everyone’s worst fear: Carson Wentz, the front-runner for NFL MVP, was out for the season with a torn left ACL.
Teammates were crushed, fans cried live on the radio, and the next few days felt like… well, a funeral – which is exactly my point in this article.
The funeral has already happened.
But, unlike most endings, there was and still are games to be played. Anyone who has watched the last two games can notice the clear and obvious dropoff from Wentz to Foles. Partially as a result, the Eagles have struggled to two wins against teams with losing records. But through this December of pain and uncertainty, a beautiful and unique situation has emerged – the pressure is off.
The last time the Eagles won a playoff game (after the 2008 season), everyone knew it could be the last run for the core group of Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Jon Runyan, etc. Despite entering the playoffs as a sixth-seeded underdog, there was still a sense of “now or never” around that squad that had come up short several times in years prior. This year, the Eagles are playing with house money. This team can lose their first playoff game at home, either January 13 or 14, and the natural response will likely be “Well, it was Nick Foles.”
One of two things will happen next:
- The Eagles go one-and-done in the playoffs with their backup quarterback. In 8 months, Wentz returns to the field and everything goes back to normal and the Eagles get ready for another playoff run with their young star.
- This team that is 13-2, loaded with Pro Bowlers, wins a playoff game with Nick Foles at quarterback. Maybe they win two. Who knows, what if they win three?
The Eagles have the opportunity here to play with house money. They almost get a “free run” at this – a free chance to write their own Cinderella story of making it to a Super Bowl with their backup quarterback, the same guy who was once thought to be The Franchise and then cast off by the previous coach.
For many, myself included, the “funeral” has already happened. The grieving has been done. Right now, the Eagles are in a unique spot where they have had one of the best, if not the best, regular seasons in team history, yet are somehow not expected by many to go to a Super Bowl, let alone win it.
Carson Wentz will eventually win this city a Lombardi Trophy before his time is done. It’s a matter of “when” rather than “if.” So for right now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride, this truly unique situation that this crazy season has brought us. The Philadelphia Eagles now have absolutely nothing to lose as they enter the playoffs as the top seed.
Oh, and that Super Bowl ring is still just three wins away.