The Eagles have preached the importance of immediately putting games in the rear-view mirror. That mindset will be critical this week as they look to move beyond Sunday's 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the setback, the Eagles are still in the driver's seat in the NFC East. Head coach Chip Kelly has watched the All-22 and will offer additional insight into just what happened on Eagles Live! beginning at Noon. Until then, here are the 5 Things To Know Today for December 16 ...
1. GREEN BAY, THE GIFT IS IN THE MAIL
The Eagles entered Week 15 with a one-game lead in the NFC East. At the end of Week 15, the Eagles still have a one-game lead despite stumbling to the Vikings thanks to the Packers' stunning second-half rally from a 26-3 deficit to upend the Dallas Cowboys, 37-36.
If the season ended today, the Eagles would be the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs with an 8-6 record. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East title next week if - 1. Dallas loses at Washington, 2. the Eagles beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys-Washington game is at 1 p.m., so the Eagles will know if the division title is on the line. If Dallas wins, the NFC East will come down to the Week 17 showdown between the Eagles and the Cowboys in Arlington, Tx.
Next Sunday's game with the Bears will have significant impact on the playoff race regardless. Chicago currently holds a half-game lead in the NFC North over the Detroit Lions, who play on Monday Night Football. Seattle has a firm hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the NFC South winner (New Orleans or Carolina) is on track for the second first-round bye. That means the NFC East winner and the NFC North winner will be the third and fourth seeds.
2. FIRST LOOK AT THE CHICAGO BEARS
The Bears, like the Eagles, are 8-6 after Sunday's 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Jay Cutler returned to action after missing four games due to a high-ankle sprain and threw three touchdowns. The Bears went back to Cutler despite a strong showing by backup Josh McCown, who accounted five touchdowns in last Monday night's win over Dallas.
Cutler got off to a slow start throwing a pair of interceptions in the first half, but he completed 14 of his final 18 pass attempts for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
Here is a look at head coach Marc Trestman's quarterback decision as well as the development of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery from ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright ...
How has Trestman managed the quarterback situation?
"The most important dynamic in sports is the player-coach relationship. I think a player has to know that his coach has his back, and that his coach trusts him. I think that was big in this situation for Jay Cutler because if he is going to be the franchise quarterback, then he has to feel like everybody in the organization has his back.
"I thought that by Trestman being adamant that Jay Cutler was the starter despite how well Josh McCown played was a major step in that relationship because I'm sure you've heard about Cutler and the types of relationships that he's had in the past with his offensive coordinators and coaches. They always get kind of rocky.
I think Trestman purposely wanted to establish this relationship because it's still fresh. They have not even worked together for a whole season, but I think Trestman wanted to establish early on that, 'Hey, you're my guy.' I really think that's going to be a big thing moving forward, especially when they start to negotiate Cutler's new contract. I believe that will be big for him moving forward into the future."
How has wide receiver Alshon Jeffery's development helped the offense?
"Wide receiver Brandon Marshall took Jeffery under his wing and said, 'Hey, I want you to come out here to Florida with me to train and also learn how to eat right and how to take care of your body.' Jeffery was out of the lineup for quite a bit of time as a rookie. Marshall thought that it was because Jeffery wasn't eating and training properly.
"Jeffery's development has been huge because teams can't just focus on Marshall now. If you take Marshall out, you've got to defend Jeffery one-on-one, and Jeffery is going to win those matchups. He's made some amazing catches this year. The Bears now have more options at receiver. If they can get a speed receiver as that No. 3 position who can really threaten you down the middle, then I think this offense will eventually become unstoppable."
3. THE 24-HOUR RULE IS IN EFFECT
The Eagles' streak of holding opponents under 22 points in nine straight games was ended by the Minnesota Vikings. This Sunday, the Eagles host the Bears who have the league's No. 2 scoring offense, averaging 29.0 points per contest. Chicago has scored 83 points in their last two contests.
It will be important for the Eagles defense to forget about quarterback Matt Cassel and running back Matt Asiata.
"We were going to find out how we were being the favorites, how would we respond to it? We didn't respond to it," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "I know mentally and physically we have to be better than we were today. It's a bad day. We have to regroup."
One issue for the defense was third-down situations. Minnesota converted 8-of-13 third-down opportunities. For the season, the Eagles rank 20th on third-down defense.
"Everything's still out there for us to get," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "The playoffs start for us these next two weeks. Everybody better be ready to check themselves and be ready to go next week."
One voice of reason was rookie nose tackle Bennie Logan. He specifically mentioned the 24-hour rule.
"It's a good thing that it's the regular season and not the playoffs. It's a humbling experience for us," Logan said. "From here on out it's the 24-hour rule, you dwell on this now and tomorrow, then it's on to the Bears."
4. JACKSON IS HAVING AN A SEASON FOR THE AGES
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson accumulated 195 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 10 receptions in Sunday's game. It was the second-best yardage output of his career and ranks ninth in team history.
Jackson has a career-high 1,275 receiving yards this year. His performance has been lost in the shuffle of quarterback Nick Foles' amazing streak as well as the campaign put together by the NFL's leading rusher LeSean McCoy. But Jackson is having a year to remember.
|Most Receiving Yards In A Single Season
Jackson's 1,275 yards trails only Mike Quick (1,409 yards in 1983) and Irving Fryar (1,316 in 1997) for the franchise record. Jackson has five 100-yard games this year, which ties a career high and is the fourth-most in team history. Jackson's 32 career touchdowns tied him with Ben Hawkins for eighth on the Eagles' all-time list and his 6,421 scrimmage yards moved him past Steve Van Buren for ninth.
5. SECONDARY HURTING AFTER GAME
Chicago boasts two of the league's most dangerous receivers in Marshall and Jeffery, who both rank in the NFL's top 10 in catches and yards this season. They're tough enough to stop with a healthy complement of defensive backs. There are a number of injuries to watch in the Eagles secondary.
Safety Earl Wolff missed his fourth straight game Sunday with a knee injury. He did practice for the first time this past week. He traveled to Minnesota and took part in a workout before the game. Wolff is optimistic that he will be back for the Bears game.
During Sunday's game, cornerback Brandon Boykin suffered a head injury on a kickoff return in the second half. The team did not reveal whether Boykin suffered a concussion or not, but he did not return.
Safety Kurt Coleman went into the game for safety Patrick Chung on defense, but Coleman suffered a hamstring injury on the opening kickoff of the second half. Coleman said he spent the second half getting treatment and will do whatever he can to be ready for the Bears game.
Colt Anderson went in at safety for Coleman, but he suffered a knee injury and left the game.
The Eagles return to the practice field on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see who will be back in action and who will still be sidelined.