Good morning, Eagles fans! Wild Card weekend is almost here. The players have their first full practice of the week today at 1:10 p.m. ahead of Sunday's Wild Card playoff game at Chicago. We will carry the beginning of practice live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with a big honor.
1. Fletch Is Feasting
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week yesterday morning after his three-sack performance at Washington. It was the second time he won the award in addition to the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award he won in September. Cox led the way to defensive dominance in Week 17 as the Eagles recorded their first shutout since 2014. Last month, he was named to his fourth Pro Bowl in his seven-year career.
2. Chicago Impresses Foles
Quarterback Nick Foles answered reporters' questions yesterday from a crowded auditorium ahead of his fifth career playoff start and his first true road game in the postseason. He will lead the offense against one of the league's best, if not the best, defenses with ferocious rushers and an astute secondary.
Foles made it clear that he understands how impressive Chicago's defense has been this season. But as Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro writes, that doesn't stop his confidence and enthusiasm heading into Wild Card weekend:
"They're an extremely talented defense. I'm really impressed with what I see, what I see from their front, from their secondary, from their linebackers," Foles said on Wednesday at his NovaCare Complex press conference. "They do a great job with vision. The reason they have a lot of turnovers, obviously, is the pressure they can cause up front, which causes a little havoc, quarterbacks holding onto the ball. And then their secondary understands concepts. They can tell when receivers are running different routes, what else is coming behind it so they're able to have vision on it and cut it. They have really good ball skills. That's something that you don't always see."
3. Behind Enemy Lines
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz met with the media on Tuesday and previewed the challenges that the 12-4 Chicago Bears present on both sides of the football.
Schwartz detailed what Bears' quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is capable of doing in his first career playoff start:
"He's sort of a point guard out there moving the ball around to a lot of different guys," Schwartz said. "He does a really good job of executing what they're doing in their run game with all their layers of zone reads and RPOs. They run a lot of the different RPOs: three-by-one, two-by-two, slants, slant-flats, stick-outs, hitches, speed-outs. I mean, all of those.
"Just because it's a run doesn't mean it's not going to be a pass. He makes the right reads, puts the ball in good position. He's also a really good athlete and can extend plays. Throws really well on the run. All those things will be challenges for us."
Linebacker Khalil Mack and the Bears' front seven have gotten most of the attention when it comes to the Bears' defense. But Groh pointed out that Chicago's unit is well-rounded with an impressive secondary:
"Well, they do a great job with their pattern match," Groh said. "They are on your concepts and they mix their coverages up, and they have good players. They have Kyle Fuller who is having a career year. I think he has seven interceptions or something like that, and these ballhawking safeties that they have. They've played together for a long time.
"That defense, Vic has been there for I think it's four years now, and the rest of the defensive coaches there have done an excellent job," he added. "There is continuity in scheme, and they've added some, really, really good football players. When you get that, it's a good combination."
4. Hicks Set For Playoff Debut
Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks has been through a lot during his time with the Eagles. It's easy to forget that the fourth-year quarterback of the defense, who only played seven games last season before injuring his Achilles, has never taken a snap in a playoff game. This Sunday, he will get that chance. After watching the Eagles win the Super Bowl from the sidelines last season, Dave Spadaro writes that Hicks is ready to lead a run of his own this year:
"I'm here to make the most of it," he said. "I remember the feeling last year, going to the playoffs and not being able to be out there," Hicks said. "It killed me. Every single game killed me. We were winning and it was awesome, but I wanted to be out there. And so, that always runs through your mind. You always want to stay healthy."
Check out the best photos featuring the offense from the Eagles' win over the Redskins.
5. Homecoming King
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery spent the first five seasons of his career in Chicago before signing with the Eagles as a free agent and winning the Super Bowl in his first season with his new team. Now, with everything on the line, Jeffery will make his first start in Chicago since leaving.
Jeffery told reporters at his locker yesterday that there were plenty of great memories from his time as the Bears' go-to receiver. But in a game this important while playing his best football of the season, Dave Spadaro writes that Jeffery's only goal is to go into Soldier Field and get a win:
"I'm just going to go out there and play football, man," Jeffery said. "I'm focused on the game, honestly. If I see some people that I know or some familiar faces, I'll speak to them, but otherwise, I'm just focused on the football game."
6. Thanks, Matt
Eagles fans woke up feeling uneasy last Sunday as their team's playoff fate remained uncertain. The Eagles didn't control their own destiny, needing to beat Washington and for the Bears to beat the Vikings on the road, and there were questions about whether Chicago would even play to win at all.
As it turns out, the Eagles didn't need to worry.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy spoke with Philadelphia reporters in a conference call yesterday and assured them that they were playing to win the game on Sunday from the very beginning to the end:
"It's so easy to coach when you coach to win," Nagy said. "And when you start getting into all these other variables, then your guys aren't going to play because there's reservations in how they're doing it and we weren't going to do that.
"So, that's the approach we took and so in the fourth quarter was probably when it was the most difficult as far as decision-making goes because there is that balance of, you have a 14-point lead, there's seven minutes to go, our defense has done a great job all game of shutting them down on offense. ... I like how we handled it and it wasn't just one person, it was everybody, and I think it prepared me for if I ever get in that situation again."
7. Injury Report: Key Member Of Bears Secondary Sidelined
The Eagles only had a walkthrough yesterday but produced an approximation of the team's injury report. Four players, including defensive end Michael Bennett did not participate while six players, including Foles and center Jason Kelce, were limited with injuries.
For the Bears, their three injured wide receivers were all full participants while starting safety Eddie Jackson did not practice.
You can read the full injury report here.