It is something Doug Pederson repeats to his players every week: "Go 1-0 this week. Win the week." So, with a division title in the balance, the message doesn't change with the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium this Sunday.
"We know they're a good football team and we know what's at stake this week," Pederson said on Monday, less than 24 hours after his Eagles beat Dallas, 17-9, in a physical, old-school kind of NFC East game to take the lead in the division. "We have to match and exceed our physical play that we had on Sunday against Dallas."
The Eagles have to do a lot of things right to beat New York, a team coming off a division win of its own on Sunday. It's time for the notebook …
1. The defense was at its best on Sunday. Pederson looked at how physical the group was as a whole as a reason for its success. The Eagles beat Dallas at the line of scrimmage with tackle Fletcher Cox battling an arm injury – he had a big wrap on it when he came onto the field at halftime and wore a sleeve up the arm when he played – and Derek Barnett came back from an ankle injury. Tough guys. The Eagles are going to need that kind of toughness on Sunday against Saquon Barkley, who is on a tear. Two weeks ago against Miami, Barkley had 24 carries, 122 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. On Sunday in the win over Washington, he ran for 189 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a touchdown pass. He's a complete running back. The front seven will be tested again.
2. New York has a big interior defensive front and that poses a challenge for the Eagles, particularly in the running game. Not until Boston Scott entered the game three weeks ago and had some carries did the Eagles get something going. With Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence, the Giants have beef and talent up front. Washington didn't get much going on the ground on Sunday, but did hurt New York in the passing game with three touchdown passes. It will be interesting to see how Mike Groh and Doug Pederson attack this defense as they try to present some different looks and play to their strengths at the same time.
3. Cornerback Ronald Darby is "week to week" with a hip flexor injury, and Pederson said Rasul Douglas would be the next man up there. Jalen Mills battled through an ankle injury to finish Sunday's game. The Eagles have Sidney Jones and Cre'Von LeBlanc ready to go, so the depth at the position is paying off. This team has needed every man, and plenty more, on the roster this season.
4. You see how confidence breeds success, right? Greg Ward gets his shot on the active roster and Wentz targets him a few times weeks ago and Ward catches everything that is near his hands and his touches go up. Now you expect Ward to catch every pass and his timing with Wentz is greatly improved. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has continued to work through the ups and downs of a rookie season and is clearly gaining Wentz's trust and timing. Arcega-Whiteside had two early catches against Dallas. Robert Davis made a terrific fingertips catch on Sunday and his confidence has to be heading in the right direction. With no indication that Nelson Agholor is coming back anytime soon, those three receivers need to continue to produce and, in reality, need to give even more to the offense.
5. When you see how the Eagles have controlled the time of possession these last few games – 42 minutes, 51 seconds against New York, 36:57 against Washington, 36:12 against Dallas, you're reminded just how good this offensive line is and how the Eagles ride it offensively. A strong running game and a solid, no-turnovers short passing game can take a team a long, long way.
6. What happens if tight end Zach Ertz (rib injury) is out for the Giants game? That would be a big loss and the Eagles would likely have to add a tight end who could come in and play right away and know the system. Dallas Goedert is a starting-caliber tight end, no doubt about that, and Joshua Perkins can be a threat in the passing game, but the Eagles would probably have to add another tight end. Could be that Alex Ellis moves up from the practice squad or a veteran player who knows the system is added this week. Stay tuned.
7. Carson Wentz's numbers in the last three games: 94-for-133 passing (71 percent completion percentage), 910 yards, six touchdowns. He lost two fumbles, and that is an area that continues to need to improve, but otherwise Wentz is playing the best football of his career, considering the circumstances. He's got 26 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, has been mobile and elusive buying time in and out of the pocket, and has been a leader with a capital L. He has taken that next step. Now it's time to get into the postseason.