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Spadaro: How do the Eagles ring in the New Year with a win?

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

Welcome to a new week and a new next step for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the New Orleans Saints in their sights on Sunday, 1 PM at Lincoln Financial Field. The stakes remain the same: An Eagles win gives them the NFC East title as well as the No. 1 seed, a bye week, and home-field advantage in the conference playoffs.

Every goal of the regular season remains within reach, so the team is back in the grind at the NovaCare Complex after Saturday's loss at Dallas, one that was certainly disappointing, but one from which the Eagles know they can learn and build.

"We'll correct all the mistakes we made in this game because we made plenty of them," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said after the 40-34 defeat. "Playing, coaching, we made plenty of mistakes that we'll learn from. That's what I love about this team is that we'll learn from our mistakes, and we'll just crave to get better. So, we'll get better from that, we'll see what happens as far as everything."

There are a lot of questions to be answered as the week progresses, so let's address the issues here and then we will see what unfolds in the days to come ...

1. What is the quarterback situation for Sunday vs. New Orleans?

Still unclear.

Sirianni said after the Dallas game that "with Jalen (Hurts), never put anything past him. We thought he even had a chance to play this week and we'll see next week, but we'll take that one day at a time and we'll see."

If Hurts is healthy and cleared and ready to play, he will start against the Saints. If he isn't, then Gardner Minshew will get his second start. Minshew moved the offense, put up points, spread the ball around, and generally played a strong game against the Cowboys. But the offense turned the ball over four times and that is something the Eagles need to address. More on that later.

The point is, it is very much an open-ended question about Hurts and his availability for Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury in Chicago. The Eagles are not going to put him in jeopardy and, as Sirianni said last week, they're going to do what is best for the football team. Everyone has 100 percent confidence in Minshew, so it's again a day-by-day situation here.

2. How is the injury picture?

Other than Hurts, there are some significant injuries to update throughout the week. Right tackle Lane Johnson left Saturday's game with an abdominal injury that he had been battling, so he is going to go through the examination and evaluation process to see exactly what's going on and what he needs to get back on the field. The Eagles, again, have faith in the next man up here, Jack Driscoll. He's experienced and up to the task should he be called upon to play on Sunday.

Cornerback Avonte Maddox had a spectacular sack of Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott in the game on Saturday, but also suffered a toe injury on the play that knocked him out of action. Maddox is such a valuable player who plays multiple roles extremely well within this defense, and the Eagles are so airtight when he's on the field. Josiah Scott has had plenty of reps this season while Maddox was out for six games earlier this season and he has competed and made some plays.

The Eagles also are closely monitoring the progress of safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who has missed four games after suffering a lacerated kidney in the win over the Green Bay Packers. It would be a huge boost to the secondary to get him back for the postseason.

3. Where are the teaching points from the loss to the Cowboys?

Clearly, turnovers are killers. As the team said over and over and over on Saturday following the defeat, turning the ball over four times isn't going to beat a good team. The Eagles turned it over four times against Washington and lost. They turned it over four times against Dallas and lost. Two giveaways at Indianapolis stunted the offense before a fourth-quarter comeback. No defense has really stopped the Eagles through the course of a game, but the giveaways certainly have.

The other teaching point is that Dallas converted some huge third downs against the Eagles, including the third-and-30 play in the fourth quarter that kept Dallas in the game. There were some earlier ones – three straight third-and-5 plays and a third-and-7 play – that kept Dallas drives alive. The defense said after the game that it needs to do a better job of getting off the field, so that is something coordinator Jonathan Gannon will address throughout this week.

4. What is the early word on the Saints?

New Orleans is playing good football and, at 6-9, is still mathematically alive in the NFC playoff picture. The Saints weathered brutally cold weather in Cleveland on Saturday to defeat the Browns, 17-10, relying on 76 rushing yards and 34 receiving yards from running back Alvin Kamara and a defense that limited the Browns to 3.7 yards per offensive play. The Saints' defense has not allowed more than 20 points since Week 9. New Orleans has won two straight games and is thinking postseason.

The Eagles know they have to beat a good football team on Sunday to ring in 2023 and achieve their regular-season goals. That's the focus for a team looking forward, intent on getting right back into the win column this week.

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