The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Oakland Raiders on Monday to improve to 13-2 on the season and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs, an impressive accomplishment for a team with a second-year coach coming off back-to-back 7-9 seasons.
But despite the outcome, Monday’s game gave Philly fans plenty of reason for pause. The Eagles’ offense was essentially impotent all night long, gaining only 216 total yards and converting just one of 14 third down attempts. Doug Pedersen’s team came away with a win only because Oakland couldn’t stop turning over the ball.
The primary culprit for Philadelphia’s struggles Monday was quarterback Nick Foles, who completed only 19 of his 38 passes for 163 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He nearly gave away the game with less than eight minutes to play by overthrowing his man on a screen pass, resulting in an Oakland interception. After the game, even Foles admitted he had played really, really poorly.
“I didn’t play good enough. I have to play cleaner and, obviously, play better,” Foles said, via NFL.com. “Third down is a big thing with a quarterback; pin-point accuracy, making good decisions. I’ll look at the film, I’ll improve.”
When MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down with an ACL tear in Week 14, Eagles fans were left having nightmares about quarterback play sinking their team in the playoffs. On Monday, those nightmares began to seem much more real.
Flashing the hands with the nifty INT. pic.twitter.com/E92A9AOKnY
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) December 26, 2017
Now that the Eagles have home field advantage through the NFC Championship Game locked up, the question becomes whether a team with Foles at quarterback can survive the playoffs. And the answer probably scares Philly fans.
If Foles plays like he did Monday, the Eagles will lose the first game they play. Philadelphia may have held off a struggling Raiders team despite awful output under center, but good luck getting by the 11-win opponent it’s likely to meet in the divisional playoffs. Of course, if Foles plays like he did last week again the Giants (24-of-38 for 237 yards and four touchdowns), the Eagles won’t miss Wentz at all. Unfortunately, the Giants’ defense will not be anywhere near the playoffs.
The Eagles will have every advantage this postseason. They will have a first-round bye, meaning they’ll need to win only two games to reach the Super Bowl. They will play at home (where they are 7-0) in both of those contests. And they will likely face flawed opponents that also lack playoff experience. The road through January is never easy, but it doesn’t get much more gentle than this.
Given the Eagles’ defense and rushing attack, Foles doesn’t have to be a star. He merely must be competent, avoiding turnovers and picking up the occasional third down conversion. The fact he was incapable of that against a Raiders team that ranks No. 21 in passing yards allowed per game bodes poorly for Philly’s hopes.
The Eagles have no choice but to keep hoping for the best with Foles. Their only other quarterback, second-year Nate Sudfeld, has never thrown an NFL pass, and the #SignKaepernick movement is merely fantasy at this point. Philadelphia’s playoff hopes will likely rest on the left arm of Nick Foles. Eagles fans have plenty of reason for fear.