Updated: May 2, 2019
It's week 17, which means I've panic-watched my way through 15 Eagles games, lost seemingly 50 consecutive bets, and witnessed 4000 Wentz/Foles Twitter debates.
It means that my brain is a mush of clinching scenarios, what-ifs, and inspirational Foles press-conference quotes.
It's been a while since a week 17 was consequential for an Eagles team: the past two have been dead rubbers vs. Dallas in which starters were rested; in 2014 and 2015, the Eagles were eliminated from playoff contention by Week 16. In fact, it was way back on the 29th of December, 2013 that an Eagles team had playoffs to play for in week 17. Interestingly enough, it was Nick Foles who was under center that game. For anybody who wants to feel terrible about their age, that means that Brandon Boykin's interception against the Kyle Orton-led Cowboys was over 4 years ago.
Of course, when Boykin jumped Miles Austin's route to seal the game, he also sealed an Eagles' playoff berth. An Eagles win secured a post-season clinch. Win and we were in.
As you know, that is most definitely not the case this week. As if being potentially embarrassed by a 4th string journeyman suiting up for a dysfunctional NFC East rival with nothing to play for isn't worrying enough, the Eagles also have to rely on the Bears taking down the Vikings. Let's answer some questions about the matchup.
Are the Bears going to try?
Short answer: yes.
Longer answer: let's break it down. The Bears are currently sitting in the No. 3 seed in the NFC, with the Rams in No. 2. The Saints have locked up the No. 1 seed.
The Bears cannot finish lower than No. 3. But if the Rams lose against the 49ers in Los Angeles, then the Bears can secure the No. 2 seed with a victory over the Vikings in Minnesota. As both games are in the 4.25 PM ET time slot (along with Eagles vs. Redskins) this means that unless the Rams start blowing out the 49ers, the Bears should be keeping their starters on the field against the Vikings. This is good news. As 10 point favorites (and Rams head coach Sean McVay's tendency to keep his foot on the gas offensively), a Rams blowout is certainly possible. But it really seems like it would have to get out of hand quickly for Bears head coach Matt Nagy to pull his starters:
The Rams will also be without All-Pro running back Todd Gurley. Per Patrick Finley, Nagy will not scoreboard watch, but will receive an update at half-time. If starters are pulled, the majority of the attention will be focused on the quarterback change from Mitch Trubisky to Chase Daniels. Daniels went 1-1 as a starter in Trubisky's absence this year. But this was obviously with a 1st-team surrounding him on offense, and being supported by the No. 1 defense by DVOA per Football Outsiders. A downgrade on defense and a limited offensive playbook against a Vikings team with everythingto play for is not something that the Eagles want to see.
Let's hope 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and his rejuvenated offense is able to make a game out of it, in what could be a masterclass in offensive playcalling.
How will the Vikings offensive line fare against the Bears?
Surprise, surprise: the inconsistency of a Kirk Cousins-led offense has become one of the major narratives of another NFL season. I kid. To blame Cousins solely for the sputtering Vikings offense would be ignorant. He faces pressure on a higher rate than any other quarterback in the league. The fact that Cousins has been able to throw for over 4100 yards and 29 touchdowns for only 10 interceptions in the face of such heat is an impressive feat. Yes, his yards per attempt (7.27) is below league average but this is expected under such pressure.
If there's one team which is a nightmare matchup for this offense it is most certainly the Bears. In their week 11 matchup, the Bears defense dominated. Tallying up two sacks, a forced fumble, 9 stuffs, and two interceptions; one of which was returned for a score, the Vikings had no answer from the opening kick off. Cousins spent most of the match under pressure, and the Bears won 35-20. The league's best defense, containing the wrecking ball, butt-sackingterror that is Khalil Mack, against a struggling offensive line is a matchup that should excite Eagles fans. But this is of course assuming that the Bears starters remain on the field.
Chicago will be without star safety Eddie Jackson and wide receiver Allen Robinson on Sunday due to injuries; let's hope they're the only Bears starters not seeing the field.
Have the Vikings got what it takes?
After firing ex-Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator, the Vikings put 41 points on Miami in week 15. The offense followed that up in a visit to Detroit where Cousins tossed three touchdowns in a 27-9 victory. The Vikings however, struggled for large stretches of the game, scoring their first points of the game with 1:35 left in the first half. A successful hail mary to Rudolph at the end of the half put the Vikings up 5 and the defense was able to close out the Lions from there.
On the defensive side of the ball, Minnesota have slid remarkably under the radar for a team that ranks first or tied-first in sacks, pass-rush DVOA, and adjusted sack rate. Coach of the Year candidate Matt Nagy has shown he is capable of scheming a Bears offense to counteract opponents' strengths. However, that is with a full week of preparation and practice with a first team. If he decides to make an 'educated decision' to pull Trubisky and co. at the half or later, the Vikings defensive line could easily begin to dominate the make-shift offense.
Minnesota is one of 2018's most frustrating teams, capable of living up to their preseason expectations with their plethora of skill-position talent with Diggs, Thielen, Cook and Rudolph. Other times, they'll lose to the Bills as 17.5 point favorites and cost all of America their money-line parlays and survivor pools.
Nagy, Trubisky, Mack; just win.
Oh yeah, and Eagles too.