The Eagles were the number one seed in the playoffs, yet on Sunday, against the Falcons they were the underdogs. The Falcons, who entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in the NFC, were favoured by the bookmakers. The Falcons, who just about managed to squeak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record, were the team that was expected to win by 2.5 points according to Vegas bookmakers.
Many of the Eagles players felt slighted by this. Lane Johnson, the Eagles right tackle, and Chris Long took the protest at this slightly further. After the Eagles emerged victorious on Saturday, the players donned German Shepard masks. To say that the players have embraced this underdog label is an understatement. The Eagles tweeted that dog masks will be allowed into the stadium on Saturday.
So how did this happen? Is the moniker warranted? The main reason is that the Eagles lost emerging superstar quarterback Carson Wentz. His replacement was Nick Foles, back for his second go-round with the Eagles. Foles came on for the injured Wentz against the LA Rams and helped secure the win. Against the Giants, Foles was impressive as he passed for 4 touchdowns and a passer rating of 115.8. To say that the next two games were a worry to Eagles fans and management would be an understatement. Foles got progressively worse. Against the Raiders he recorded a passer rating of 59.4 against the Raiders (and looked worse), before recording a 9.3 rating and getting benched against the Cowboys in the season finale.
But this may not have been the only reason. The fantastic and always informative Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) recently tweeted this “Eagles will host NFC Championship without MVP level quarterback, Pro Bowl left tackle, best linebacker, and most versatile running back. #Eagles”. Who were these three other major contributors who were lost for the year?
Week three saw the Eagles first major personnel loss. Against the Giants they lost their most versatile running back and special teams phenom Darren Sproles. Whilst the loss of Sproles probably had something to do with the Eagles trading for Mr ‘British Born’ himself, Jay Ajayi, his loss was considerable. Every time Sproles touched the ball he had the potential to take it to the house. One player who definitely benefited from Sproles’ injury is undrafted rookie 444 total yards and 6 touchdowns .
Jason Peters, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl left tackle, was having another Pro Bowl level season. For someone 6-4 and 328 pounds Peters moves with as much speed and agility as the best to ever play the game. Watching him blocking on the second level was a joy to behold and he routinely handled the opposition’s best past rusher. He was replaced by the man the call Big V. The 24 year old Halapoulivaati Vaitai has progressed each game, especially with his run blocking
Week seven also saw the Eagles lose their best linebacker. Jordan Hicks in one of the better young linebackers in the league. Adept in making plays all over the field, Hicks’ loss was doubly damaging as he was the Eagles defensive signal caller. A number of linebackers filled in for Hicks and veteran acquisition Dannell Ellerbe looks to be the man chosen to man the middle in base defence.
Whilst it’s true the Vikings lost quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Dalvin Cook, their impact has been significantly less than the players the Eagles lost.
If you’re a Philly fan and want to support your underdogs you’re out of luck, the mask sold out on the makers Amazon site. Twice!
Picture courtesy of Jonathan Cumbleton