Image: NBC Sports/AP

After a crushing defeat to the Dallas Cowboys put their playoff hopes in doubt, the defending Super Bowl champions might be without their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Although few could have predicted the Eagles Super Bowl run after Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury last year, they looked dominant in doing so.

When the Eagles returned this season with basically the same team plus a healthy Wentz who before his knee injury was playing like an MVP candidate, most NFL experts picked them as the favorites to repeat as champions this season.

Not only has that not been the case this season, there’s a strong possibility that the defending Super Bowl Champions might not even make it to the playoffs period. Whether it’s the injury riddled secondary, lack of a running game or loss of assistant coaches who are now offensive coordinators elsewhere, the Eagles difficulties this season is down to a combination of factors.

From Bad to Worse

Just when Eagles nation thought it couldn’t get any worse, they get news that Carson Wentz has a fractured vertebra in his back.

It isn’t known yet if he will play again this season but the news is terrible. No matter what he isn’t going to be close to 100% and it’s possible that by continuing to play he could make things worse. At this point for the Philadelphia Eagles, there is no more room for error.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Eagles would be on the outside looking in. They currently trail the Carolina Panthers who are not guaranteed to make it themselves with 2 out of their last 3 games against the New Orleans Saints. The other team the Eagles trail, the Minnesota Vikings, have a much easier remaining schedule. Their next 2 games are against the Dolphins and the Lions, games they should win.

If you’re an Eagles optimist, you can look at it from the perspective that the Vikings are 6-6-1 for a reason. The Dolphins just beat the Patriots in dramatic fashion and a division game at Detroit can go either way. The problem with all of that is that the Eagles are not in control of their own playoff destiny. You never want to be in a position where you need other teams to help you get in.

Even with help, Philadelphia would still have to win all 3 of their remaining games and unfortunately for them, their next game is at the Rams, a team still fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If that wasn’t bad enough, they then play a Houston Texans team looking to hold on to 3rd and maybe even catch the Patriots for 2nd if they can win out.

The point is there are no easy games left on the schedule. If Carson Wentz really can’t play for the rest of the season, do the Eagles have any hope of defending the first Super Bowl in franchise history?

Can the Eagles Backup QB Pull Off Another Miracle?

When Nick Foles lead the Eagles on that miracle playoff run last season, most people did not think it was possible. One of the main reasons Foles was able to do what he did, was down to the Eagles defense. That’s not to discredit Foles because he stepped up big time in the Super Bowl.

The road to that Super Bowl MVP however was paved by the defense. In the divisional playoffs they beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10. When you win a playoff game by kicking 5 field goals, it’s clear that the defense won you the game. Then they held the Minnesota Vikings to 7 points in the NFC championship game.

To be fair to Nick Foles, he threw for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns so he did his part. That defense from last year is nowhere to be found. The Eagles aren’t holding anybody to 10 points or less these days and their offense isn’t exactly lighting things up.

There are even certain sections of Eagles nation wanting them to re-hire fired Vikings offensive coordinator John DiFilipo. Considering he doesn’t coach defense, hiring him won’t solve their most concerning problem which is the secondary. A lot of people questioned if Amari Cooper was worth a 1st round pick, after what he did to the Eagles people are calling him the Cowboys savior.

With a much weaker defense, the Eagles hopes largely rest on Nick Foles to come up with a repeat performance of last year. He didn’t look capable of it to start this year but with the way the defense is playing, it’s the best hope they have.

It would be foolish to dismiss their playoff chances even with all of these things working against them at the moment. Last year the Eagles were underdogs in all 3 of their playoff games and they ended up winning the whole thing. If you can go toe to toe with Tom Brady in the biggest game of them all and come out as the winner and the MVP of that game, you deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Those that bet against Foles last year, will remember the harsh lesson they learned. The question of how to bet on football is easy to answer in theory, however examples like this remind us that this sport has so many variables that you need to respect the underdog.

Many of the Eagles players echoed their belief that this is a sign that they will do it again. Momentum is a funny thing and maybe this is the spark they need to do something special. They won’t have to wait long to find out if they are up to the task. The Los Angeles Rams present the biggest hurdle they could ask for in their quest to make it back for another improbable playoff run.

The Rams Will Have Something to Prove

As an up and coming team, nothing would please the Rams more than ending the season for the defending champs. The Eagles played a team similar in quality to the Rams when they went to New Orleans and faced the Saints. They failed that test miserably.

The problems they had against the Dallas Cowboys are a preview of what the Rams have in store. The Rams will bring pressure with their front four. Now that they have Talib back they have lock down corners similar to the Cowboys. They have very good wide receivers and one of the best running backs in the game. They also have a better QB than Dallas. They really will need Nick Foles to bring a heavy dose of magic. Anything less than 3 touchdowns by the Eagles offense and this one could get ugly.

The Rams high octane offense will be looking to make up for the embarrassing performance they put on in Chicago. They will not hold back at all in this one. The Eagles will tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way and they probably mean that.

The road to the Super Bowl either starts or ends this Sunday for the defending champs.

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