Nicky Franchise

Posted: January 22nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 305 Comments »

There are a lot of storylines from Sunday’s NFC Championship but one really sticks out. Nick Foles played the game of his life. I know he threw 7 TDs in a game back in 2013, but that was against an awful Raiders team.

Foles was brilliant against the Vikings, going 26-33-352. He threw 3 TD passes and didn’t turn the ball over. Foles did this against the #1 defense in the league with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. And he made it look easy.

Going into the game, I thought the Vikings had a clear advantage at QB. Case Keenum started almost all year long. He played at a high level and was clearly the leader of his team. Foles had only been the Eagles QB for a month or so. He was still trying to get into the swing of things. It is one thing to know the playbook and to know your teammates. It is another to be the starting QB and run the team.

Keenum usually made one or two “wow” throws every game. Foles had not made any of those throws since taking over as starter. I think his deep ball to Nelson Agholor in the Denver game was a wow throw, but that was late in a blowout.

Foles made wow throws on Sunday night. The flea-flicker TD pass was a thing of beauty.

Wow.

That wasn’t a special throw, but the fact he kept his eyes downfield and didn’t panic in the pocket makes it a “wow” play.

I thought this was a terrific play.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/955256540616826880

Foles spread the ball around. He wasn’t forcing it to anyone. There were plays where held the ball, not dumping it to the first open guy. Foles was aggressive, but not reckless. He wanted chunks of yards and took chances when they made sense.

The Eagles did something I didn’t think was going to happen. They moved the chains all game long. The Vikings allowed 51 3rd down conversions all season long. 51!!! The Eagles were 10 for 14 on Sunday night. That’s insane.

Give the coaches credit for calling the right plays. Give the receivers credit for catching the ball. Give the O-line credit for protecting. Give Nick a ton of credit for orchestrating an offense that did that.

*****

The Eagles signed Foles back in March. Here’s what I had to say:

 I love the addition of Foles. He had an amazing 2013 season, but that proved to be an anomaly. Foles isn’t a guy you want as your full time starter. That said, he can be a terrific backup. I think Foles is a major upgrade on Chase Daniel. If Wentz has to miss a game (or god forbid multiple games), Foles is a QB I’m comfortable with. You don’t want him out there for 16 games, but he has proven he can be an effective starter in the NFL.

And

Let’s go back to Foles for a second. Doug Pederson was his QB coach when Foles got drafted. Pederson worked him out prior to that draft and really liked him. Beyond that, everyone in the organization loved Foles during his time in Philly. He was a terrific teammate. The Eagles wanted to keep him, but Chip Kelly needed Foles to make the Sam Bradford trade work.

The Eagles come out of that with Wentz, Foles, a 1st round pick and Bradford as a distant memory. That worked pretty well.

Foles struggled with the Rams, but that is a dysfunctional offense. No QB seems to play well there. Foles needs a good OL to be effective. He didn’t have that in St. Louis, but will in Philly. I think he’ll also benefit from having good offensive coaches. The Rams staff was just not good.

Foles is an ideal backup. He has experience and is a high character guy. This is someone you want on your team. He’s just not meant to be out there for a full season. Foles was a huge upgrade over Chase Daniel. Can you imagine if he had been on the field in that game? I doubt the Eagles are scoring 38 points.

Thank you, Nicky Franchise.

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Super Bowl Bound!!!

Posted: January 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 345 Comments »

The Eagles did it. They whipped the Vikings and are now headed to the Super Bowl.

Nick Foles was brilliant.

The defense dominated after a poor opening drive.

Amazing performance by a special team.

Fun now…analysis to come later.

Congrats Eagles fans…you deserve this.

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Gameday – Kill the Keenums!

Posted: January 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,095 Comments »

Game time is about an hour away. Nervous yet?

We have a surprise inactive. MLB Dannell Ellerbe is out. Not sure if this is due to injury or the fact he’s just not been very good. Najee Goode will likely take his place at MLB in the base defense.

DT Destiny Vaeao is back in the rotation. Don’t expect him to play a lot, but he’ll probably get on the field here and there.

No other surprises on the list.

*****

FS Andrew Sendejo is playing today for the Vikings. I’m surprised he came back so quickly from that nasty hit he took last week.

*****

Seems like all the intangibles favor the Eagles, for whatever that’s worth.

The Vikings are coming off a miracle win. Those teams tend to lose the next week.

The Eagles are the underdogs and that has given the players an extra bit of motivation.

The Eagles are the home team and play lights out at The Linc.

Dome teams struggle on the road in the postseason.

*****

Playing with the lead or in a close game is crucial for the Eagles. If they get down a couple of scores, that gives the Vikings a big advantage. The Eagles played with the lead for most of the year. Last week was back and forth, but even when they trailed it wasn’t by much. There was never real pressure on Foles or the Eagles.

No matter what happens, it sure does feel good to have the Eagles playing in big games again. Playoff football is the best.

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Game Preview – MIN at PHI

Posted: January 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 527 Comments »

Win the week.

That’s been Doug Pederson’s message all year and it stays the same this week. This is the NFC championship game, but the Eagles need to handle their business the way they’ve done all year. I wrote about that for PE.com.

The Eagles are at their best when they are loose and aggressive. They need to have fun and play with emotion. You can’t do that if you’re uptight and focused on trophies. Just go out and play football. Beat the Vikings and win the week.

Seeing this made me feel good.

https://twitter.com/JClarkNBCS/status/954744108815454208

That’s the Eagles team I want to see on the field.

Now let’s talk about the game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Big V vs Everson Griffen – Griffen had 13 sacks this year and is an explosive pass rusher. He is especially dangerous for Big V because he can win with speed and power. If Vaitai sets too hard to the outside, Griffen can attack him directly and drive him back toward Nick Foles. We’ve seen Vaitai struggle with power rushes in multiple games this year. If Vaitai tries to set strong so he can anchor well, Griffen can fly around the edge.

The Eagles must have a good plan for Griffen. They need to use TEs, RBs and even WRs to chip block him. They need to run screen passes and draws to his side, using his aggressive style against him. And running at him to wear him down would be wise as well.

Eagles CBs vs Thielen and Diggs – This is the most dangerous pair of WRs the Eagles have faced. Sanu and Jones from last week were good, but the Eagles matched up well with them (bigger, more physical guys). Thielen and Diggs are outstanding route runners. They can get open with crisp routes and good athleticism. Darby and Mills are aggressive CBs. They like to take chances. If they guess wrong, Thielen and Diggs could burn them.

Those guys will be dangerous after the catch as well. Think about how the Giants caught passes in space and then turned those into huge plays. The Eagles must tackle well and keep things in front of them.

Vikings blitz vs Eagles protection – Minnesota isn’t afraid to rush extra players. They have outstanding cover corners so they can take chances and still feel good about the back end of the defense. Foles must read the blitzes accurately before and after the snap. He needs to make quick decisions. You don’t want him holding the ball and backpedaling. RBs must read the blitz and know whether to block or go out for a pass. The O-line must do their part as well. Foles isn’t a QB who can create a lot on his own. He needs good protection.

Nelson vs Newman – The Vikings have really good outside corners so it makes sense to attack their slot guy with Agholor. Terence Newman is a smart veteran, but Agholor has an advantage with speed and quickness. Agholor is dangerous after the catch and this would be an ideal game for him to break off a big gain.

Brandon Graham vs Rashod Hill – Hill has good length and has played well at times. He is a tall OT who can be too upright at times. Graham, only 6-1, can be effective by staying under his pads. Graham can also use power moves and drive him back toward Keenum.

STRATEGY

Minnesota loves to use picks and rub routes. Those are especially effective on 3rd and short or medium. If they can run the ball effectively, that will put them in good 3rd down situations and help their passing game. The Eagles have dealt with picks all year long, but they can be troublesome.

The Eagles must keep Case Keenum in the pocket. That means rushing the passer under control. Collapse the pocket and make him throw in traffic. He’s still good there, but Keenum is most dangerous when extending plays. The Eagles have faced guys like Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson so this won’t be new to them. Keenum also might remind you  of Kirk Cousins.

The Eagles must stick with the run. Foles isn’t going to carry the offense. Even if the run is only marginally effective, it helps to keep trying it. That will give play-action passes and RPOs a better chance to be effective. Plus, you don’t want the Vikings rushing the passer play after play. You want the Eagles pounding on their front seven.

NON-STARS TO WATCH

Corey Clement – If the Eagles want to throw to the RB as a way to negate blitzes, Clement is the best receiver. He’s also a good pass protector. He could play more than usual.

Torrey Smith – The Eagles opened up last week by throwing deep to Smith, who was open. It won’t shock me if they throw deep to him again this week. At the very least, it gets the defense’s attention. Weather won’t be much of a factor today so the deep ball has a much better chance to work this week.

Tom Johnson – The least known of the Vikings DL, but Johnson is a good player. The Eagles OL must do a good job on all the Vikings DL. Focus too much on Linval Joseph and Johnson can beat you.

THE PICK

The Eagles don’t need to be perfect this week to win, but they can’t be as sloppy as they were last week. Maybe some of that was rust. Regardless, the team needs to play a cleaner game this time out. Home-field advantage does make a difference. There is no question that the Eagles are better at home and the Vikings aren’t as good on the road.

I think the Eagles defense can keep the Vikings under control. They’ll need to do that because I just don’t see Foles winning a shootout. I do feel encouraged by the way he played in the 2nd half last week. Foles got into a good rhythm and moved the ball effectively. I know most of that was short throws, but no QB has played well in the last few games at The Linc. The cold and the wind shut down Derek Carr, Dak Prescott and Matt Ryan as well as Foles.

I trust Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo to be able to carve out just enough offense to win this game. The Eagles have found a way to move the ball and score against teams all year. Carson Wentz was the key to a lot of that, but don’t ignore the play-calling, blocking, running and pass-catching done by the players who will be on the field today.

The Eagles have only lost two real games this year, at KC and at Seattle. Both were road games against tough teams. Both losses involved lots of Eagles mistakes. When this team plays good, clean football, they win.

Eagles 19
Vikings 13

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Loving The Linc

Posted: January 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 186 Comments »

A few years back, the Eagles were a mediocre home team. Lincoln Financial Field still had crazy, passionate fans, but their energy just didn’t translate into improved performance by the team. Boy has that changed in the Doug Pederson era.

The Eagles were 6-2 at The Linc in 2016. They dominated the Steelers, winning 34-3. The Eagles manhandled the Falcons, who eventually made it to the Super Bowl. The Eagles even beat the Minnesota Vikings, 21-10.

This year, the Eagles took it up a notch.

PHI 27, NYG 24
PHI 34, ARZ 7
PHI 34, WAS 24
PHI 33, SF 10
PHI 51, DEN 23
PHI  31, CHI 3
PHI 19, OAK 10
DAL 6, PHI 0

PHI 15, ATL 10

The Eagles gave up 13.4 points per home game. They were stifling on defense. In the last four games, they gave up a total of 29 points. The Vikings scored 29 last week in their playoff win over the Saints.

It is fair to point out that the Eagles didn’t face a great set of offenses in home games this season. The flip side of that is that the Eagles didn’t just play well, they dominated. Denver scored 23, but 14 of those points came in the 4th quarter with the game well out of reach and one of the TDs was a fumble return by the Broncos D.

The defense gets better as the game goes along. The Eagles starters haven’t given up a second half TD since the bye week. They shutout the Falcons after halftime last week.

Why is the defense so good at The Linc?

The fans are part of it. Crowd noise affects the opposing offense. It makes it harder for them to communicate and it can affect the snap count. There is also the fact that the fans create energy and emotion. The players feed off that. The Eagles are at their best when they play with attitude. Playing at The Linc brings out that attitude in them.

There are times when home-field advantage seems overrated. These are the best teams in the league. Where you play shouldn’t make that much of a difference. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year for the Eagles or the Vikings.

AC Viking, our beloved Eagles historian and occasional stats guru, put together the home/road splits for the Eagles and Vikings.

HOME / ROAD SPLITS

MIN Def – away PHI Def – home
Rush yards per game 112.1  (55.4 at home) 71.3  (86.8 on road)
Pass yards per game 190.6  (195 at home) 209.3  (244.8 on road)
Total yards per game 302.8  (254 at home) 280.7  (331.5 on road)
3rd down conversions 27.2%  (23.2% at home) 27.1%  (38% on road)
Completion % 54.3 60.1
Opp QB rating 71.6  (70.9 at home) 75.7  (82.9 on road)
Sacks 13  (24 at home) 17  (21 on road)
INTs 6 11
1st downs allowed 15.6  (14.1 at home) 15.5  (16.3 on road)
Rush TDs allowed 7  (3 at home) 0  (7 on road)
Pass TDs allowed 8  (6 at home) 11 (13 on road)
Pts per game (last 5 gms) 18.2  (10 at home) 10.3  (24 on road)
Pts per game (all 2017) 19  (12.5 at home) 13  (23.5 on road)

It doesn’t take a genius to see both teams are substantially better at home.

The number that jumps out is the sack total. That tells you the noise in the dome makes a real difference in those pass rushers getting off the ball quickly. This doesn’t mean Nick Foles will have a clean pocket and all day to throw, but clearly there is a difference.

The Eagles are a game away from the Super Bowl. A big part of that is that the team is so dominant at Lincoln Financial Field.

You can see just how critical it is that this team has HFA. If the Eagles had stumbled during the regular season and were now headed to Minnesota to play the title game, I would have serious concerns. Being at home makes a difference. Maybe just enough of a difference for Foles and Co. to get to the big game.

*****

One big concern.

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