PHILADELPHIA – I’ll always consider myself a reporter first but over the years the sojourn to talking head has manifested itself and that move requires participation in certain sports-talk tropes that are both mind-numbing and soul-crushing for those of us trying to elevate the medium.
One of the biggest hat tips to the least common denominator for me is the annual spring release of the NFL schedule, which has spawned the always meaningless “Dat’s a win, dat’s a loss game,” so coined by me as a tribute to Mike Francesa, who may not have created this blight on society but certainly popularized it.
And those who come back with the “it’s just fun” argument, tend to be reactionaries recalibrating to common sense after being informed of how obtuse the exercise really is.
Fighting it is like swimming upstream, however, so my goal is to add every layer of context available with the biggest one being “tell me who’s healthy and who isn’t when so and so plays.”
On Dec. 17, it was inconceivable that the middling New Orleans Saints would roll into Lincoln Financial Field on New Year’s Day and even give the then-12-1 Eagles a game.
On the route to 13-1 in Chicago the next day, however, Jalen Hurts sprained the SC joint in his shoulder, and injuries to Lane Johnson (torn core muscle) and Avonte Maddox (toe) followed at Dallas before a scary scene at Lincoln Financial Field saw Josh Sweat carted off with a neck injury.
The result is a two-game losing streak with Sunday’s 20-10 debacle against NOLA creating the trademarked Philadelphia angst of looking to the sky for that other shoe playing anvil on the head of Wild E. Coyote.
The Eagles are out of mulligans and Hurts is expected to be back in the lineup for the needed Week 18 game against the New York Giants.
The funny thing is the surprising Giants don’t need it after clinching the No. 6 seed in the postseason with a dominating win over Indianapolis on Sunday. More so, New York has a real opportunity to reach the divisional round with its likely opponent being flailing Minnesota, which is down three starting offensive linemen at the worst time, and taking on water in advance of the playoffs.
The point there is twofold in that it would be silly for now-likely Coach of the Year Brian Daboll to risk his key starters just to affect Philadelphia’s seeding and injuries to the right people at the wrong time could have attrition pressing the stop button on any season.
The good news for the Eagles is that it just pressed pause. Hurts is coming back, Johnson is going to try to play in the postseason, and there is still hope with Maddox (evidenced by the fact that Philadelphia didn’t place him on injured reserve), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (lacerated kidney), and Sweat.
Thank you for your prayers and support 🙏🏾 I’ll be back this season! #GoBirds
— Josh Sweat (@SweatyJ_9) January 2, 2023
The lesson learned without those kinds of players is that “next man up,” is a coaching tool designed to prop up lesser players. It doesn’t mean Gardner Minshew can duplicate what the potential MVP can or that a solid backup like Jack Driscoll can replace the “best right tackle in the world.”
It means, let’s persevere until we get those players back.
As for the Eagles’ playoff prediction, that’s easy — tell me who’s available.