Pederson has Eagles laser-focused on overcoming Carolina, but do they have a mental edge?


The Eagles are preparing for arguably their toughest clash of the season. Locking heads with the Carolina Panthers who are also at 4-1, the Birds’ once again have the odds stacked against them. It’s a short week that involves a game on the road and once again the injury bug has ripped through the Locker room. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t subtly prepared.

A home win may have given the Eagles an extra shot of adrenaline for this week. Energy is high, confidence is higher and the upside of this team is the highest it has been in years. The consensus around the locker room is the same. This is a team that knows they have the potential to go all the way…but if they are to do so, this is one challenge they simply have to overcome.

Historically, the Eagles haven’t travelled well when it comes to Thursday Night Football. When playing on the road on either a Thursday or a Saturday game dating back to 2008, the Eagles are 0-3. With home game included, the team are 3-6. One of their three wins came just last season under the tutelage of current Head Coach of Doug Pederson. The trick to overcoming a short week? Prepare as if it doesn’t exist.

“We know guys are going to be sore, it’s a Thursday and guys are really starting to feel a little better by Thursday, but we got a game.” Doug Pederson told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s a tribute really to the players to how well they can get themselves ready, more mentally, because I know physically they’re going to be a little beat up.”

It’s easy to focus on the fact that the team are coming off of half a day’s rest on Monday and immediately begin to prepare for a game in just a few days. Preparation for such a circumstance has a lot more to do with mental preparation than any given Sunday, and it’s something that has been prioritized by a Head Coach who is 1-0 on Thursday Night games so far.

“I’ve seen really good focus.” Pederson said. “Coming in on a half a day’s rest on Monday, had a really good walk-through-type work out Monday afternoon, and then again yesterday. The way they moved around yesterday, even though they were extremely sore, their focus and attention to detail has been extremely high this week. The energy level has been there. And, listen, this has been, it’s been a successful couple of games for us and you can ride that emotion as well. So all that’s a positive going into a short week.”

Confidence is surging around the city of Philadelphia. The sense of excitement surrounding this team is at an all-time high and that feeds directly into the locker room. The work-ethic that Pederson has instilled has already fed directly into the team who are coming off of a huge 34-7 win over Arizona. For some, the work began just hours after the final snaps at the Line.

“You have to be extra prepared; you have to make sure that you stay locked in and know that you have a game within the next few days. LeGarrette Blount explained after the game. “You have to pay attention because you only have a few days to prepare, so we have to get to looking at film as soon as possible. Me myself, I’m going to start tonight. We have to make sure that we gather all the information that we can gather about them [Carolina Panthers] with such a short time period.”

The Eagles brought in plenty of new faces this offseason, many of whom are veterans of the game and have been here before. Whether it’s Blount mentoring a young Eagles backfield, or Patrick Robinson and an extremely youthful cornerback corps, the infusion of experience carries much more weight than just depth on the field. Having those leaders to lean on who know how to prepare and equip themselves both mentally and physically for a short week can make all the difference.

Short weeks are something that every NFL team encounters. For the Eagles, it becomes a case of adapting and making sure that the team are laser-focused on the Panthers who will be licking their lips at the prospect of picking apart a tired team on the road. Their Head Coach of course, doesn’t fall too far from the same tree where Pederson once blossomed.

Rivera was Reid’s linebacker coach between the years of 1999 and 2003. A Head Coach who has been to the Super Bowl himself, Rivera’s long tenure with the Panthers will be invaluable on Thursday Night. Both teams are at 4-1 and have similar strengths and weaknesses, including two very tall and athletic quarterbacks. It’s going to take some star power to separate the two 4-1 NFC title contenders on Thursday Night. Will it be Alshon Jeffery? Kelvin Benjamin? LeGarrette Blount? Christian McCaffrey? All we do know is, it’s on the players as Doug Pederson explained.

…”it’s about the players and how healthy and rested can I get the players with only a couple days before we — and then we got to travel, we got to get on a plane later today and travel and making sure that they’re doing and I’m doing everything in their behalf to make sure they’re fresh for Thursday night.”

A clash of two NFC Titans promises to bring with it plenty of ups, downs, and everything in-between. But for the Eagles to have a shot at walking away from this game with a win, preparation is vital…and that’s something Pederson has been intricately prioritizing over the past few days. The hard work mentally is done. What happens next, is all down to X’s and O’s.


Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports