Five things to watch in Eagles week 17 clash with Cowboys


Week 17 is upon us and the Philadelphia Eagles will renew their fiercest rivalry once more. Completely mirroring what we saw last season, the Eagles are now the NFC East champions and will be looking to make the most of a game without consequence on Sunday. Doug Pederson stated today that all of his starters would play…but for how long? Here are five things to watch when the NFL’s most intense rivalry opens its gates once more.


How long will Nick Foles remain on the field?
The Eagles face a quarterback conundrum this weekend. Nick Foles is coming off of a horrible game against Oakland which has been well documented by now. Completing 50% of his 38 passes and struggling to get the ball outside, Foles looked unsettled from the opening few snaps of the contest. It’s clear that there are some kinks that need to be worked out, but could the Eagles risk an injury with the dream playoff scenario just one week from beginning to unfold?

Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld waits in the wings and if Foles had been as accurate and consistent as he was against the Giants, then this wouldn’t be a discussion. But the Eagles need to weigh up whether or not they want to help Foles build further chemistry with his receivers, or pass the reins over to Sudfeld, who could be forced into action at any point with no game experience under his belt at this point.

If the Eagles begin to blowout the Cowboys, expect Foles to be pulled early. But if it’s a tight game, would the Eagles insert Sudfeld knowing this is a game without consequence?


One last backfield battle:
The Eagles backfield has changed drastically since the start of the season. The addition of Jay Ajay has seen a new face at the forefront of the action, carrying the ball 12+ times in each of his last three games. Ajayi, Blount and Clement have made up a three-headed monster in the backend of the season, but even Kenjon Barner has forced his way into the equation.

The man left out in the cold has been sophomore running back, Wendell Smallwood. The Eagles have learned that the optimal amount of carried for their lead back this season Sits at around 10-12. It would not be surprising to see Blount left to rest and Ajayi’s role reduced. This opens a window for Clement, Smallwood and Barner all to prove their with as a crucial offseason decision looms over the heavily populated unit.


It’s time for another cornerback contest:
Sidney Jones is the name on the lips of Eagles fans this week. The rookie cornerback has missed the entire season with an injury suffered prior to the draft, allowing him to fall to the Birds in the second round. Now, nearly at full health and with the Eagles playing cards close to their chest, they have a narrow window in which to operate if they want to get Jones some experience before another long offseason beckons.

Also waiting in the wings is rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas, who has done nothing but progress and impress since he was first dropped into NFL waters filling in for Ronald Darby. With the playoffs looming and Jalen Mills having had another full body of work this season as the most targeted corner in the league, don’t be surprised to see Darby and Mills or a combination of the two take some time out, opening up the door for Douglas and Darby.

The other alternative is nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson. Although if he rests, it’s likely either Mills would move inside or Jaylen Watkins would drop down.


A linebacker reinvention:
It appears as if the Eagles have a new starting middle linebacker. With Joe Walker suffering an injury that’s kept him out of the last few games, the Eagles have been forced to turn to veteran Dannell Ellerbe. The former New Orleans Saint performed admirably last week against the Raiders and with just a one-year deal to his name, this is his last chance to prove to the rest of the NFL that he can still perform. The 32-year old may see his snaps shared with Najee Goode and maybe even Nate Gerry, but the MLB spot will be a position of interest as Simba watches on from a distance.


Finding a balance:
The main question that Doug Pederson has to answer is how many starters in this incredible team will be rested. Not every player will get the game off and Philly will have to be smart in how they approach this. Every player wants to play. This is where coaches prove their mettle.

The Eagles have achieved everything they could possibly dream of this season. With a bye-week ahead, this is one last time for fringe players or those on prove-it deals to prove their salt before playoff mode sets in.


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports