Can the Eagles run away with a playoff berth this weekend?

NFL: NOV 03 Bears at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 03: Philadelphia Eagles Running Back Jordan Howard (24) rushes for a first down during the game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 3, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles are set to play their first game of 2022. ‘New year, new me’ will be the mantra for many, but fans will be hoping that their team can stay the same for at least one more week.

With week 17 on the horizon, the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing yards per game with an average of 163. That’s really impressive when you think about it. More than the Colts and human cheat code Jonathan Taylor, and more than Nick Chubb’s Browns or Derek Henry’s Titans.

The Eagles have 2,448 rushing yards on the year and are averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Miles Sanders now leads the team in rushing yards but is going to be out of action with a broken hand. The man next in command when it comes to rushing yards, Jalen Hurts, hasn’t looked anywhere near as dangerous since sustaining a high ankle sprain. It’s important that the Eagles don’t lose their identity despite being a little banged up.

After rushing for 50+ yards in six consecutive games, Hurts returned to the offense after missing a matchup and put up 38 yards against Washington. This was before he registered a season-low 7 yards against the Giants last week. Hurts may get back to his ‘freaky’ best this week, but there’s also a chance he doesn’t. If that does turn out to be the case, the Eagles can’t afford to load up pressure on his shoulders as a passer just yet.

When the two teams faced earlier in the year, the Birds put up 238 rushing yards. They might not be able to replicate that kind of dominance without Sanders in the fold and with Hurts potentially limited, but they do have options. Jordan Howard should be good to go and Boston Scott has been productive in bursts.

The wildcard who could se extra snaps today is rookie RB Kenny Gainwell. He started the season very strong and looked like he was going to displace Miles Sanders early on, but some fumbles and a lowly 3.8 YPC average quickly saw his role in the offense stagnate. He may get another shot at redemption today.

Washington’s run defense has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks. Their season average of 108 yards given up may rank 8th in the NFL, but they’ve allowed 156 yards per game in their last three, ranking 29th in the NFL. Injuries and COVID setbacks played a part, but Washington’s season quickly fell off the tracks and has only been getting more chaotic as the weeks go by.

There’s no reason that the Eagles should deviate away from their rushing heart and soul this weekend. It’s become their bread and butter and even with questions in the backfield and even at QB, they have more than enough firepower to handle a sputtering run defense. If they can do just enough to control the pace of the game, they should sail to a guaranteed playoff spot.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire