Are the Eagles risking it all by overthinking the injury to Jalen Hurts?

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs past Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage (26) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles sit at 13-3 on the season entering the final game of the year on Sunday. By most metrics, the franchise has had a special season, one the fans should celebrate. But with the team dropping their last two games and a rash of injuries plaguing the roster, it’s hard to feel as confident in the Eagles as people were a month ago.

Most of the confidence in 2022 has been built by the play of quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts has played like an MVP candidate all season and is the main reason that Philadelphia was able to jump out to a 13-1 record to start the season. But his shoulder injury has left the city in panic. Hurts is still a limited participant in practice and has missed the last two games.

With everything riding on Sunday’s game against the Giants, it’s clear that the Eagles coaching staff is gambling with Jalen Hurts even if it’s not the way people think.

Playoff Odds

The best chance for the Eagles to succeed in the playoffs is with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. That much is obvious. But how the team enters the postseason and who they play matters just as much.

The NFL playoffs are all about matchups. A poor matchup on wild card weekend could derail your season even if you were thought to have a great year.

If Philadelphia were to lose to New York on Sunday, they would go from the top seed to the fifth seed and go on the road in the first playoff game. One of the few ways people can see Philly losing on Sunday is if Jalen Hurts doesn’t play.

Philadelphia has no choice. Jalen Hurts must play on Sunday because the rash of injuries has reached a critical point where a bye week would come in at a much-needed time. There’s no guarantee Lane Johnson, Avonte Maddox, or others will be ready for wild-card weekend, but there’s a greater chance that they will be for the divisional round.

That means all focus should be on attaining the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

Coaching Staff on Injuries

Fans and analysts alike can tout the Eagles staff for not throwing Hurts out there at anything less than 100% to not risk further injury. In reality, by doing so Nick Sirianni and his staff have shown the appearance of a group willing to sacrifice wins for health.

The coaching staff is getting ahead of themselves.

If Jalen Hurts has deemed himself ready to play, and because the Eagles have not locked up the top seed, the coaching staff should have their franchise quarterback ready to go. If they were to sit Hurts for a third straight week, and Philadelphia loses on Sunday, they would have ultimate pressure on Hurts to win a road playoff game.

It’s unfair to the quarterback that got them here. The bye week for the top seed is in place for the best team in the conference to get healthy. If Hurts were to play on Sunday, he’ll have two weeks to get back to 100% as well.

In short, there’s no incentive to sit Hurts for a third straight week and then expect him to win in the playoffs immediately. For so long this season it appeared that the Eagles coaching staff has set their players and team up for success.

If they sit Hurts for a third straight game, it would be far more detrimental to their quarterback and roster than they realize.

Nick Sirianni is gambling that Jalen Hurts can win any playoff game no matter if it’s at home or on the road, but his gamble could blow up in his face just by the sure force of how things operate in the NFL.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum