At long last, the Eagles and their fans can finally relax after the delay of the clinching the first round bye in the NFC and the division title for about 3 weeks. With that comes the luxury of having stress-free playoff football for a week. Because the Eagles are the 1 seed, there are 4 teams who they can possibly play next week in Philadelphia. Before that happens, here are some players to watch in this weekend’s games to prepare for next week.
The Seahawks quarterback has turned into the modern-day version of Rich Gannon. Geno Smith was originally drafted by the Jets in 2013 and before this season, was most well-known for ending Eli Manning’s consecutive start streak when he was on the Giants. After toiling as a backup for almost a decade, Smith finally got his chance to be a starting quarterback and has made the most of his opportunity.
He set the record this season for most passing yards in a single season for Seattle and finished with 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Smith has played very well all season but until he goes on a deep playoff run, it will be hard for many fans to see him as a franchise quarterback going forward. Winning against San Francisco and playing in Philadelphia next week would certainly build his career resume.
Coming into the season, Barkley had been hurt for almost 2 full years. The running back missed all of 2020 and was slowed by injury and looked like he was on his way out of the NFL after just 4 seasons. This year, however, Saquon has been reborn. He has 1,650 total yards in 16 games, his most yards and games played since his rookie year in 2018. Quarterback Daniel Jones has developed nicely throughout the season, but Barkley is the engine that makes their offense go.
The NFL is more QB-centered than ever, but Barkley has been the Giants best and most important player since he was drafted from Penn State. Their matchup against Minnesota is seemingly more even than some of the other playoff games, and if they can pull off the win, it will be off the back of Barkley.
Dak Prescott is a player that most Eagles are already very familiar with. While he has had a good amount of success against Philadelphia, that success hasn’t carried over to the playoffs. In his 7 years as a starter, the cowboys have made the playoffs 4 times, winning a playoff game just once and never making it past the divisional round. Playoff wins are a team statistic, but Prescott hasn’t helped much either, with untimely turnovers and bad decision-making, and situational awareness.
On the whole, Prescott has been a good player this year but not the elite one Cowboys fans gloat about. Prescott is tied for most interceptions in the NFL this season with 15, yet he missed 5 games. The best game of his season came against Philadelphia on Christmas Eve but I have a hard time seeing him replicating that performance.
Prescott has the potential to win a playoff game but doesn’t have much experience doing it. If the Cowboys are going to win and hope for a round 3 against the Eagles, they need Dak to perform beyond expectations.
Another quarterback that Eagles fans have seen enough of in the playoffs is Tom Brady. Even though he spent most of his career in the AFC with the Patriots, he has met the Eagles in the playoffs 3 times. The Buccaneers are not a very good team, as evidenced by their record and play this season, but they have the scary ability to turn things around at the flip of a switch, especially with Brady running the ship.
The GOAT has had a down year for his standards and could finally be meeting Father Time. Statistically, he still has a good year, with 25 touchdown passes to 9 interceptions and over 4,600 yards, but their offense can look lifeless for long stretches of games. This may be the weakest team Brady has ever made the playoffs with, but everyone knows not to write him off, especially if he came to play the Eagles for a rematch from last season’s playoffs.
The only way the Eagles would play against Lawrence and the Jaguars would be in the Super Bowl since they’re in different conferences, but I think that Eagles fans should root for him and Doug Pederson. Lawrence was dealt a horrible hand when he had Urban Meyer as his coach last year.
Slowly but surely, he gained Pederson’s trust and the two of them winning the division together is just a snapshot into their potential future. Lawrence and the Jaguars in general are an enjoyable and young team that may surprise some people in the postseason.
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