The bye week given to the top-ranked team in the conference is like a double-edged sword for everyone, especially the Eagles. While rest can be a much-needed thing for older football teams, the fear of rust in not playing meaningful football in weeks is certainly a real concern.
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have to look far for evidence on this. Just last season, the Green Bay Packers lost in the divisional round as the top seed of the NFC playoffs with their offense looking supremely rusty. No top seed in the NFC playoffs has gotten to the Super Bowl since the 49ers did it in 2019-20.
Philadelphia is the last top seed to win the Super Bowl as the conference’s number one seed. And while the fear of rust could certainly be a concern for their fans, there are many similarities to that 2017-18 season with this roster.
It could determine if the Eagles go home prematurely Saturday as well.
Late Season Play
In 2017-18, the Eagles lost their franchise quarterback to injury and played extremely poorly with their backup quarterback. It wasn’t a surprise that fans and analysts were picking the Eagles as the team most likely to lose in the divisional round because of this.
This current Eagles squad is very similar. Philadelphia has lost two of their last three games and hasn’t played a good game in over a month. It’s hard to feel confident going up against a team they’ve played twice before.
But much like the 2017 squad, the Eagles got the matchup they would have preferred going into the playoffs. Avoiding Tom Brady and Dak Prescott in the divisional round is similar to the Eagles avoiding Drew Brees and Jared Goff in 2017.
Avoiding an upset is key for the Eagles on Saturday, but there should be some comfort in knowing that their poor play down the stretch isn’t the nail in the coffin that others are saying. Rust may be a concern, but it shouldn’t be as big of a concern with the Eagles needing to play their starters in the last week of the year.
We already mentioned how quarterback effectiveness has been an issue for the Eagles even when they are at their best in previous playoff runs. This year may be a little different, but the concerns are there.
Jalen Hurts has been an MVP candidate all season. His improvements in the passing game have changed the entire outlook of the franchise. Yet his shoulder injury late in the year has led to Philadelphia struggling down the stretch offensively.
Hurts has put up his two worst passing performances in his last two starts. He comes into this playoff game against New York, not at 100%, and with plenty of concerns about his effectiveness if he can’t move around properly because of his shoulder injury.
In this way, rest plays an important factor. The Eagles’ offense has shown all season they can put up points. Giving Hurts rest by not playing during the bye week was the goal. Even if Hurts is not 100%, the extra rest should certainly help him get as close to it as possible.
AP Photo/Duane Burleson