Could the Eagles really be playing possum ahead of NFL playoffs?

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles are getting ready to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round of the NFL Playoffs on Monday Night. After starting the season 10-1 with impressive wins, the team collapsed during a stretch where they clinched the playoffs. There’s a wild array of theories going around that people have used to explain this sudden collapse.

Are the Eagles playing possum

One of those theories follows the thought that the Eagles coasted into the and scaled back a bit to preserve themselves for the playoffs. This feels valid enough to believe. Follow me down the rabbit hole before you judge that possibility. 

In the NBA, teams sit their highly coveted stars to help preserve their bodies for the playoffs through a grueling 82-game stretch. At one point, coaches were sitting their stars in big regular season games which the NBA had fought to make sure it didn’t happen again. But that hasn’t stopped them from resting stars regardless. 

As for the MLB, teams rest their stars all the time. Granted, their season is 162 games long but you see different variations of their lineup every week. The thought here is just like the NBA’s, rest your big names for the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts reacts after being sacked by the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Why wouldn’t a top team in the NFL test this idea in a 17-game season?  Especially a team in a very weak conference where their initial threats are 1-2 teams. Would you honestly think that Nick Sirianni is not capable of this? He preaches having a competitive advantage in nearly every press conference. From injuries to even recapping plays that were called. A plan like this could end up revolutionizing the NFL if the handful of top teams were to do this.

If the Eagles were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot with a fairly easy schedule after the second Cowboys game, why would you show your best hand? Why not bluff your way into the playoffs and keep your poker face? 

If this was the plan, it may have backfired on them when facing the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Giants. Witnessing injuries to DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Reed Blankenship, and even Jalen Hurts certainly put a spanner in the works. If the Eagles were committing to this kind of plan, surely they would be resting starters instead of feeding them to a hungry pack of Wolves.

Eagles change in philosophy

All season long the Eagles’ offense has taken a very basic approach in not only their play-calling but in their concepts. Had the Eagles followed the example left by Shane Steichen, then the NFL landscape would’ve deemed them even more predictable.

The film was already out on their high-octane offense and at times this season it felt as if they were testing certain plays to see what works better for them versus what doesn’t. 

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, right, celebrates a catch with cornerback Darius Slay, center, and head coach Nick Sirianni, left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

After defeating the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bills, the Eagles were then blown out by the 49ers and Cowboys on back-to-back games. Both of these teams could end up facing the Eagles if they do defeat the Bucs. We could see a matchup between the 49ers and the Eagles as early as the second round. Why would the Eagles roll over for either of those teams? They wouldn’t but they did see what cards both teams are using against them which could be a competitive advantage. Especially if other teams are expecting the woeful Eagles.

Call it playing possum. Say it’s not possible. Declare to the mountain tops that the Eagles are just a mess after three years under the same head coach. You can believe what you want to believe but if you want a little glimmer of hope, then why not jump down the rabbit hole and invest in this theory? 

AP Photo/Matt Slocum