February 02, 2023
There was a time when the Eagles were playing the best football in the NFL every week, rolling over their competition on a collision course with an early clinch, a first-round bye, and a division title.
And then it got weird. A lot of time off, a lot of lackluster football games, and a lot of injuries out of nowhere.
Luckily for the team now favored to win the Super Bowl next weekend, they got healthy and back to their winning ways — but it wasn't without a little playoff luck and weirdness too.
It all started on December 18, nearly two months ago in relation to Super Bowl LVII:
The Eagles handled the Bears in Chicago but lost Jalen Hurts to what went from being a very minor shoulder injury to a nagging one. He threw a few gorgeous passes after the shoulder was already hurt. What? It would cost him a pair of meaningful games.
Not long before game day, the Eagles announced Gardner Minshew was starting at QB. Philly needed to win the game to clinch everything – the NFC East, the No. 1 seed, and with it, a first-round bye and home-field advantage. It was somewhat competitive, but the dropoff in play from Hurts to his backup was apparent in the loss. Philly also bizarrely lost Avonte Maddox a few plays after he returned from injury himself, then lost Lane Johnson for the rest of the regular season. This was the last truly competitive game the Birds have played, a 40-32 loss in Dallas.
The Eagles needed this one, again, to clinch, and also to give them an increasingly valuable week to rest their starters. Minshew and the offense laid an egg, scoring just 10 points — the fewest all season. They also only had 67 rushing yards, the least all year. The team did not resemble the Eagles and forced a tough decision in Week 18.
Nick Sirianni had no choice but to play his first-team offense the final week of the season, including a less than full strength Hurts under center. What was weird? Well, they played against the Giants' second-stringers, as New York had already clinched their playoff seeding a week prior. The Eagles had to play all 60 minutes to win ugly, 22-16, to win the NFC East and a first-round playoff bye. The celebration was subdued.
A much-needed week of rest came during Wild Card Weekend.
For the 25th time in NFL history, two teams played three times. The Eagles completed the season sweep of the Giants in convincing fashion, 38-7. The game was not competitive.
The NFC Championship game was expected to be the biggest test for the Eagles this season. Instead, Brock Purdy got hurt, Josh Johnson got a concussion, and with no third quarterback, Purdy returned to hand it and dump it off. The Niners' offense was anemic and ineffective, and once again the Eagles won without much drama.
For the second time in four weeks, the Eagles will rest and have an extra week of prep. We are in no way knocking how good this Philadelphia team is, but it's hard to argue that their path to the Super Bowl was not among the easiest in history. A bye, a cakewalk against the Giants, a game against a team with no healthy quarterbacks, and then another bye.
The Eagles and Chiefs will both be healthy and prepared for Week 23 in Glendale, Arizona. Philly will enter the contest having not truly been tested with a full complement of players since before Christmas. There is no reason to expect they won't be able to answer the call, but there is a reason to expect something else weird will happen.
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