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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On December 5

Despite a season of ups and downs, with the scale seemingly tipped in favor of “downs,” the Eagles find themselves in control of their own destiny with one-fourth of the season remaining.

Monday’s 28-13 victory over the Redskins improved the Eagles’ record to 6-6, [pulling them within one game of the first-place Cowboys (7-5). The Eagles, who have won two straight games for the first time this season, can gain a share of first place by stretching that winning streak to three games Sunday (4:25 p.m.) against the Cowboys.

Not only would a road win over the Cowboys elevate the Eagles into a first-place tie in the NFC East, but it would give the Eagles the edge over the Cowboys against NFC East opponents. With the Eagles and Cowboys splitting their two games against each other, an edge in the second tiebreaker, which the Eagles could wrap up by beating the Redskins in their season finale, is extremely important.

A victory over the Cowboys, however, shouldn’t be equated with a division-clinching triumph. The following week the Eagles hit the road to take on the Rams, who have the best record in the NFL and have already clinched the NFC West title. The Eagles return home on Dec. 23 to battle the AFC South-leading Texans, who have won nine straight games since starting the season 0-3. In other words, even if the Eagles win Sunday, they would still have a difficult road to travel to capture the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys face the Colts (6-6), Buccaneers (5-7) and Giants (4-8) after hosting the Eagles. That’s a much more favorable schedule than what the Eagles have in front of them. And while the Redskins (6-6) seem to be sliding toward oblivion, especially with Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback, their schedule (Giants, Jaguars, Titans) before finishing the regular season against the Eagles, isn’t overly difficult.

The Eagles also are back in the wild card hunt, but there are too many variables there beyond their control. By contrast, the Eagles can control their fate in the NFC East.

And, although a victory Sunday doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a division crown, an NFC East title is nearly impossible without a win over the Cowboys this Sunday.

*****

MAJOR MOVE: The Phillies made a major move by trading for Mariners shortstop Jean Segura. The two-time all-star is a contact hitter, which the Phillies desperately need in their strikeout-heavy lineup.

In addition to acquiring Segura, the Phillies rid themselves of Carlos Santan’s contract, which had two more years at $20 million per season remaining. If he had returned, Santana would have either continued to block Rhys Hoskins at first base, which was unlikely, or been a defensive liability at third base. The other possibility is that Santana would have become an extremely expensive bench player.

Accompanying Santana to Seattle is shortstop J.P. Crawford, who couldn’t seem to stay healthy or hit with consistency. Now we have to wait to see if the Phillies can land a big fish – Manny Machado or Bryce Harper – in free agency.

The acquisition of Segura should convince free agents that the Phillies are committed to winning. However, Machado prefers to play shortstop over third base, so it’s possible that Segura’s presence makes the Phillies a less appealing destination for Machado.

*****

FORMER EAGLES: This was a bad week for former Eagles quarterbacks. After Colt McCoy broke the fibula in his right leg, Mark Sanchez, signed a few weeks earlier when starter Alex Smith broke his leg, was pressed into action, his first appearance since the final week of the 2016 season, when he started for the Cowboys against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Sanchez completed a respectable 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards, but he threw one interception and nearly threw another one while looking skittish against the Eagles’ pass rush.

Another former Eagles quarterback, Chase Daniel struggled during a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants. One week after completing 27 of 37 passes, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, during a 23-16 win over the Lions, Daniel threw two interceptions while completing 26 of 39 passes against the Giants. The Bears expect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to return from injury this week, so, unlike Sanchez, Daniel’s return to the spotlight may already be over.

*****

BARKLEY’S MAGIC: If anyone is still questioning Saquon Barkley’s value, they need to watch his play before halftime of Sunday’s Giants-Bears game. Trailing 14-7 and facing thrd-and-23 with time running out in the first half, the Giants decided to hand the ball to Barkley for a run up the middle, forcing the Bears to use their final timeout. But Barkley had other ideas.

The Giants had given up on the first half, but the rookie from Penn State had not given up. Barkley changed direction several times, juking his way in and out of blockers and defenders until he picked up 22 yards. The Giants then changed strategies, throwing a complete 9-yard pass on fourth down to set up a field goal as time expired in the first half. They then used that momentum to defeat the Bears in overtime, 30-27. But it never would have happened if not for Barkley’s remarkable 22-yard run. The Giants had give

*****

OWLS OVERCOME ADVERSITY: When Temple opened the season with losses to Villanova and Buffalo, few would have believed that the Owls would be headed to a bowl game. Even after five games, following a loss at Boston College, the Owls’ postseason hopes looked slim. But the Owls overcame their poor start to post an 8-4 record, with one of their remaining losses coming against undefeated Central Florida, to earn a bowl berth for the fourth straight season.

Temple will take on Duke (7-5) in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m.) in Shreveport, La. The Owls could be hindered in that game. Quarterback Anthony Russo had a cast on his hand while sitting out the regular-season finale against Connecticut. Running back Ryquell Armstead left the UConn game with an injury. The status of each player for the Independence Bowl is uncertain, but, even if the team’s top running back and quarterback can’t play, nobody should count out the Owls.

*****

LIONS’ PRIDE: Penn State isn’t going to one of the top bowls, but the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions (9-3) should be pleased that they’re going to be playing on New Year’s Day. Penn State will meet 14th-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 1 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

If not for narrow losses at home to Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back games, the Nittany Lions would have gone to a higher profile game, and may even have qualified for the national championship playoffs, but Penn State should be satisfied with a New Year’s sendoff for quarterback and team leader Trace McSorley.

*****

IT HURTS SO GOOD: Hollywood can’t improve upon real life. That’s the only way to explain what happened in the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia. This was a rematch of last season’s national championship game. In that game, Alabama head coach replaced starter Jalen Hurts with Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to the national championship.

Instead of transferring, Hurts remained at Alabama instead of transferring. Hurts played the good soldier all season while Tagovailoa led the Tited to an undefeated record. But when Taovailoa was injured in the SEC Championship Game, Hurts came off the bench  to help Alabama overcome a 14-point deficit. Hurts provided the winning score with a 15-yard run with 1:04 remaining to boost ‘Bama to a 35-28 triumph. You couldn’t write a better ending to this story – unless it happens again in this season’s national championship game.

*****

TRADITION: The Army-Navy game, one of the best rivalries in college football, takes place Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. This wonderful tradition is always one of the highlights of the college football season.

*****

WING BOWL: The Philadelphia Wings, the new lacrosse franchise whose name evokes memories of the old lacrosse franchise, opens its season on Sat., Dec. 15 (1 p.m.) against Buffalo at Wells Fargo Center.

                                 *****                               

WINTER SPORT? Yes, they’re still playing soccer. Portland and Atlanta square off for the MLS Cup on Saturday (8 p.m.). Can you imagine a soccer game at night this weekend in Philadelphia, New York, Boston or Chicago? The MLS season is much too long.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, actually feels bad for the Redskins after watching them lose to the Eagles with a third-string quarterback and a pair of third-string guards.

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