Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Resurgent Eagles take aim at playoff berth

Posted by Eric Fisher On December 27

The Eagles are playing their best football of the season. But will their season end this Sunday?

The Eagles (8-7) need to beat the host Redskins (7-8) on Sunday (4:25 p.m.) in order to make the playoffs. But they also need the Bears (11-4) to defeat the Vikings (8-6-1), who hold the second and final NFC wild card berth, in order to defend their Super Bowl title during the postseason.

The Eagles’ resurgence has been fueled, in part, by Nick Foles replacing the injured Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback. The offense has been much smoother and more efficient with Foles as the starter. After only scoring 30 or more points once during the first 13 games of the season, the Eagles reached that total against both the NFC West-champion Rams and the AFC South-leading Texans.

With the way Foles is playing, there shouldn’t be a quarterback controversy if the Eagles qualify for the playoffs. We’ll find out Sunday if they make it.

The following are 10 questions to consider prior to and during Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Redskins.

Why is this game important to the Eagles?

They need to beat the Redskins to qualify for the playoffs. Of course, the Eagles also need the Bears to defeat the Vikings (8-6-1) in order to make the playoffs. But the Bears-Vikings game doesn’t matter if the Eagles don’t beat the Redskins.

Why does Sunday’s game matter to the Bears?

If the 49ers beat the Rams (12-3) on Sunday, the Bears can snag the second seed in the NFC by beating the Vikings. Head coach Matt Nagy has said he will monitor the Rams-49ers game and, depending on the score, could make a change at halftime. But the Bears will begin the game giving it their all. Another factor is that if the Bears can’t catch the Rams, they will open the playoffs against either the Vikings or Eagles, so they have some control over which team is their first-round opponent.

Is there any reason to fear the Redskins?

Despite an incredible 24 players on injured reserve, the Redskins have played tough throughout this season. They beat the Jaguars two weeks ago and then led the Titans last week until late in the fourth quarter. Don’t expect the Redskins to roll over and die on Sunday.

Is Nick Foles as good as he looked last week against the Texans?

Foles set a single-game franchise record with 471 passing yards against the Texans. Fans shouldn’t expect four touchdowns and 400-plus passing yards from Foles every week, so he’s probably not as good as he was against the Texans or in last season’s Super Bowl. But he is that good as a leader. For Foles to step in, both last season and this season, and get his teammates to respond tells you all you need to know about Foles’ leadership.

What’s been an overlooked reason for the Eagles’ late-season resurgence?

The return of Darren Sproles has been extremely important for the Eagles. Whether it’s catching a pass or squirting through a hole in the line, Sproles has a knack for making big plays at crucial junctures. Retirement seemed to be on the horizon for Sproles, but could his performance after missing half the season with a hamstring injury cause him to re-evaluate his future?

Who is the Redskins’ starting quarterback?

During the Eagles’ victory over the Redskins earlier this month, we saw Colt McCoy, the backup to Alex Smith, suffer a broken tibia. He was replaced by former Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was terrible in that game. Sanchez has since been replaced by Josh Johnson. Johnson is competitive, but he’s the fourth-string quarterback for a reason. Imagine if the Eagles were starting whoever would be the replacement for Nate Sudfeld.

What should we expect from receiver Mike Wallace?

Their Eagles activated the veteran receiver, who broke his ankle in the second game of the season. Expect Wallace to get some playing time so the Eagles can watch him run routes in game conditions. Don’t be disappointed, though, if he doesn’t get a lot of targets.

Which Eagles have something to prove Sunday?

A lot of them. Running back Josh Adams, who lost a critical fumble against the Texans, could use a good game to re-establish trust with the coaching staff. Most of the defensive secondary, with the exception of Malcolm Jenkins and Avonte Maddox, is not guaranteed a roster spot next season.

Which big-name players could be playing their final games as Eagles?

If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs, left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and defensive end Brandon Graham could be playing their final games as Eagles. Peters and Sproles, increasingly hindered by injuries the past few seasons, might be headed for retirement. Graham’s departure would be due to the Eagles’ decision not to pay him what he’s like in a new contract. Defensive linemen Chris Long, Tim Jernigan and Haloti Ngata also may be playing their final games as Eagles.

Is this Nick Foles’ final game as an Eagle?

If the Eagles don’t qualify for the playoffs, Sunday will probably be Foles’ final game as an Eagles. This is the case for several reasons. First, it’s likely that some NFL team will decide that Foles would be an upgrade over their current starting quarterback. Foles wouldn’t want to leave to be a backup with another team, but he’s likely to get an opportunity to be a starter. Another reason is that Carson Wentz may not be comfortable with Foles as his backup. Although both have handled the situation well, it must be tough for Wentz to see the offense perform better with Foles at the helm this season. The prospect of fans calling for Foles to start every time Wentz struggles would not be a good situation.

Prediction: The Eagles will win. They are a better team than the Redskins and have more incentive to play well. What the Eagles can’t control is the outcome of the game between the Vikings and the Bears. They gave up control of their own destiny a long time ago. Eagles 33, Redskins 13

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