Eagles' Top 3 Threats in NFC Playoff Picture - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Eagles' Top 3 Threats in NFC Playoff Picture



    Eagles' Top 3 Threats in NFC Playoff Picture
    Eagles' top 3 threats in NFC playoff picture

    Cowboys Week. Two words that are music to an Eagles fan's ears. That tune is particularly pleasing when the Cowboys are in turmoil. 

    Their star player is suspended, they allowed eight sacks Sunday, including six by one player (Adrian Clayborn). And their owner is battling not only the league commissioner but also one of his fellow owners. Sprinkle on top the fact that the Eagles are 8-1, coming off a week's rest leading into their game against said Cowboys and life is good in Birdland. 

    A win Sunday night could be the deathblow to the Cowboys' playoff hopes. So while much of the focus this week will be on Dallas, let's take a look at some of the other threats to the Eagles in the NFC.

    Saints (7-2)
    New Orleans is red-hot right now. While the Saints have one more loss than the Eagles, they have matched the Birds' current winning streak of seven games. This is not your daddy's, or uncle's, or even older brother's Saints. Their formula for winning used to be throw, then throw, then throw some more. Not anymore. They are third in the NFL in rushing at 142.2 yards per game. They sport a one-two punch at running back with veteran Mark Ingram providing the power and rookie Alvin Kamara with the explosiveness. 

    They still rank in the top five in passing yards, and Drew Brees in his 17th season at 38 years young can still sling it. But he's not being asked to carry them as he has in years past. Gone is the predictable system of dropping back 40 to 50 times per game. 

    The other stark difference in the 2017 Saints is they can defend. They're fifth in points allowed and seventh in passing yards permitted per contest. When you can run and play defense, you travel well, hence the 4-1 road record. The Saints are no longer just a dome team.

    Next three games: vs. Redskins (4-5), at Rams (7-2), vs. Panthers (6-3)

    Vikings (7-2)
    I know you wrote them off when Sam Bradford went down with yet another knee injury. Or you never believed in them at all because Bradford was their quarterback. You're not buying Case Keenum as a starter? Whatever your reasoning is for pessimism, you may want to get past it. Minnesota is for real. The Vikings have won five in a row, led by their defense, which is one of three units tied with the Saints and Seahawks for fifth in the league in points allowed. 

    The Vikes are third in the league in rushing (Eagles are first), and they're strong against the pass as well. Offensively, their receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen has blossomed into a potent one regardless of who is playing quarterback. Keenum has done a very nice job, and Teddy Bridgewater is now active and could spell him if he goes off the rails. Four different receivers caught touchdowns against the Redskins Sunday.       

    Next three: vs. Rams (7-2), at Lions (5-4), at Falcons (5-4) 

    Rams (7-2)
    A bust of a quarterback? A 30-year-old head coach? Playing in a half-empty stadium in a city that doesn't care about pro football? You heard all of that this past offseason. You may have even participated in that kind of chatter when it came to the Rams. We all might want those back. 

    The Rams are legit. 

    They lead the NFL in scoring at 32.9 points per game and are allowing just 18.0 per game, good for fourth-best. Their point differential this season is an astounding plus-134. By comparison, the Eagles are plus-104. 

    Sean McVay has breathed new life into an organization that was on life support under Jeff Fisher. Jared Goff, prematurely written off by some as a bust after one season, is showing why he was chosen first overall two drafts ago. The Rams have scored at least 27 points in eight of their nine games this season. And the L.A. defense led by Aaron Donald plays a punishing style up front and in the back end. 

    The Rams have won four in a row. Mark your calendar for Dec. 10 at 4:25 for their matchup at home against the Eagles. That game could determine homefield advantage in the NFC. 

    Next three: at Vikings (7-2), vs. Saints (7-2), at Cardinals (4-5)

    Teams that shouldn't be written off
    Panthers 6-3

    Seahawks 6-3

    Cowboys 5-4

    Packers 5-4 (Aaron Rodgers could be back in December)

    Falcons 5-4