- Philadelphia is certainly lucky to have Nick Foles as a replacement for Wentz, though Foles doesn't have the same freewheeling escapability as the NFL MVP candidate.
Monday’s confirmation that Eagles QB Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear in Sunday’s game against the Rams split NFL fans into two distinct circles.
First there’s those who loved watching Wentz—die-hard Eagles fans, his North Dakota faithful and football junkies who enjoy drooling over his combination of size, awareness, speed and arm strength—who held a Twitter and talk-radio eulogy of sorts. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski even noted that there was a caller crying on WIP.
Then there was the callous NFL Waits for No Man circle—the same group who kicked up after injuries to high-profile players like Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, David Johnson and Eric Berry. While their message is rather callous, it reflects the chop-licking going on across a highly competitive NFC right now. The best team, who clinched their division in a gutsy win over the Rams with Nick Foles partially at the helm, has no chance of getting their MVP-candidate quarterback back for the playoffs.
“You sure can [overcome it], heck yeah,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “We overcame a Pro Bowl left tackle, we overcame our middle linebacker, we overcame a running back, we overcame a core special teams player this year, a kicker—this is no different.
“Each one of these guys that I mentioned is tough to replace. But you know what? The reasons we went out and got Nick Foles were for reasons like this and for situations like this.”
This is what Pederson is supposed to say. Here’s what his opponents are actually thinking:
• They won’t be averaging 390.5 yards per game (third-best in the NFL) anymore.
• They almost certainly won’t be converting on 46% of their third downs (again, third-best in the NFL) anymore. While Foles is an experienced NFL quarterback with a Pro Bowl season in his past, he doesn’t have the freewheeling escapability of Wentz. This season alone on third downs, Wentz has emerged from dog piles and scrambled for first downs. Second to only Russell Wilson and maybe Cam Newton, Wentz has the ability to triple his time in the pocket until a play develops.
• They almost certainly won’t be able to milk the clock and attempt as many plays as they do on average each week. The Eagles lead the NFL with 891 plays from scrimmage and also lead the league in time of possession (33:35). The only other team that has numbers as high in both categories are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who possess a similar system built on a maddening amount of mismatch-generating players. Both systems also possess an instinctive quarterback who can conduct the orchestra.
The NFC was always going to be the main event this winter thanks to a dizzying amount of Super Bowl-caliber teams. Even the Seahawks, whose loss and subsequent temper tantrum in Jacksonville placed them at 8–5 on the outside looking in, would do significant damage against the upper echelon of the AFC.
Without Wentz, the Panthers, Saints and Falcons especially—teams with quarterbacks who have weathered a playoff run before—will breathe a new life. While there was no guarantee Wentz would be similarly prolific in the postseason, the collective head coaches of the NFC no longer have to worry.