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  • Philadelphia, who was on the brink of playoff elimination, remains very much in the mix with two games left and QB Nick Foles under center. Los Angeles, once a sure-fire option to win a first-round bye, are now watching that slip away.
By Jonathan Jones
December 17, 2018

First there was the Super Bowl hangover for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now here’s the rally.

In one of the most surprising results of this NFL season, the Eagles upended the Los Angeles Rams 30–23 on Sunday Night Football and moved to 7–7 on the season to stay in a highly competitive NFC wild-card race with two games left on the schedule. Not only are the defending Super Bowl champs getting in position to be able to defend their crown, but the Rams are also letting a first-round bye—something that seemed nearly guaranteed for the team just a few weeks ago—slip through their fingers.

But who Philadelphia plays at quarterback against Houston and Washington, and possibly into the postseason—will certainly be a big question going forward.

Super Bowl MVP and Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles added $500,000 to his checking account Sunday night by getting the majority of the snaps in the win, with Carson Wentz on the bench with a stress fracture in his vertebrae. Foles completed 24-of-31 passes for 270 yards and one pick. Alshon Jeffery returned to No. 1 wideout form with Foles, catching all eight passes thrown his way for 160 yards.

Foles is due $20 million next season with the Eagles, which is to say he will not get $20 million from the Eagles next year. He could buy his way out for $2 million or—the more likely scenario—Philadelphia will release him and let him be an unrestricted free agent. Signing for at least $20 million per year, Foles will be the starting quarterback for Jacksonville or Washington or Miami or Tampa Bay next season.

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Evidence shows Wentz is the better quarterback of the two, so there should be no second-guessing Doug Pederson’s decision to ride with the franchise quarterback over the Super Bowl MVP when Wentz healed after tearing his ACL in Dec. 2017. But in the last 12 months, the team has played better ball with Foles under center. Wentz is 5–6 this year with just one win against a team with a winning record (Colts).

There’s mystery around how long Wentz will be—or can be—out. He won’t need surgery, and a three-month timeline has been put out there. Wentz was coy with NBC’s Michele Tafoya before the game, so it’s unclear if he would be healthy enough to return in 2018. If Foles hand stays hot and the Eagles get rolling, what happens when Wentz’s back starts feeling better?

The Eagles needed a win Sunday night for their playoff hopes, especially after the goings-on of Week 15. The Cowboys got blanked by the Colts, though they will still likely win the NFC East. But Washington got a last-second win against Jacksonville to move to 7–7. Minnesota crushed the Dolphins to get to 7-6-1. Carolina (6-7) has a tough game at home against the Saints on Monday night, but there will still be at least three seven-win NFC teams vying for one wild-card spot heading into their penultimate regular-season game.

Speaking of a wild card, the Rams may be hosting a wild-card game again this season if this keeps up. Jared Goff was an MVP candidate when December started. The Rams were 10–1 coming off that epic home win against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Since then he’s looked more like the Jared Goff of the Jeff Fisher vintage.

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In his past three games, Goff is 72-of-131 for 726 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions. The Rams are 1-2 in that time and, after seemingly having a first-round bye locked up with a shot at the No.1 seed, L.A. is now in danger of having to host a wild-card game with the 10-4 Bears (owning the tiebreaker) tracking into Christmas.

Goff’s most inexcusable play was his second interception of the night. Having his foot stepped on at the snap, Goff stumbled to the ground on what appeared to be a handoff. He got up, was immediately met by a host of Eagles and, attempting to avoid a sack, sort of (?) threw a forward pass possibly (?) a yard downfield that was Corey Graham intercepted and took to the L.A. 12 for what would be a quick touchdown.

Philadelphia was also successful at keeping Aaron Donald mostly off the stat sheet for a second straight week. Todd Gurley, battling an apparent knee injury in the second half, struggled again on the ground. One week after getting 28 yards on 11 rushes, Gurley rushed 12 times for 48 yards Sunday night in the loss.

Last year, Foles’s comeback story started in Los Angeles in Week 14. After this week’s win, a new chapter in this underdog story may be writing itself.

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