Eagles hostTexans in possibly last home game for many Eagles
Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at Lincoln Financial Field could be the last time several key Philadelphia Eagles will play in front of the home crowd.
There is an outside chance the Eagles could still play one more game this season at Lincoln Financial Field, but a lot has to happen for that to be true, such as the Dallas Cowboys losing their final two games and the Eagles (7-7) winning their final two games. That would give the Eagles a second straight NFC East title and a home game on the opening weekend of the postseason.
Or the Eagles could still surpass the Seattle Seahawks for the fifth seed, but even then they would have to root for the No. 6 seed to win a couple of games to give the Eagles home field in the NFC Championship Game.
Both scenarios are highly unlikely.
So this could be the home sendoff for players such as left tackle Jason Peters, defensive ends Brandon Graham and Chris Long, running back Darren Sproles and safety Corey Graham. Maybe even quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, will make his second straight start this week. He completed 24 of 31 passes against the Los Angeles Rams for 270 yards, one interception and an 89.4 passer rating.
It was the third highest single-game completion percentage of his career, trailing only his game vs. Chicago (84 percent) on Dec. 22, 2013, and his seven-touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders when he completed 78.57 percent on Nov. 3, 2013.
Foles started the first two games of the season as Carson Wentz recovered from offseason knee surgery, going 1-1 in those starts. Now, with Wentz out, but not expected to go on injured reserve, Foles is the starter again.
"I think every time he's had the opportunity to play he's been really effective, and we always are trying to build on things," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "We have a lot of confidence in Nick and what he does well, and just keep going there.
"We're focused on the Texans and trying to put another good plan together and play efficient football and have another balanced attack. Nick has proven himself over the course of time as an excellent quarterback in this league, and we're lucky to have him."
The Texans (10-4) have everything in front of them, an AFC South championship and possibly the second seed in the AFC if they can handle their business against the Eagles. The Texans could be in the playoffs without taking a snap if the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, but there is more on the horizon.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien knows that the defending Super Bowl champions are a dangerous team even with Foles starting.
"It's a big challenge," O'Brien said of the Texans heading to Philadelphia. "There are a lot of areas that we have to improve in. They're ranked in the top 10 on defense in the red area and third down. Obviously, we didn't do very well there offensively last week, so we've got to really try to work hard to improve.
"Big challenge, world champions. They're playing well. They just went out to the West Coast and won a big game. We know. We understand the challenge. It's a great team, very well-coached, big challenge for us."
Every offseason there is roster churn in the NFL, but these departing Eagles -- if they do, in fact, depart -- were integral parts of the team's Super Bowl LII championship.
Brandon Graham and Long have expiring contracts, and Long considered retirement after last season. So, too, did Corey Graham.
Sproles said before the season that this year would be his last, but he has been injured for most of it, so maybe he reconsiders. Even if he does decide to go another year, he will be 36 and does not have a contract.
Peters is signed through next year but counts $10.6 million against the salary cap and turns 37 in January. He has been with the Eagles since the Eagles traded three draft picks, including a first-rounder, to Buffalo for him in 2009.
As for Foles, well, who knows?
He thought he had played his final game for the Eagles earlier this year, when he filled in for the still-recovering Wentz in Weeks 1 and 2. His cap charge for next season is a ridiculous $20.6 million, and that is something the team simply cannot afford.
The Texans know that the Eagles pose issues for them in the trenches on both sides of the football. With a veteran offensive line and a defensive front that can create problems in both pass rush and run defense, Deshaun Watson is well aware of the Eagles' talented front led by Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett. The trio of Eagles' pass rushers have combined for 19.5 sacks and sacking the quarterback every 6.99 percent of their drop backs, which is 16th best in the NFL.
"Of course, their front," Watson said of the Eagles' defense. "Very aggressive, being able to be disruptive up front and try to stop the running game and getting pressure on the quarterback. We have to do a good job of handling that, of all being on the same page and trying to make some plays downfield."
Updated December 19, 2018