I’ve been dead since Saturday with the flu, and despite the fever and medicinal fog, even I knew Sunday’s game plan in Chicago was dumb.
First of all, it was freezing cold (well below 20 degrees F) and windy. When it’s that cold, the ball gets harder to throw, harder to catch and the wind obviously adds a significant wrinkle to the passing game as well. Jalen Hurts even said he couldn’t feel his fingers for most of the 1st quarter. Keeping the football on the ground limits exposure to the variability of weather.
Second, the Eagles went into Chicago with the NFL’s 3rd rank rushing offense at 162 yards per game. Miles Sanders was averaging well over 5 yards per carry. Furthermore, Chicago’s run defense ranks 27th in the league. Sometimes life is easy and we complicate it by trying to be too smart.
To recap… bad weather, strength vs weakness = a young head coach completely overthinking a game plan.
This was supposed to be easy. Instead, Nick Sirianni opted for a pass-heavy offense in the 1st half, ignoring his soon-to-be all-pro running back, and perhaps worst of all, exposing his MVP quarterback to unnecessary hits. The Eagles never trailed in the 2nd half and the game never felt like it was danger of slipping away. There’s no reason to throw the football 37 times or have Hurts run it than all your running backs combined.
It’s time to manage the season with a strong consideration for January and beyond. I’m not saying shut it down, but the Eagles have all but clinched the top seed in the NFC. Sirianni put the Eagles Super Bowl chances at risk Sunday and it nearly bit him. Okay, that’s probably a little bit strong, but you get the point. Protect Hurts, maintain a rhythm so the team doesn’t get stale and most of all, protect Hurts. Not only from the opponent, but from himself, too.
[Editor’s Note: I don’t think the Hurts injury is all that bad. I’m guessing he would easily play this week if it meant much. Instead I think the organization likes the idea of him getting a week to rest (against an aggressive pass rush, no less) and then let him play in the much more meaningful game next week against the Saints (draft pick!). Also, the Eagles brass is a chess not checkers group. They’re 100% benching Hurts this week to increase the chances of Mike McCarthy returning to Dallas next season. Ok, so I’m completely making that up but it’s a great idea by me.]
Thursday Night Pick; Jaguars +2.5