How Far Can The Eagles Go Without Carson Wentz?
For a fan base as tortured as that of the Philadelphia Eagles, referring to the season-ending torn ACL injury to quarterback Carson Wentz last Sunday as "devastating" still doesn't seem to fully describe how catastrophic the injury really was, in the grand scheme of things.
There's a reason that Wentz was the prohibitive favorite to win the NFL's MVP award this season. There were times this season where Wentz looked like a hybrid of Aaron Rodgers, with his ability to throw impossible passes downfield under incredible duress, and Ben Roethlisberger, with his ability to shrug off any number of defenders that were trying to tackle him. From a statistical standpoint, Wentz had four more touchdown passes than any other quarterback in the league this season. When you add rushing touchdowns to the equation, he had an outside chance of challenging the 45 combined touchdowns that Cam Newton -- the MVP of the 2015 NFL season -- accounted for. No quarterback in the NFL was more dangerous on third down situations with more than five yards to go.
So, regardless of what anyone may say, there’s simply no way any team – including the Eagles – can sustain the loss of Wentz, and continue to play at the same level as they would have with Wentz in the lineup.
Sure, Nick Foles is a very capable backup, who is familiar with the offensive scheme run by Doug Pederson. Sure, Foles is only a handful of seasons removed from a year in which he threw 27 touchdown passes and was named to the Pro Bowl (in 2013). And yes, Foles helped lead the Eagles to a critical win against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday (after Wentz went down), keeping Philadelphia’s shot at a first-round bye in the playoffs alive.
What's really interesting about this situation is that we may not get the true sense of how much the Eagles will miss Wentz, until the playoffs. Look at the remainder of the Eagles schedule; Philadelphia gets the rudderless New York Giants and the grossly underperforming Oakland Raiders in back-to-back weeks. If they beat both -- which is far from a Herculean task, even with Foles as their quarterback -- then they'll wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye; their Week 17 game against Dallas will be all but meaningless.
But the same can't be said in January. What if the Eagles have to play a defense like that of the Carolina Panthers, or perhaps the Rams again? Would anyone really feel comfortable with putting Foles in that situation, asking him to try and beat either of those units? Or what about if Foles is asked to duel against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, or even Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers? Is that a match-up you'd feel comfortable with if you're an Eagles fan?
With Wentz under center, he presented a multi-faceted nightmare for opposing defenses and coordinators. He showed this season that he could go toe-to-toe with any quarterback in the conference, and could make the life of any defense he played miserable. Foles can’t do that.
After all – there’s a reason that Foles is the backup, and Wentz was the MVP frontrunner.
In the NFL, there’s the common belief that it’s better to be lucky than to be good. The Eagles spent three-quarters of the season being the latter, but seem to have totally run out of the former at the point in the season when it matters the most.