The Philadelphia Eagles will attempt to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
With their 34-29 road win against the New York Giants last week, the Eagles (12-2) secured a first-round bye in the playoffs. A win over the Raiders (6-8) or a Minnesota Vikings loss against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday would seal the NFC’s top seed.
The Eagles are off to their best start since 2004, when they advanced to the Super Bowl and ultimately lost to the New England Patriots.
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If the Packers upset the Vikings, the Eagles potentially could rest some starters in preparation for the postseason.
“I’ve begun thinking, but my focus is winning the game on Monday night, because that to me is the most important thing,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Once we get to next week, we’ll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, ‘Monday Night Football,’ and if we win that one. And like I’ve said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now. So that’s the focus for me.”
Philadelphia’s victory at New York wasn’t pretty, but backup quarterback Nick Foles proved he is ready for the challenge that awaits the rest of the way. Carson Wentz, who was a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament the week before against the Los Angeles Rams.
Foles started against the Giants and finished 24 of 38 for 237 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. The four scores, which went to four different receivers, were the most he tossed since he had seven against the Raiders during the 2013 season.
“I just think his poise and his play-making,” Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich said when asked what stood out about Foles. “Obviously, you could tell right away, he’s been there before. Then he did what we needed him to do. He played good, sound football, but also be ready to make big plays. He provided that as well.”
Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson was injured during the fourth quarter against the Giants and remained in the concussion protocol through Wednesday.
On defense, the Eagles scuffled a bit over the past two games, allowing 64 points to the Los Angeles Rams and the Giants.
“Every game you’re not going to play your best,” Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “That’s just life in the NFL. But part of it is becoming battle-tested and having some awareness that there is that urgency every single week.”
The Raiders, who will make their first appearance in Philadelphia since 2005, are coming off a tough 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was 21 of 38 for 171 yards with a pair of touchdowns to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The Raiders compiled 122 yards rushing, including 76 from running back Marshawn Lynch and 47 from Carr, his highest total of the season.
For the season, Carr has 3,113 passing yards with 20 TD passes and 10 interceptions.
Defensive end Khalil Mack registered two sacks against Dallas, giving him at least one sack in five consecutive games.
The Raiders will travel cross country with the mindset of ending their two-game losing streak. Oakland is barely alive in the AFC wild-card race.
“We’re going to play to win,” Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re just going to play to win. We’re going to do everything we can to get over this ‘close but no cigar’ finish we had. … We’ll have an extra day of recovery, and then we’ll get in with the normal game week leading up to our opportunity on Christmas night.”
Oakland will be without left tackle Donald Penn for the rest of the season after he sustained a foot injury early in the game against the Cowboys. Penn was due to undergo surgery Wednesday. It will be the first regular-season game since 2007 that Penn will have missed, snapping a streak of 170 consecutive starts.
Marshall Newhouse and Vadal Alexander are viable options to fill in for Penn.