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The Philadelphia Eagles are falling apart offensively, yet they couldn’t be in a better position to claim another NFC East crown.
“To come in after halftime, backs against the wall, season-on-the-line type of thing,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz told reporters after the game. “I was a little bummed we didn’t win it in regulation. Overtime [was] huge for me personally and for the team.”
The Cowboys still hold an edge for the division crown due to tiebreakers, but the Eagles aren’t out of this race by any means. If they get healthy and handle their business down the stretch against an easier schedule, they could sneak into the postseason for a third straight year.
On Monday, Wentz showed he could shoulder the burden of the entire offense. But the Eagles can’t operate the same way they did against the 2-11 Giants and expect to survive. Philadelphia had one healthy wide receiver available by the end of Monday’s game, and right tackle Lane Johnson left with an injury as well.
Those situations will have a significant influence over the division race.
Philly’s options became severely limited when top receiver Alshon Jeffery suffered a non-contact injury early in the second quarter. He left without a catch and reportedly heard something pop, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, although there’s hope that it isn’t an Achilles injury.
“Guys were in positions that we definitely didn’t practice this week,” Wentz said after the game. “Guys go down. We’re switching X and Z in the huddle and guys made the plays.”
Greg Ward Jr. led all Eagles receivers with four catches for 34 yards. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside snagged two passes for 29 yards. That’s all of the production Philadelphia’s wide receivers could muster.
DeSean Jackson is already on injured reserve. Nelson Agholor missed Monday’s game with a knee injury. Arcega-Whiteside didn’t leave the game unscathed, either. The Eagles may have no choice but to bolster their receiving corps to make life easier on Wentz, even if Agholor, Jeffery or Arcega-Whiteside are fine moving forward.
The third-year quarterback played outstanding football during the second half, as Sharp Football’s Warren Sharp noted:
Wentz looked out of sorts for much of the night. The 26-year-old’s ball placement was erratic, and he made some poor decisions. He showed awful judgment late in the fourth quarter when attempting a pass within a defender’s grasp. Another Giant batted the ball, and it floated in the air for what seemed like forever.
Even so, Wentz took an offense without a legitimate outside threat and helped lead the team to victory thanks to two outstanding passes, especially the game-tying score.
Wentz threw a laser from off his back foot and into a tight window on 3rd-and-goal with the game—and the Eagles’ season—on the line. That’s exactly what a true franchise quarterback should do. He made the players around him better when it mattered the most.
Fortunately, the Eagles have a tremendous security blanket in tight end Zach Ertz. The only silver lining about not having functional wide receivers is that Philadelphia’s passing attack is built around its two-time Pro Bowler. Watch how the Eagles used Ertz in overtime for the game-winning touchdown:
Ertz lined up wide and came into motion before resetting as the outside threat in a tight trips bunch. This alignment is often used as a man-coverage beater, and the play worked beautifully. The defense back became confused and left Ertz wide open for the score. Game over.
However, the Eagles can’t rely solely on their tight ends for an effective passing game.
Philadelphia currently has three wide receivers on its practice squad. Robert Davis and rookies Marcus Green and Marken Michel can provide depth and quality reps in the coming week. The trio might be inexperienced overall, but the Eagles need all the help they can get just to field a complete roster.
The Eagles could also look for outside help in the coming days, such as free-agent receiver Antonio Brown. He might be more trouble than Philadelphia wants at this critical portion of the season. However, he’s by far the best option to immediately contribute and make a difference.
Others like Dez Bryant, Donte Moncrief and Josh Doctson are also free agents, but none of them can touch Brown with regard to his ability to change a team’s on-field dynamic. Brown’s erratic behavior and uncertain standing with the league may deter the Eagles from pursuing him, but they at least have to discuss the possibility internally.
Fortunately, the offensive line might not need reinforcements. Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn. While high ankle sprains are quite painful, Johnson may be able play through the pain if necessary.
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Philadelphia needs to win out to make the playoffs. That may sound difficult considering the Eagles’ record and inconsistent play, but Wentz and Co. are capable of winning all three since they don’t play a single opponent with a .500 record or above.
The Eagles’ remaining opponents, all three division rivals, own a combined 11-28 record. A Week 16 meeting with the Cowboys will likely determine the division winner. Dallas also has a difficult Week 15 game with the Los Angeles Rams, which could put them a game behind the Eagles if Philadelphia takes out the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Plenty must still fall into place for the Eagles to win the division. Falling into a 17-3 halftime deficit against the 2-10 Giants hardly inspires confidence in their ability to run the table. But considering who they have in front of them, the Eagles have a legitimate chance to win the NFC East title, particularly if they get Wentz more receiving help in the coming days.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.