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Why these final two games are important for the Eagles | Early Birds

As Jason Kelce suggested last week, the most important thing is developing a winning culture, and that comes only from winning games.

Eagles safety Marcus Epps tries to get a hand on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during the third quarter on Sunday.
Eagles safety Marcus Epps tries to get a hand on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during the third quarter on Sunday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. Despite a 33-26 loss to the host Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, there was a lot of positive vibes coming from Eagles fans. We always take the temperature of Twitter each week during Eagles games, and this was the most positive Eagles fans have been after a loss.

That is because they have liked what they have seen of Jalen Hurts in his relief performance against Green Bay and his first two starts, against New Orleans and the Cardinals.

There has been so much discussion of what the Eagles are going to do next year, but did anybody forget that there are two important games left and that, despite a 4-9-1 record, the Eagles are still alive in the crazy NFC East race (although they might not be by the time of the opening kickoff Sunday in Arlington, Texas against the Dallas Cowboys).

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Kelce nailed it

Last Wednesday, Eagles center Jason Kelce argued strongly that the only thing that should matter in the NFL is the next game. Not the draft, not auditions for next season, but to win.

“At all times in the NFL, the focus should be about winning the football game,” he said. “Nothing else takes precedence. No player evaluation. No amount of curiosity, from anybody within the organization. Everything is focused in this league, in my opinion on winning games.”

And that is the attitude the Eagles should take into the final two games, especially since they could be in the playoff race before their opening kickoff against Dallas.

While some might scoff at that, if the Eagles could win the NFC East — and right now their chances aren’t great — they would get at least one extra game to see Hurts’ development and also the progress of other young players.

If the Washington Football Team beats the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Eagles and Dallas would be eliminated from playoff contention. The Washington game is at 1 p.m., so the Eagles will know if they are still alive when they face Dallas at 4:25. (If Washington wins, and the Giants lose to Baltimore, Washington would clinch the division since it beat Dallas twice this year.)

Here are the NFC East standings:

Washington 6-8

Dallas 5-9

NY Giants 5-9

Eagles 4-9-1

Here are the teams’ final opponents:

Eagles: at Dallas; vs. Washington

Washington: vs. Carolina; at Eagles

Dallas: vs. Eagles; at NY Giants

NY Giants: at Baltimore; vs. Dallas

Even if Washington wins this weekend, the Eagles, with so many young players, need to develop a winning culture. Winning the final two games could lead to some momentum for next year.

Remember 2016?

The Eagles were 5-9 entering their final two games. They beat Giants and Dallas in the next two games, finishing 7-9, and then won the Super Bowl the next year.

Now that is not to say if the Eagles win their final two games, they will be Super Bowl contenders in 2021. This year’s team has plenty of holes.

For those who want the Eagles to lose and get a better draft pick, it’s more important to develop a winning culture than to move a few spots up, unless a team is picking a franchise-altering player such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but that would take the No. 1 pick.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Jeff McLane writes that despite the Eagles loss, Jalen Hurts wins and further opens the door on his future as the starter

  2. Les Bowen recaps the Eagles’ 33-26 loss to Arizona, a wild game that had so many ups and downs.

  3. Despite the loss, Mike Sielski writes that there is no doubting the energy that Hurts has brought to the Eagles.

  4. Among Marcus Hayes’ game observations, he had high praise for Hurts and not so much for the special teams.

  5. Hayes writes that Doug Pederson’s strange behavior continues with Eagles, Jalen Hurts and Carson Wentz.

  6. EJ Smith writes that injuries and poor special-teams play were too much for the Eagles to overcome.

  7. Smith and Damichael Cole combined for the Eagles game blog as it happened, including key video highlights.

  8. Unlike last week when his praise was more muted toward Hurts, Pederson spoke highly of his quarterback after his second start, but he still wasn’t ready to name a starter for Sunday’s game at Dallas.

  9. Despite the Eagles’ allowing 406 passing yards and three touchdowns, Paul Domowitch writes that there was something noble about the banged-up secondary’s performance.

  10. Domowitch gives his grades for the game.

  11. Despite the loss, there were several Eagles players who received thumbs up from McLane in his Up-Down Drill.

  12. Hayes comments on the ESPN report stating that Wentz is not interested in being the backup quarterback and would want to move on if the situation continues.

  13. In Bowen’s Eagles notes, he writes about injured players, including cornerback Darius Slay, who didn’t make the trip while in concussion protocol. He also writes about Eagles-killer Larry Fitzgerald, who had yet another TD reception against them.

  14. Photographers Heather Khalifa and Yong Kim were in Glendale, and here is their photo gallery.

From the mailbag

How/why does Schwartz leave young inexperienced DBs in single coverage with arguably the best WR in the NFL? — Tim Durkin Sr., @tdurkin34, on Twitter

Thanks for your question, Tim. It’s one we received from quite a few people. Jim Schwartz has been an NFL defensive coordinator for 14 years and a head coach for five, but this is a question that is baffling to so many.

While Schwartz has had a degree of success, during his five seasons in Philadelphia, he has been inflexible in certain situations. How the Eagles allowed DeAndre Hopkins to have single coverage throughout the game is mind-boggling. Even when there was help, it wasn’t enough on Hopkins as you can see on this play.

That the Eagles were playing with a depleted secondary is even more reason to give extra help on Hopkins. He might be the best receiver in the NFL, he has hands that are like nobody else’s, and all game, he felt comfortable. Leaving him in frequent single coverage is a recipe for disaster, as his nine receptions (in 11 targets) for 169 yards and a score confirm.