It’s the first Sports Daily newsletter of 2022! The Eagles are back in the playoffs, and what a surprising year this has been already.

With a rookie head coach and a much-scrutinized first-year starting quarterback, the Eagles pulled themselves out of a 2-5 start to the season and have clinched a playoff berth.

It took a win against the Washington Football Team and then some waiting. The 49ers won, and late Sunday, the Packers took care of business to eliminate the Vikings.

The Eagles put themselves in this position with a late-season surge. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t always been pretty, as evidenced by the first half of the win against Washington. But they got it done, and here’s to meaningful football in January.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

Tell us how you envision the Eagles’ playoff path playing out: sports.daily@inquirer.com

Early Birds

Let’s be honest: The Eagles’ performances in the second halves of games have often been far more impressive than how they start. Why exactly is another matter.

While the Eagles are able to regularly adjust and come from behind to win, sometimes they’ve just dug themselves too big a hole. Perhaps it’s the growing pains and learning curve of a young quarterback and a rookie coach, of course.

Still, whatever the stress for fans after the Eagles fell behind again in the first half against the Washington Football Team, it’s ultimately another win for Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni, who deserves NFL Coach of the Year consideration for the job he’s done.

Rodney McLeod sealed the win with an interception that helped the Eagles avoid heartbreak. And then Hurts avoided a potential disaster when he managed to avoid Eagles fans falling out of the stands at FedEx Field.

Off the Dribble

The 76ers have had several players miss games this season because of COVID-19, but this past week, it hit the coaching staff in a significant way. The Sixers are currently without head coach Doc Rivers and several of his assistants, including Sam Cassell and Brian Adams.

Assistant Dan Burke has taken over as acting head coach, and he recently shared that Rivers, who tested positive Thursday, is feeling “terrific” and has remained in constant contact while in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. “My question to him usually is, ‘What are your musts tonight? What are [things] we must do?’” Burke said. “And then we go from there.”

If Rivers remains out the full 10 days to quarantine and recover from COVID-19, Burke will likely have similar conversations with Rivers before the Sixers face the Houston Rockets (tonight), Orlando Magic (Wednesday), and San Antonio Spurs (Friday).

Next: The Sixers face the Rockets tonight at 7 at the Wells Fargo Center with hopes of extending their winning streak to four games (NBCSP).

On the Fly

Despite a 6-3 loss to the Kings late Saturday, the Flyers have a chance to end their West Coast road trip on a positive note.

With a point against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Flyers would earn a .500 points percentage on the holiday road trip for the first time since 2014-15. In support of the cause, the Flyers are getting goalie Carter Hart and forwards Derick Brassard and Scott Laughton back from COVID-19 protocols.

Next: The Flyers are back in action Tuesday against Anaheim at 10 p.m. (NBCSP).

Worth a look

What you’re talking about

Sports Daily readers are looking ahead to a successful 2022 for certain Philadelphia athletes. Here’s a sampling of their thoughts.

Jalen Hurts gets my vote! Dynamic, smart, high football IQ, exciting, coachable, athletic. What more do you want in a QB? — Anthony D.

Joel Embiid and Bryce Harper will give us many moments to remember, but Jason Kelce will be the standard bearer and represent Philly well! — John V.

Tag yourself

How many of you could relate to the Eagles fans sprawled out at Hurts’ feet? It’s unlikely these passionate supporters ever expected that stadium railing to give way, but then again, how many expected the Eagles to be in the playoffs after their first seven games of this season? Tell us what you thought back then and how you now envision the playoffs going for the team. sports.daily@inquirer.com

We compiled today’s newsletter using reporting from Mike Sielski, EJ Smith, Jeff McLane, Josh Tolentino, Gina Mizell, and Gianna Han.