The Eagles have put together convincing wins in back-to-back weeks and turned public perception in Philadelphia. After victories over the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints, the narratives surrounding the Eagles have shifted. The new focus is on Nick Sirianni running the ball, Jalen Hurts completing memory-making runs and the playoffs beginning to look like a reality.

In another year, there might not be this much positivity surrounding a 5-6 team. But this is 2021 and few teams have separated themselves from the pack this season. And as Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski notes, in a mediocre NFL, what the Eagles appear capable of accomplishing could be good enough for the playoffs.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

Tuesday thanks — what are you most grateful for this year as a Philly sports fan? Tyrese Maxey? Jalen Hurts? Bryce Harper? Gritty? The promised return of the original Phillie Phanatic? Tell us: sports.daily@inquirer.com

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Early Birds

The Eagles showed how physical they can be against the Saints, piling up rushing yards and clips of offensive linemen taking it to some helpless opponents. It’s a brand of smashmouth football that wasn’t seen earlier in the season with a pass-happy offense, but has fueled the team’s rise into the playoff discussion.

The aggressiveness extends to defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who has dialed up more blitzes than before and found success against lesser quarterbacks. One of the recent additions to the starting lineup, the thumper of a linebacker T.J. Edwards, was rewarded for his strong play as well over the last month as the Eagles gave him a one-year contract extension.

So let’s do this and entertain the idea that the Eagles will run the table and even get to 11 wins this season, shall we?

Off the Dribble

Danny Green hasn’t spent much time on the court for the 76ers as of late. Dating to last season’s calf injury against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, he has missed some of the Sixers’ most important moments. That trend continued into this season as he suffered a hamstring strain that kept him on the sidelines as star players shuffled in and out of the lineup with COVID-19 complications.

Green has tried his best to be a net positive, however, working with younger teammates and offering wisdom from the sidelines. In fact, he has offered so much help that he has been called “Coach Green” at times. He’s taking the nickname — and old-age jokes — in stride and working hard to come back and help his teammates.

On Monday night, the shorthanded Sixers earned a gritty, gutsy 102-94 win over the Sacramento Kings, who fired coach Luke Walton a day earlier. Who looked the best and who played the worst?

Next: The Sixers play the final contest of their six-game road trip against the Golden State Warriors at 10 p.m. Wednesday in San Francisco.

On the Fly

Brains and Braun.

Veteran defenseman Justin Braun has used his experience and smarts to fill in admirably for Ryan Ellis on the Flyers’ top pair. Not known for his offense, the 34-year-old has been a big surprise at that end of the ice, as he leads all Flyers defensemen with eight points.

The Flyers got more bad injury news Monday, as Alain Vigneault informed the media that Kevin Hayes is “week to week” with an abdominal injury that he reinjured last week against the Calgary Flames. Hayes has played just two out of 16 games this season.

Next: The Flyers play the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at 7.

Extra Innings

They have a newly turned 29-year-old two-time MVP, a thisclose Cy Young runner-up, a three-time All-Star catcher and homegrown talents at first base and in the No. 2 spot in the rotation. But the Phillies lost out on the playoffs yet again with all that star power (and financial commitment). The window of contention is open for this team with stars such as Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola in their prime, but can the Phillies surround them with enough talent to capitalize? That’s the key question facing Dave Dombrowski and the front office this offseason. Do they feel the same sense of urgency?

Two former Phillies stars who did capitalize on their prime years with a World Series title are in contention for Cooperstown. Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time on Monday.

Fleet Street

The Union will be hoping that the 2021 playoffs generate even more fan memories that are warm and fuzzy.

It’s going to be a cold opener for the Union next season against Minnesota United, now that Major League Soccer has announced the opening dates. That’s because the entire schedule has moved up to the earliest point ever to accommodate the first fall World Cup in history.

Next: The MLS playoffs, of course, aren’t the only soccer action happening. Our Jonathan Tannenwald has the scoop on the top games for fans worldwide to check out.

Worth a look

  • Mare of Havertown: On Sunday, during the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ 40-29 win over the New Orleans Saints, Fox’s cameras cut to a foul-mouthed Birds fan who wasn’t too happy with the referees after they called a penalty. She became the star of the win over the Saints.

  • The USFL is back: The city is getting a new professional football team … sort of. The Philadelphia Stars will make their return as one of eight teams in the inaugural season of the United States Football League, which is scheduled to begin play in April 2022.

  • Farewell to a closer: Former Phillie Doug Jones has died at 64.

Inquirer Live

Connor Barwin, former Eagles linebacker and founder of the Make the World Better Foundation, joins longtime Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane today for the next Inquirer LIVE. Barwin will discuss his foundation’s efforts to build local playgrounds, his love for Philly’s music scene, his NFL career and future plans, and more.