Good morning, Eagles fans. After the Dallas Cowboys lost on Thanksgiving, the Eagles are even closer to clinching the NFC East title. They can't clinch on Sunday, but a win over the Chicago Bears puts them in position to do so in Week 13. Read along to find out what to watch for on Sunday. This is a Friday edition of Early Birds, which comes to you five days a week. It's free for anyone to sign up here to receive in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Zach Berman: You now have catches in four consecutive games (after only two catches in the first six games). What do you make of your role in the offense?
Brent Celek: "I think it just comes down to if it presents itself. Zach [Ertz] ended up getting hurt one week, and I have to step up. And that's really what they pay me for. Being able to come in here when they need, whether some guy gets hurt or they need a two-tight end set, [I have] got to be able to show up. Hey, if my number is called more, that's great. If not, I'll still be ready when they need me."
Zach Berman: You've been on 11 different Eagles teams. What stands out about this locker room?
Brent Celek: "We're handling adversity better than any team I've been around. That's the NFL. Injuries, not starting a game very well. This last game, the first half was slow, went into the locker room, made a few adjustments, and we played really well. How we are handling adversity, to me, is the biggest thing."
Zach Berman: What's the message to the younger players for the final stretch of the season?
Brent Celek: "Keep doing what we're doing. Don't get complacent. Don't come in here thinking things are just going to happen, because they're not. This is the NFL. It don't matter that the Bears are 3-7. It don't matter. They're a good football team. We've got to go about our work the way we've been going about it the first 10 weeks of the season."
Other than Carson Wentz, I'd say Lane Johnson is the player the Eagles can least afford to lose for the rest of the season. He's playing the best football his his six-year career to the point that offensive coordinator Frank Reich said this week that he "can't imagine there's a better right tackle in the league." After Jason Peters' injury, the Eagles' offensive line depth has been tested. They have Isaac Seumalo as a versatile lineman and signed veteran Will Beatty. The drop-off from Johnson is significant. Plus, with the way Johnson is playing, the Eagles can focus on helping the left side. An injury to Johnson would cripple the Eagles.
They have a better record, so on the surface, I must say yes. And the Eagles are so balanced, especially with the way the defense has played in recent weeks. But I don't think it's a clear-cut, indisputable argument that the Eagles are better. That's why the postseason will be so compelling. And the reality is in a winner-takes-all, one-game playoff in January, it's not always the "better" team that wins. Sometimes, it's the better quarterback. Of those three teams you mentioned, I'd be concerned about a January game against Drew Brees. He's a proven big-stage player. But we'll see in January. That's when this debate will matter most. The Eagles are certainly in any conversation for best team in the NFL.