It's almost time. The Eagles have clinched the NFC East and a first-round bye. Monday night against the Raiders, they hope to clinch home-field advantage for not just the divisional round of the playoffs, but also the NFC Championship Game. So let's look at what we know about this 12-2 team as it prepares for the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2013.
Where does the Eagles' defense stand, in terms of being ready to stop a good offense in the postseason?
Setting aside, at least partly, the panic arising from last week's terrible start against the Giants, the Eagles have shown that while they do tend to give up passing yardage against top-notch offenses, they don't get buried. They come up with turnovers at critical times (even last week). Their pass rush keeps teams from going bombs-away. They can stop or at least limit any running game; currently their average rushing yards allowed per game is 71.5, which is a whopping 13.8 yards per game less than the No. 2 team, Minnesota.
What do the Eagles need to show defensively these last two weeks, to prove they are ready for the playoffs?
The whole home-field-clinching bit makes this tough, as does the fact that it's going to be hard to prove a whole lot against a struggling team such as Oakland. If the Eagles' starters play against Dallas — with Ezekiel Elliott this time — on New Year's Eve, and the game has meaning for both teams, that would be a solid proving ground to show that the middle of the field is not wide open to quick passes, as has been the case the past two games. And that Jim Schwartz's unit has the discipline to avoid killing itself with penalties.
Ronald Darby really needs to bounce back and play like a No. 1 corner. And tackling, particularly in the secondary, really has to get back to where it was earlier.
Where does the offense stand in terms of being ready for a playoff opponent?
That's a really hard question to answer, with Nick Foles having played only one game in place of Carson Wentz. Yes, Foles threw four touchdown passes against the Giants, but twice he got to start drives in the red zone, thanks to an interception and a blocked punt. It was reassuring to see that he spread the ball around in much the same way Wentz did; that has been the Eagles' offensive hallmark this season.
Even though Chance Warmack played well at left guard against the Giants, the O-line is going to need a healthy Stefen Wisniewski in the postseason. And really, especially with the less-mobile Foles at quarterback, the line needs Jason Peters for the playoffs, but that isn't possible.
What does the offense need to show these last two weeks, to ensure that it is ready for the postseason?
It needs to move the ball consistently and continue to put points on the board, even when it isn't getting the ball deep in opposition territory. Foles' longest completion against the Giants was to a running back, Jay Ajayi, a 32-yard catch-and-run.
Foles might actually have a better touch in the screen game than Wentz, but it'd be nice to see Nick develop some downfield timing with the wideouts. And really, nobody expects the passing stats to be what they were with Wentz. The running game is going to have to pick up some slack, which ought to be possible, given the way Ajayi is steadily working toward a bigger role.
Obviously, Foles needs to continue to not turn the ball over.
How do Eagles special teams stack up, heading into the playoffs?
Now that Jake Elliott is healthy again, pretty well. Kicker Elliott and punter Donnie Jones are solid. The coverage problems that sometimes popped up after Chris Maragos went down for the season seem to have been plugged, between younger players getting more experience and the return of Bryan Braman. The return game takes more flags than is optimal in the postseason.
What do special teams need to show in these last two weeks to be ready for a playoff opponent?
It'd be nice for the return game to really pop. For a while, there was a general feeling that the Wentz-led offense was so prolific, downing a kickoff in the end zone and getting it at the 25 was the way to go, and fair-catching a punt almost anywhere was OK, for the same reason. Those conclusions might need to be reexamined.
It was reassuring to see the blocked extra point, field goal and punt against the Giants. Dave Fipp has shown he knows how to manufacture big, game-changing special teams plays. And really, without Wentz, postseason success just might come down to something like that.