Before tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was widely considered to be the leading candidate for NFL MVP. Only in his sophomore year, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft had passed for 3,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and a mere 7 interceptions in 13 games, and elevated the Eagles to the positon as the favorite coming out of the NFC to make it to the Super Bowl.
Shelved for the season, Wentz must now watch his backup, six-year veteran Nick Foles, attempt to lead the No. 1 seed Eagles over the No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons (Saturday, 4:35 p.m.) in Philadelphia. Whether the Eagles advance to the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 20 will in large part rest on the arm of the 28-year-old who is under intense scrutiny from demanding Eagles fans.
Foles said he has used the past two weeks—the Eagles have not played since the final game of the regular season Dec. 31—to conduct a thorough evaluation in the run-up to the matchup with the Falcons.
“I think having this time to self-scout ... you realize, ‘Hey, just go out there and play,’” he reflected as reported by Tim McManus on ESPN.com. “Maybe I wasn’t doing that as much those games. Sometimes the hardest things are just the simple things, like basically get out of your own head and go play the game you know how to play.”
The Eagles and the No. 2 seed Vikings were tied at 13-3 for the best regular season record in the conference. The Eagles earned the tie-breaker and home field advantage up until the Super Bowl. Yet, Wentz’s injury neutralized their upper-hand and the Falcons come in with momentum and confidence after defeating the No. 3 seed Rams 26-13 on the road last Saturday.
In the other NFC Divisional pairing, the Vikings, who had a bye last weekend, will host the New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:40 p.m.), who defeated the Carolina Panthers at home 31-26 in a wild-card game last Sunday.