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Eagles face the Mother of All Road Trips…

Maybe the term should be “roadblock” trip…

Seattle away, then L.A. Rams away, then New York Giants away… who makes these kinds of schedules?

Welp, test of mettle is about to begin…

I posted a whimsical comment over at BGN yesterday… no, it was PE.com!…. basically stating how I don’t care whether we lose a tough game in Seattle or Los Angeles, just emerge healthy enough to shuffle the deck and go into the Giants game in New Jersey in three weeks and establish a winning trend going forward.

“Health” is the key word in my equation… Maintain the key personnel interactions which are producing positive results so far in 2017. This is an admission that we (like every other team in the playoff hunt in the NFL) have run out of time to add new guys. What you see on your roster now is basically what you get to work with heading into January. The time for choosing the inks in painting your masterpiece has run out.

That’s the unspoken problem with a 10-1 start… You have to plan ahead. Your focus is changing to the longer-term goal. You can say all the right things, like “one game at a time”… but the reality is you’re going to think twice before calling a naked bootleg-designed run for Carson Wentz.  Save that for the playoffs.

Of course the emotional inclination is to pull out all the stops and try to run the table on this road trip, with the motivation of making the point that you’re for real, you’re the new boss with the big hot sauce.

That’s fine and dandy, but one must realize the Seahawks are fighting for their playoff lives and the Rams are fighting for playoff credibility. It’s the crazy NFL with unpredictable officiating galore, and any game can hinge on a sympathetic call or hostile non-call in a road environment. Plus, guys on both sides of the ball of the Seahawks and Rams are gonna make legitimate plays against us. They are well-coached teams with plenty of talent. Getting a “W” in either Seattle or L.A. is going to be tough. You just have to trust the Eagles coaching staff understands the bigger picture looking forward to January. These are not must-win games in the classic sense in Seattle and L.A.  They’re road games in which the Eagles will compete to win, but getting out of the 2-week West Coast swing without any significant injuries is more important. We’ve got to exit Stage Left healthy and go after the Giants healthy in Week 15… if we do that, I like our chances to make a prolonged playoff run.

This has been such an unforeseen bonanza of a season so far, I guess I am hesitant to get too greedy.

The one thing about winning 10 out of 11 games so far is it is contagious to the players. I get that—and by no means am I asking any Eagles player on the field to hold back or let up.  I’m just asking the coaching staff to play it smart from here on out. Don’t get caught up in the hype over “best record in the NFL” kinda stuff. Don’t put your players at risk for the long haul by overextending them for a short-term bragging right on this West Coast trip. Desperation plays are not called for at this point. Hey, if you’re down by two scores with a minute left in either of these games, pull your starters. Preserve your natural resources.

This “preservation” mindset might be a tough sell to the players themselves right now. Take Brandon Graham for instance— he just got a $250,000 contract incentive bonus for getting his 7th sack of the season against Chicago in a blowout game in which I probably would have had him resting on the bench.

He will get an additional $250,000 if he reaches nine sacks and another $250,000 on top of that if he gets to 12.

“It means a lot to me, man. We’re not done yet. It’s nice that we’ve got five more opportunities to keep going and keep winning. Really, the number one goal is to win,” said Graham, who can also trigger an incentive by being voted to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot. “I’m happy that I got seven because I finally got over that hump of six-and-a-half…Now I’ve got seven, and hopefully I don’t stop here.”

Likewise, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hit a $250,000 bonus by catching his seventh touchdown of the season against Chicago. Fortunately for him I am not his head coach. I probably would have sat him down for the greater part of that game to save him for Seattle.

Tim McManus (now of ESPN.com) got this take from safety Malcom Jenkins based on the subject matter I’ve been tackling here:

The question posed to the Eagles safety was about the upcoming West Coast trip featuring back-to-back games against the Seattle Seahawks (7-4) and Los Angeles Rams (8-3). He was asked if it will serve as a measuring stick for the Eagles.

“For us, there’s nothing to measure. We are our own measuring stick,” Jenkins said. “We prepare to be the best every week.”

“We obviously have got a lot of respect for these teams that are coming up in Seattle and then L.A.,” Jenkins added.

I’m actually more concerned about the Rams game than the Seahawks matchup, although both will be tough tests and Seattle will of course have the big-time home crowd noise advantage. The Rams are coming off an impressive home victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles will fly from Seattle to L.A. and stay out there all week before the matchup featuring the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff and Wentz.

But no matter what happens out West, just stay healthy. Come back East and beat the Giants like a drum in New Jersey. The team’s 2017 destiny will feed off that game far greater than anything which can be nibbled from whatever happens in Seattle and Los Angeles.

 

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