HOME-FIELD advantage isn’t nearly as big a prize as it seems. We’re already guaranteed to play one home game in the Divisional round. Advancing to the NFC Championship game only puts us on the road, if the Vikings make it to the Championship game themselves. That game would be decided by who has the better players on the field, not by which field is under the players.
If DT Fletcher Cox breaks his leg against the Raiders, everyone will say “FUCK! Why was he even out there?!” At that point, chasing a venue would seem pretty stupid.
We don’t need this game. We just want it. Winning this week isn’t about winning this game. It’s about getting our starters through in one piece, and being ready for the playoffs. That’s it. Eyes on the prize.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t show up. I’m saying, let our back-ups,
finish the year by handing a couple of shitty teams a nice shiny new “L”. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I think so too!
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Raiders :
1) Don’t get greedy: Don’t play the starters past the half. Beating Oakland for home-field would be meaningless if we lost RT Lane Johnson, but— Look, if a starter insists on playing for future contract purposes, let them play a little. But at that point, (come contract time) it’s on them if they got hurt and wrecked our playoff chances.
2) Smart business decisions: In football the term “business decision” is used to describe a guy whiffing on a tackle, because he was trying not to get hurt. A smart business decision would be to show that you can tackle RB Marshawn Lynch.
Getting Lynch on the ground will help us on Christmas, and will help players at the negotiating table. (Bonus points to the man who can do it one-on-one.)
3) Serve up play-action: Aside from rookie OLB Nicholas Morrow, Oakland’s LB’s are better at playing forward than backward. They’re also too eager to play to that strength, so getting them to bite on play-action is almost too easy. (NOTE: Morrow has only recently been named a starter on the depth chart. He’s a 216 pound LB who wasn’t a college Safety, didn’t get a Combine invite, and went undrafted. Yet in less than a season, he’s a starter. Keep an eye on this kid.)
4) Get over Under: There’s a good chance that we’ll see the Vikings at some point in the playoffs. Both the Raiders and the Vikings run a 4-3 Under scheme, with players in similar roles up front. This is a chance to “dry test” any inherent weakness in that system. Gamble on couple things to see if they work now, where there’s no cost for crapping out.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Everything I mentioned in the Four Things section, can be and should be done, primarily with back-ups this week. If we’re going to chase home-field, fine, chase home-field. Just don’t risk the starters in the process. Don’t do it.
The Raiders are a bad team this year. Last year they weren’t as good as their record indicated, and now all those problems they didn’t address, has even eroded their true strengths. We probably don’t need starters to beat this team. So why get greedy?
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” Poet Robert Browning said that in 1855, but I doubt he ever had Super Bowl aspirations.
Eagles fans, how improbable has this season already been? Almost no one expected us to be here, but here we are. We are here despite the loss of RB Darren Sproles. Despite the loss of MLB Jordan Hicks. Despite the loss of LT Jason Peters. Despite losing CB Ronald Darby for half of the year. We push on despite the loss of QB Carson Wentz.
What is the maximum allotment of miracles that one team is allowed to ask for? What is the cap on 61 yard field goals by a rookie Kicker from another team’s practice squad? There is a such thing, as being greedy. There is a such thing, as being ungrateful. There is a such thing, as not having the grace to see one’s self in the commission of these sins.
We’re fans, and we don’t get to make the call on who plays and who sits. That said, I’m just hoping that our team doesn’t get greedy, and end up paying the price for it.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 24 – Raiders 20