NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Wentz Battles Luck
by Dennis Ranahan

The Philadelphia Eagles will be led by quarterback Carson Wentz on Sunday when they meet the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field. Wentz will see his first action since suffering an injury last December in a game against the Los Angeles Rams.

He takes over for a team that has won a Super Bowl since he last played but have split their two decisions this year, beating the Atlanta Falcons in their opener and dropping a decision last Sunday to the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles, spun magic last year in the playoffs which resulted in the first ever Eagles Super Bowl victory.

This year, Foles looked like he has for the majority of his seven year professional career, not much above average. His role as a backup took on new meaning when he stepped in for Wentz last December. He nursed the Eagles best record in the NFL over the final three weeks while guiding wins over a pair of teams with losing records, the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders, before dropping a meaningless last game of the season decision to the Dallas Cowboys.

In the playoffs, the Eagles were the first ever top seed to be a home underdog, and they were offered points on the spread in all three of their postseason games. Behind Foles and a top notch defense, the underdog Eagles scored victories over the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots.

Against the Patriots, Foles was named Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player. His trade value was never higher, but with Wentz in a long recovery program from his injury, the Eagles kept Foles on their roster and he started their first two games.

His play was average at best, and while Philadelphia was careful not to rush Wentz back before he was ready, no doubt last week’s loss in Tampa was the final stimulus to get their 2016 first round pick, second selection overall, back to work.

Wentz was on his way to probable Most Valuable Player recognition last year before losing out based on the late season injury. It was Wentz that lead the Eagles to the top seed in the National Football Conference, and he turned more third down plays into a new set of downs than any quarterback in the league.

It was a magical run for Wentz and his Eagles, and now, after opening the season with a win and loss, like they did last season, he returns to the gridiron in an attempt to spin magic again and this time be the winning quarterback in a second consecutive Eagles Super Bowl triumph.

Unlikely.

The Eagles Super Bowl season in 2017 followed a prior campaign that resulted in a losing mark. Only four of the 52 Super Bowl winners had rebounded from a losing season the year before they won it all, and none of them won a playoff game the following season. In addition to the Eagles last year, the San Francisco 49ers were first to win a Super Bowl following a losing record, they did it in 1981 and failed to qualify for the postseason the following year.

In 1999, the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl after enduring a losing mark in 1998. The following season, 2000, St. Louis cracked the playoff field as a Wild Card entrant and lost their only postseason game to the New Orleans Saints. The Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era began with a Super Bowl win in 2001 that followed a losing record the prior season. In 2002, the Patriots didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

This week, the suspect Eagles look to bounce back off of last week’s road loss, but they meet a determined Indianapolis squad that upset the Washington Redskins last Sunday at FedExField. This year, the Colts return quarterback Andrew Luck to their lineup after he missed last season with an injury. Luck is just regaining his stride, and he has had a two week head start on Wentz.

The Eagles prize quarterback is back, but he doesn’t offer any guarantee that this season will nearly match his breakthrough 2017 campaign. In a game that appears on paper to favor the home standing Eagles, we look for Luck to keep it close and win the money with the generous point spread.

Qoxhi Picks: Indianapolis Colts (+7) over Philadelphia Eagles