Dec 31, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) sits on the field after being tackled during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles embrace road warrior mindset at Giants

Philadelphia hasn’t won on the road since before Thanksgiving, and the Eagles didn’t beat anyone in December except the New York Giants.

The Eagles (11-5) will try to sweep their NFC East rivals and collect their first away win since Nov. 20 when they face the Giants (5-11) again in Sunday’s regular season finale in East Rutherford, N.J.

Despite a 1-4 December, a win still could give Philadelphia its second straight division title if the Dallas Cowboys (11-5) should stumble at Washington (4-12). Otherwise, the Eagles could be looking at the NFC’s No. 5 seed and all road games for the postseason.

Philly’s failures have been on both sides of the ball. That includes a secondary that has surrendered 34 touchdown passes (only Washington has given up more with 35) and an inconsistent offense propped up by the overwhelming red-zone success of the “Brotherly Shove.”

For the first time in franchise history, Philadelphia has lost three games where it held double-digit leads. The Eagles led the New York Jets 14-3 and lost 20-14 (Week 6), led the Seahawks 10-0 and lost 20-17 (Week 15) and built a 21-6 lead against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday before falling 35-31.

So even though the Eagles went to the Super Bowl last season and started 10-1 this season, there were rumblings this week about an unhappy locker room and rumors that coach Nick Sirianni has “lost” the team.

“No, I’m not concerned about that,” Sirianni told 94 WIP-FM on Tuesday. “We’re just looking to get back on track.”

The third-year head coach, who owns a 34-16 record, said team spirit has not eroded.

“No, I don’t believe so. Again, we’re all committed. We know we have the right people in this building to accomplish everything we want to accomplish,” Sirianni said. “There’s a lot of teams that would love a playoff ticket, right? We got one. And, we know that anything is possible when you get into that moment. Again, our goal right now is to get out of this rut and have a good game against the New York Giants here on Sunday.”

The Giants are on a three-game losing streak, including a 33-25 decision at Philadelphia on Christmas Day. New York has lost its past five meetings with the Eagles, including last season’s divisional playoff game.

Tyrod Taylor will be the Giants’ fourth different starting quarterback in the past four games against the Eagles: Tommy DeVito (Week 16), Daniel Jones (playoffs last season) and Davis Webb (Week 18 last season).

Taylor passed for 319 yards with one touchdown and one interception in last Sunday’s 26-25 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Rams. The Giants were on the brink of an upset after Gunner Olszewski scored on a 94-yard punt return with 3:27 left, but Taylor missed a wide-open Saquon Barkley on the 2-point conversion attempt.

Giants coach Brian Daboll said his team will play hard to the final whistle despite missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

“They compete. They’ve had good competitive stamina,” Daboll said Wednesday. “It’s went down to a wire in a few of these games. Obviously haven’t gotten the results we want, but yeah, (I) appreciate how they’re working in the building. They’re pros. They’re doing everything they can do to try to be as good as they can be.”

The Giants are 3-4 at MetLife Stadium, where they have been outscored 139-86 this season.

Center John Michael Schmitz (shin) and safety Jason Pinnock (toe) were the only Giants players who missed practice on Wednesday.

The Eagles are considering resting some starters. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith (ankle), linebacker Haason Reddick (illness) and defensive tackle Jordan Davis (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Carson Wentz (11) reacts during the first half against the Washington Commanders at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Backups saddle up for Rams, 49ers in playoff primer

On the brink the of the playoffs, a preseason feel surrounds the regular-season finale between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

With a wild-card spot clinched, the Rams take a nine-game regular-season losing streak to the 49ers to San Francisco, where Carson Wentz replaces starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. San Francisco (12-4) clinched the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and plans to keep Pro Bowl quarterback Brock Purdy on the sideline this week in favor of backup Sam Darnold.

Los Angeles (9-7) clinched the NFC wild-card berth by winning six of its last seven games. The Rams will either be the No. 6 or No. 7 seed in the postseason.

Rams head coach Sean McVay wasn’t swayed by the seeding uncertainty and is resting Stafford and some other key players.

“I think when you look at the projections, I think they’re excellent teams regardless,” McVay said of possible playoff opponents. “There’s a couple layers to it, and when you look at it, what we just felt like was this approach is the best one for our team. You want to see guys go compete and do well, but that was what we felt like.”

McVay also ruled out running back Kyren Williams (1,144 rushing yards), receiver Cooper Kupp (59 receptions), defensive tackle Aaron Donald (16 tackles for loss) and linebacker Ernest Jones (career-high 145 tackles).

Wentz is making his 93rd career start. He appeared in mop-up duty once since joining the Rams in November, just days after a 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Los Angeles then went on its 6-1 surge.

Though the Rams have their long streak of regular-season futility against San Francisco, they did beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship following the 2021 season en route to winning the Super Bowl.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan definitely has the big picture in mind this week. Purdy and Darnold split the repetitions in Wednesday’s practice. Darnold will handle nearly all the work Thursday.

“I want our team to treat this week as like Brock going down on the first play of the game,” Shanahan said. “That’s why I want them both repping it. I want Brock to get some work this week, and that’s something I’d like us to be ready for if that unfortunately did happen.”

Holding out star runner Christian McCaffrey (1,459 rushing yards) was an easy call due to a calf injury. Cornerback Ambry Thomas (broken hand) underwent surgery this week and is expected to sit out. Defensive end Arik Armstead (foot) and safety Tashaun Gipson (quadriceps) were among the players who didn’t practice Wednesday.

Left tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle and receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are slated to play sparingly.

Star defensive end Nick Bosa and standout linebacker Fred Warner also are expecting a lesser workload.

“I think as of now most guys are going to play a little bit at least,” said Bosa, who has a team-high 10.5 sacks. “Don’t know exactly how much but our mindset is to prepare like a normal week. Try and hone in. We could possibly see them again down the road so whatever advantages we can get from this week is important.”

No rest is planned for Rams receiver Puka Nucua, who has 101 receptions for 1,445 yards. He needs four catches to break the NFL rookie mark set by Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins in 2021, and 29 yards to surpass the rookie record held by Bill Groman of the Houston Oilers since 1960.

Nacua, a fifth-round selection, credits the atmosphere established by McVay as the prime reason for his quick success.

“When he comes to the facility, he’s super excited to be talking about ball, and ways for us to improve and to get better,” Nacua said. “So, seeing how excited he is for us to get better, wanting to improve and knowing that progress is being made, makes it super fun. His confidence goes right into you.”

–Field Level Media

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and franchise owner Robert Kraft are expected to huddle about the outlook for 2024 in the coming days. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick downplays curtain call as Patriots, Jets wrap woeful seasons

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick might be unsure what the future holds, but he realizes now certainly isn’t the time to get sentimental.

Belichick has patrolled the New England sideline for the past 24 seasons, but doubts have doubled that he’ll return for a 25th as the Patriots prepare to face the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

NFL Network reported last Sunday that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has yet to speak with Belichick about a potential return in 2024. Belichick getting fired is unlikely, but a mutual decision to part ways is still a possibility, per the report. The tandem that makes up the Patriots’ power center met two days after the season last January, when Belichick emerged to make changes to his coaching staff.

This might not be the offseason Kraft opts to change course. Belichick (333 victories) plans on coaching next season as he chases Don Shula (347) for the all-time wins record, raising the question of whether he can find the right fit elsewhere.

For now, Belichick maintains he’s only focused on beating New York (6-10).

“I’ll deal with that some other time,” Belichick said of reflecting on his time with the Patriots. “Right now, I’ll just try to get the team ready for the Jets.”

The Jets have split their past four games following a five-game skid, most recently falling 37-20 to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 28.

Trevor Siemian completed 32 of 45 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his second start of the season for New York, which has never fully recovered from losing Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1.

Siemian will start again on Sunday against the Patriots (4-12).

Like Rodgers, running back Dalvin Cook, another offseason addition, was supposed to provide a jolt to the Jets’ offense after rushing for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

Cook struggled to make an impact in New York, rushing for 214 yards on 67 carries. He was released on Wednesday.

That could lead to opportunities in the backfield for Breece Hall, who has already been heavily utilized. In addition to leading the team in rushing (186 carries, 816 yards, four TDs), Hall is also second on the team in receptions with 74 for 579 yards and four TDs.

“Earlier in the year, coming off the (torn ACL last season), we were trying to be judicious how we used him,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “We ramped him up, there was a lull in the middle, to get him more opportunities on third down, find ways to get the ball in his hands.

“He’s really starting to hit his stride.”

Quarterback Zach Wilson, tight end Jeremy Ruckert and center Jake Hanson are all in concussion protocol and missed the Jets’ practice on Wednesday. Rodgers (Achilles) and guard Wes Schweitzer (calf) were limited.

New England will attempt to bounce back from last Sunday’s 27-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, but it could be without offensive tackle Trent Brown and cornerback Myles Bryant. Both missed Wednesday’s practice due to illnesses.

Tight end Hunter Henry (knee) and safety Jabrill Peppers (hamstring) were among 10 players the Patriots listed as limited.

–Field Level Media