Hurts on Hold? Eagles hope injured QB can return vs. Saints

Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts is seen on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts is seen on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The No. 1 seed in the NFC is still on the table for the Eagles.

So is starting banged-up quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts missed Philadelphia’s loss to Dallas because of a sprained right shoulder — a defeat that denied the Eagles the NFC East championship and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Had the Eagles clinched those top spots, the need to have Hurts play again this season would have been erased.

Yet, even at 13-2, the Eagles need their star QB to try to win one of the final two games to earn the No. 1 seed that would give them a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

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Gardner Minshew was serviceable against the Cowboys. But against a Saints (6-9) team still clinging to postseason hopes, the Eagles will turn to Hurts if he’s deemed healthy (enough) to play.

“If Jalen’s ready to go, Jalen will play,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “He’s our starting quarterback. If he’s ready to go, then he’ll go. That’s nothing against Gardner because I thought he played a really good game. But if Jalen’s ready, he’ll go.”

The Eagles had steamrolled their way toward the best record in the NFL until they were upended in Dallas. So now the road to No. 1 is a bit messy: Should Dallas win its last two games and the Eagles lose to the Saints and Giants, the Cowboys are the NFC East champions. And if that scenario unfolds, and somehow Minnesota and San Francisco each lose one of their two final games, the Cowboys are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

That’s a lot of wishful thinking in Dallas.

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In Philly, it’s a lot less complicated: win one (or a Dallas loss) and celebrate being No. 1.

“You don’t think about that yet,” Sirianni said. “We’ve got to take these lumps that they gave us and that we created ourselves, and then sit on them for a little bit.”

What’s working

Even if Minshew gets a second straight start, it’s not exactly cause for concern quite yet. The statistical website fivethirtyeight.com on Monday gave the Eagles a 97% chance of winning the NFC East, 96% chance of a first-round bye and still a 22% chance of winning the Super Bowl. Minshew wasn’t really the reason the Eagles lost, anyway (though a last-gasp throw was nowhere near a receiver). He threw for 355 yards, completing 24 of 40 passes and two touchdowns in his first start of the season.

What needs help

The Eagles need more takeaways — and to stop giving away the ball. The Eagles had two of their four turnovers in the final five minutes against Dallas, and a team that raced to a franchise-record start on the strength of ball security is suddenly having a hard time hanging on. The Eagles’ turnover margin over the first nine weeks of the season was plus-15, the best in the NFL. Since then, the Eagles are an NFL-worst minus-6. Their four turnovers against Dallas led to 20 points.

“You can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to beat a good team,” Minshew said.

Stock up

WR DeVonta Smith had eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns and has teamed with A.J. Brown to form arguably the greatest wide receiver duo in franchise history. Smith has set a career high in receptions (79), yards (1,014) and TDs (seven) this season. Smith and Brown are the first 1,000 yards receiving duo in team history.

Stock down

A defense that let the Eagles squander a pair of double-digit leads. The dagger: The Eagles surrendered a 52-yard reception on a third-and-30 that set up Dallas’ tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Third-and-30!

Injuries

CB Avonte Maddox (toe), DT Jordan Davis (head) and OT Lane Johnson (abdomen) were hurt against Dallas.

Key number

3 — The Eagles are now the third NFL team since 1982 to have three players (Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave) with double-digit sacks in a season. They joined the 1985 Raiders and the 1989 Vikings.

Next steps

Beat the Saints and get ready for playoff games at Lincoln Financial Field.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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