Team Notes Week 21 2017

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<

NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF

Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

Please feel free to download Text-Only or MS Word formatted versions of this file as necessary.

Team Menu

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 January 2018

With a two-week run-up to the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots faced plenty of questions about two things critical to the team's success: Tom Brady's right hand and Rob Gronkowski's head.

Brady answered most of the concerns about whether the hand injury would hinder him with a strong performance in New England's AFC championship game victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gronkowski, meanwhile, will spend at least part of this week going through the concussion protocol. He suffered the injury on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jacksonville safety Barry Church.

The game-changing tight end is Brady's favorite target, and he missed last season's Super Bowl run after undergoing season-ending back surgery.

Gronk didn't take part in the bye week practice sessions last Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, but he was on the field Saturday and Sunday.

So even though he hasn't been officially cleared from the league's concussion protocol, he seems a near certainty to get cleared in time to play on Sunday. In fact, in reporting on Monday that Gronk went "full tilt" Saturday and Sunday, Boston Herald beat writer Jeff Howe added: "Barring a setback, clearing the concussion protocol is far more about when than if."{

It's safe to say there will be daily updates in the News and Views section of the site through resolution of Gronkowski's status (as well as that of any other significant players).

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gronkowski has been listed on the injury report 49 times over his eight-year career, but never with a concussion. That doesn't include the times he was placed on injured reserve. In 2013, when he tore his ACL on a hit by T.J. Ward that ended his season, Gronkowski was believed to have sustained a concussion on the play as well.

More recently, New England has fared well when Gronkowski has been sidelined. But that hasn't always been the case.

The Patriots had plenty of time to adjust to his absence in 2016, when he played just eight games before the surgery. They also had Martellus Bennett to pick up the slack.

Since the start of last season, New England is 12-1 without Gronk. In those games, the Patriots' points per game actually increased from 28.6 to 28.8, although their yards per play declined from 8.1 to 7.6.

The offense was also better without him on third down and in the red zone. Over the past two seasons it converted on 49.3 percent of its chances on third down and scored touchdowns on 66 percent of its red zone trips without him, compared to 45 percent on third down and scoring touchdowns on 62.6 percent of red zone trips when he played.

From his rookie season in 2010 through 2015, his absence had a much greater impact.

The Patriots were 12-7 without Gronkowski over that span, averaging 31.5 points per game with him and 26.3 without him. The offense's average yards per pass attempt also fell from 7.8 with him to 6.6 without him.

Before he was injured, Gronkowski passed Dallas Clark to become the NFL's career leader for postseason yards at the position. And if the concussion were to sideline him for the Super Bowl, there's not much depth behind him. The only tight ends on New England's roster are Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister.

Allen has 10 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown this season. Hollister has four catches for 42 yards and was inactive against Jacksonville.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said there is always a plan to adapt to injuries.

"You have to make some adjustments. We always go into the game with a certain idea of how we want to try to play it," he said. "It certainly doesn't always play out the way that you wanted it to or that you had hoped to or designed it to, but that happens in every game.

"So, everybody understands that that's part of the game and when that happens, you just have to embrace whatever role you need to take on to help the team win."

According to Karen Guregian of the Herald, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he can't focus on Brady's favorite target even if he's well enough to play.

"In the NFL, in general, particularly the Patriots, you can't scheme for one player. If you do, they have plenty of other players that can make plays," Schwartz said. "You have to do a good job against their entire offense. You really can't make it about one person."

Still, as Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt suggested, it's obviously easier to deal with the offense minus the guy who accounted for 20 percent of Brady's targets this year.

Beyond that, Brady played against Jacksonville with stitches in his right thumb. Those stitches were removed last week, but the QB said on Sunday that his right hand isn't quite 100 percent.

"I'm still working on it," Brady said during a Sunday ESPN interview. "Again, it was only 11 days ago when I hurt it. But I think we're in a decent place and hopefully it can get better over the course of the next seven days. It's not quite where I want it to be right now, but hopefully by game time it should be."

Brady is wearing a glove to protect the area.

"Just trying to protect it the best way I can," Brady said during a Tuesday morning press conference. "It's obviously an important part of my body as a quarterback. Under Armour made it for me. It's a great glove. It's got a lot of recovery in it. It's what I need."

Still, after throwing for nearly 300 yards and pulling off the comeback against the Jaguars' speedy, No. 1-ranked pass defense, Brady admitted it was a unique week due to the issue.

"Never had anything like it. Well, I've had a couple crazy injuries, but this was pretty crazy. They come up and you just deal with them," Brady said. "I think it sounds kind of arrogant to say, 'Oh yeah, it bothered me,' when we had a pretty good game. So, I wouldn't say that. Doesn't that sound arrogant if I said that? It's like when Tiger Woods said, 'That was my C game,' and he won the tournament."

Belichick also jokingly dismissed the hand issue.

"Look, Tom did a great job and he's a tough guy. We all know that, alright? But, we're not talking about open-heart surgery here," Belichick said in his trademark dry tone.

No one, though, could dismiss the well-rounded effort that led to the hard-fought victory.

Danny Amendola came up huge again with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown receptions as well as a key 21-yard gain on third-and-18 just before his first score. Defensively, New England stopped running back Leonard Fournette down the stretch and got timely pass defense, none more so than cornerback Stephon Gilmore's pass breakup on Bortles' last-ditch final fourth-down throw of the game.

"This was a great football game," Belichick exclaimed shortly after accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy signifying the eighth time New England will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl since he arrived in 2000.

Meanwhile, the trip to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII has some added personal meaning for Brady, as his mother's side of the family is from the state. The connection was noted during the CBS broadcast of the Patriots' win over Jacksonville.

"My mom [Galynn] grew up in central Minnesota, a small town called Browerville," Brady explained. "My grandparents lived there, and my grandma died of multiple sclerosis quite a few years ago. She was in a nursing home and my grandpa was a farmer; he was a dairy farmer, had a lot of cows and he farmed corn.

"So every year we would go back in the summer and spend weeks. We'd go fishing in the summer, ice fishing in the winter, and milk the cows with my grandpa and just kind of tend to the farm. It was a great experience for me, [being] born in California."

This will be Brady's eighth Super Bowl appearance, which extends his own record. His previous trips were played in New Orleans, Houston (twice), Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Arizona (twice).

Minnesota will stand out to him.

"I've always felt a connection to Minnesota. It will be fun because my uncles live there, my cousins. We were just back there last year when my grandpa passed away," Brady said on WEEI. "It's just a great place. It's really special to go back there. The last time we played in Minnesota [Week 2 of the 2014 season], I had a lot of people come; a lot of family and extended family.

"So it will be a lot of great support there in Minnesota too."

Fan support notwithstanding, Brady has plenty of post-season experience -- and production -- to hang his hat on.

As PFT's Michael David Smith laid it out, Brady has thrown for at least 280 yards in eight consecutive postseason games. Which means that in Super Bowl LII, he's likely to do something totally unprecedented: Surpass 10,000 career postseason passing yards.

Brady has thrown for 9,721 passing yards in the postseason in his NFL career. That's by far the most in NFL history. Peyton Manning, at 7,339 career postseason passing yards, is next, and more than 2,000 yards behind Brady.

If Brady manages 279 yards in the Super Bowl against the Eagles, he'll reach 10,000 postseason passing yards in his career, a total that may never be approached again.

After Brady, the active player with the next-most career postseason passing yards is Ben Roethlisberger, with 5,256. Given that Roethlisberger is barely halfway to 10,000 and is already 35 years old and musing about retirement, it's highly unlikely that he'll reach 10,000.

Next among active passers is Aaron Rodgers, at 4,458. Rodgers may have several more postseason appearances ahead of him, but it's hard to believe that, at age 34, he has more than 5,000 passing yards in the postseason.

Drew Brees is next after Rodgers on the career postseason passing yardage list. Brees is even older than Roethlisberger, so he's no threat to catch Brady.

Among active players under 30, Russell Wilson is the active leader with 2,777 career postseason passing yards. He might have the best chance of any active player to reach 10,000, but even Wilson, who will turn 30 this year, seems awfully unlikely to have more than 7,000 career postseason passing yards left in him.

So Brady's career postseason passing yardage record may simply be unbreakable.

Or, if it's ever going to be broken, it's going to be many years from now, by someone who's not even in the league yet.

As for this week's matchup, head coach Doug Pederson's team has plenty of talent and production on both sides of the ball. The Eagles finished the regular season with the No. 7 offense and No. 4 defense in terms of yards, the second straight game New England will face a postseason foe ranked in the top 10 on both sides of the ball.

Defensively, Schwartz, a Belichick assistant on his staff with the Browns in the early 1990s, has a unit that ranked No. 4 in points allowed, No. 3 on third down and No. 4 in takeaways.

Assuming Gronkowski is available and a full go, the Sports Xchange believes the Patriots will likely look to find personnel advantages and be aggressive early on in the passing game. Brady has opened the postseason with two impressive performances in which he's completed 67 percent of his throws, has five touchdowns and no interceptions and a 105 passer rating. His ability to take care of the ball negates one of Philly's greatest strengths, notching 19 interceptions during the regular season and two more in last weekend's NFC title win.

With Gronkowski on the field, it gives Brady a dominant force down the middle, a key slot option in the surging Amendola (18 catches for 196 yards and two scores this January), a dangerous deep threat in Brandin Cooks and a pair of pass-catching back options in Dion Lewis and James White. That gives him the ability stretch the Eagles' pass defense both vertically and horizontally.

Many believe the Eagles' cornerbacks are a bit underrated, but they could still find themselves the target of many of Brady's passes on the outside to Cooks, Chris Hogan and others.

Remember; Cooks had six catches for 100 yards against the Jaguars and was also in the immediate vicinity of a pair of long pass interference penalties, which bought them another 68 yards.

It's certainly reasonable to suggest that the Eagles' corners aren't as good as Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and that Cooks is positioned for another big game.

The biggest issue, as always, is New England's offensive line dealing with dominant interior force Fletcher Cox and a rotation of very capable edge defenders.

Schwartz, who has Belichick's respect, uses a lot of bodies and looks up front in the pass rush and has built one of the best third-down defenses in football. As the Xchange put it, "This will be a battle of wits between two experienced, heady minds. It's a battle that could decide the game."

As is so often the case for the Patriots, the running game will be a complementary factor against Cox and the league's No. 1 rush defense. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Rex Burkhead (knee) returned to action against Jacksonville after missing the previous three games. Burkhead only played three snaps on offense and four on special teams before being sent to the sideline by game officials after getting up slowly following a first-half incomplete pass. He finished with one rush for 5 yards.

Mike Gillislee (knee) was again inactive, missing his third straight game. The veteran did practice on a limited basis last week and his absence may have been as much about Burkhead's return to the lineup as it did his own knee issue.

Receiver Bernard Reedy was a healthy scratch against Jacksonville, just days after re-signing with New England while Kenny Britt was a healthy scratch for the second straight week of postseason action. The veteran played in reserve action in the final three regular-season games after signing with New England in December.

Hollister was a healthy scratch against Jacksonville, the first game the undrafted rookie didn't play in since the season opener. ...

And finally this week. .... Both of Belichick's longtime coordinators are about to move on. McDaniels had his second interview for the Colts' head coaching job last Friday, a meeting that should end any doubt that McDaniels will be taking the job. And defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be announced as the Detroit Lions' head coach shortly after the Super Bowl.

Who on the current Patriots staff could replace McDaniels?

According to Boston Globe staffer Ben Volin, there are really only two options, and Belichick could give both more responsibility. McDaniels wears two hats, as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and replacing him with just one coach won't be easy.

One prospect is assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski. He has been with the Patriots for five seasons, in his current role for two. He worked heavily with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, and he earned high praise inside the organization for getting Brissett ready to start two games last season.

The other is Chad O'Shea, who is the most realistic internal choice for offensive coordinator. O'Shea has been the receivers coach since 2009, and before that was a special teams coach and a college quarterback at Houston, so he knows all aspects of the game. In addition to coaching receivers, O'Shea is the Patriots' red zone offense coordinator, drawing up those areas of the game plan each week.

Patricia has an obvious heir -- linebackers coach Brian Flores, who has been with the organization for 14 years. Flores has worked in the scouting department, as safeties coach, and as linebackers coach. Like O'Shea, he's also the red zone coordinator. According to Volin, Flores is a coach and mentor for players across the defense, not just the linebackers.

And he even received an interview from the Cardinals this month for their head coaching job, a sign of how quickly his profile is rising inside the NFL.

Given the franchise's overall success, it's no real surprise the rest of the league has been trying to tap into it.

"I think we've had five or six of our people are either general managers or head coaches at other teams," Patriots owner Bob Kraft said, via ESPN. "It's a credit, as long as we don't populate the whole league, but if we're worthy, I mean, I think it's a great credit to Bill and the coaching staff for what they've been able to accomplish."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Troy Niklas, Dwayne Allen

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 22 January 2018

As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi framed it, "Nick Foles stood tall in the pocket, ignored the pressure and made one big throw after another. ..."

On the biggest stage of his life, Foles silenced the critics who thought the Eagles couldn't get to the Super Bowl without MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Foles threw for 352 and three touchdowns to lead Philadelphia to a convincing 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game Sunday.

Now he's in Minnesota making final preparations to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"Words can't describe what I feel right now," Foles said. "All glory goes to God. I'm grateful and humbled to be part of this team. No one in the locker room doubted me. We kept working, I got more reps in practice and it's a rhythm thing."

While Wentz watched from the sideline, using a cane to walk following surgery to repair his torn left ACL, Foles picked apart the NFL's top-ranked defense. He tossed a perfect 53-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery with the pocket collapsing around him to give Philadelphia a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.

Foles then directed a 60-yard drive in 29 seconds to set up a field goal before halftime. He fired a 49-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith off a flea flicker to start the second half and tossed a 5-yard TD to Jeffery early in the fourth to make it 38-7.

Foles was at his best on third downs, completing 10 of 11 for 159 yards and two TDs. The Eagles had been 0 for 13 on third-and-10 or longer after Wentz went down. On Sunday, Foles threw an 11-yard pass to Zach Ertz on third-and-10 on the Eagles' first touchdown drive. His long TD pass to Jeffery came on third-and-10.

The Eagles (15-3) have been underdogs in both playoffs games, mostly because Wentz was no longer playing. They were the first No. 1 seed not favored in a divisional round game, a 15-10 win over the Falcons. The Vikings (14-4) were 3-point favorites despite also being led by a backup quarterback - Case Keenum, Foles' good friend and former teammate.

"You know everyone was against us," Foles said. "Coming out here, stick together and come away with an amazing victory against a great team."

Keenum congratulated Foles in the tunnel after the game.

"He did a great job," Keenum said.

Foles walked into the X-ray room after the game, but told Maaddi after he came out: "I'm good. I'm fine."

Foles wasn't listed on the team's bye week injury report. In fact, Jay Ajayi, who tweaked his ankle in the Vikings game, was the only skill player included last week. He worked on a limited basis Thursday and Friday but is fully expected to play Sunday.

Foles, meanwhile, put on a passing clinic, completing 78.8 percent of his passes (26 of 33) against the Vikings. Not bad for a guy who contemplated retirement before the 2016 season.

"I'm not surprised," said Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who held the same position with the Eagles in 2013. "I've seen the best of Nick."

A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles had tremendous success as a starter under Chip Kelly his sophomore season. He threw 29 TDs and only two picks in 11 starts, including playoffs in 2013. Foles posted a passer rating of 119.2, third-highest in league history. He tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 won an offensive MVP award at a Pro Bowl.

But Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford in March 2015. He lost his starting job to Keenum and asked for his release after Jared Goff was drafted No. 1 overall. Foles considered hanging up his cleats before Reid persuaded him to go to Kansas City to be Alex Smith's backup.

After one season with the Chiefs, Foles returned to Philly to provide insurance behind Wentz.

Now, as Maaddi suggested, "He'll become a folk hero if he can deliver the franchise's first ever Super Bowl title. ..."

For what it's worth, in early December, the Eagles spent a week on the west coast between road games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams.

They did it strictly for convenience. They didn't want to have to make back-to-back cross-country plane flights.

As it turns out, that week together on the road might benefit them this week when they travel to Minneapolis for Super Bowl week.

"We talked back then that this was sort of a precursor for hopefully this (Super Bowl) opportunity," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday, less than a day after his team advanced to Super Bowl LII with an impressive 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. "Kind of going through it a little bit with the team hotel (in Orange County, Calif.), the meetings, the travel to a practice site, the media obligations, and things like that.

"Now, having been through it, it makes it a little easier going up to Minneapolis. But it's just on a grander, bigger stage obviously. The attention will be a lot more. There will be a lot more distractions, a lot more pulling on coaches, players and personnel. Having gone through it in L.A. has really given us a leg up now going up there in a week."

That trip worked out well. After losing to the Seahawks in Seattle, they bounced back and beat the Rams, 43-35, which helped them get the NFC home-field advantage in the playoffs.

When they boarded a charter for Minnesota Monday, it was the first time they left the city since the playoffs began, beating both Atlanta and the Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

It's worth noting the Eagles are the first team since the 1990 New York Giants to reach a Super Bowl without a player totaling 1,000 scrimmage yards though running backs Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and wide receivers Jeffery and Smith have done so in the past.

That group plus Pro Bowl tight end Ertz, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and others have bought into a team-first, unselfish concept.

They're not checking their stats after games. The only number they cared about all season was the win column.

"I think this group of guys is as good as you could ask to be around," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Really, the character and the work ethic, the camaraderie, just the commitment to the process that Coach (Doug Pederson) and our staff is always talking about. There's a complete buy-in.

"It really helps that we've had the success and the execution. It's always easier to buy in when you're having the success that we've had."

Blount didn't even get a carry in a loss at Kansas City in Week 2. Then he ran for a season-high 136 yards two weeks later at the Chargers. It was the only 100-yard rushing performance by Philadelphia this season.

Blount, who led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns with New England last year, led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing but his touches decreased after Ajayi was acquired from Miami.

"You can't be selfish when everybody has one common goal," Blount said. "You have to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. We've done that and it's gotten us this far."

Ajayi came to Philadelphia with a reputation for selfishness, but it hasn't been an issue. He kneeled on the turf and sobbed after the Eagles beat Minnesota in the NFC championship game.

"It's a special feeling to not be done and to still have our goal of winning a Super Bowl right there in front of us," he said.

Jeffery was the go-to man in Chicago before joining the Eagles. He didn't have one 100-yard game, but led the team with nine TD catches.

"We're not looking at numbers, just going out there and playing," Jeffery said. "No matter who's out there having a great game, or whoever the ball's going to, as long as we're doing our job and just catching and working and getting those wins, that's all that matters."

There were no "throw me the damn ball" moments in Philadelphia's locker room.

"I didn't have to sell it too much," Pederson said. "These guys are unselfish players. They are team players. I think any time that you factor in the wins, and they're contributing to the wins, it sort of minimizes or sort of takes away the (idea) that, 'I've got to have 1,000 yards; I got to have 10 touchdowns; I've got to rush for this many yards and have this many touchdowns.'

"I think it minimizes that a little bit, because the team is doing well and the success of the offense."

And don't underestimate Pederson's role in that offensive success.

As FiveThirtyEight.com's Neil Paine pointed out, under both Wentz in the regular season and Foles during the playoffs, the Eagles' offense averaged over 390 yards per game.

But those yards were accumulated in different ways.

Paine went on to explain that before Wentz's injury, Philly was a balanced team whose aerial attack primarily relied on the power of its quarterback's arm - often assisted by Wentz's ability to improvise and buy time in the pocket. One thing it didn't do, however, was ask receivers to do lots of work after hauling in the football. Through Week 14, Wentz led the league in touchdown passes per attempt and ranked third in air yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats and Information, but his targets were only 22nd in yards after the catch per reception.

On the other hand, Foles connected on three 40-yard passes against the Vikings, but those have been exceptions to the Eagles' general approach with him at the helm, which has been to throw much shorter. In the playoffs, Foles' average pass has traveled 7.1 yards through the air. Compare that with Wentz's average of 9.8 air yards per attempt during the regular season, and you can begin to see how Pederson has shifted his offense's focus.

Forty percent of Wentz's passes went 10 or more yards downfield, compared with 25 percent for Foles in the playoffs. And Foles has actually thrown a larger share of his passes to players at or behind the line of scrimmage (29 percent) than 10 yards past it.

So Philly's passing offense changed in the playoffs thanks to Pederson's ability to make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of his personnel. Not surprisingly, Patriots coach Bill Belichick took a moment in Minneapolis to answer a question about preparing to face Pederson.

Asked what it's like to match wits with Pederson, Belichick noted that Pederson calls plays with the best of them, and the Patriots' defense won't have any one thing it can key on.

"Very aggressive, well balanced, uses a lot of personnel, all the receivers, all the tight ends, all the backs," Belichick said. "He's done a great job and it's a good offense and they've got good players, they're well coached and he does a great job calling plays."

Heading into Sunday's game, the Eagles are confident they can score points on the Patriots' defense.

If they're going to slow Philly's roll, the Patriots secondary must get off to a better start than it did in the AFC title game when some blown assignments left Jaguars running free for completions that got Blake Bortles going. As the Sports Xchange notes, Jeffery, Smith, Agholor and Ertz will test a Patriots back end that other than Stephon Gilmore has been inconsistent in recent weeks.

Safety Patrick Chung is one of the Patriots' most versatile and trusted defenders, but he's coming off a tough game, especially early on against Jacksonville when he allowed an easy touchdown to TE Marcedes Lewis. Chung will very much be in the mix covering Ertz, who not only led the Eagles with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight scores during the regular season, but had a game-high 93 yards on eight catches in the NFC title game.

Expect the Eagles to try to get Ertz locked up in some one-on-one matches with free safety Devin McCourty as well, especially on slants off run-pass options.

The Patriots' issue allowing big plays will be tested if Pederson gives Foles more chances to go deep as he did against Minnesota. With New England's inconsistent-at-best pass rush, the coverage needs to be better against a hot passing attack.

The Patriots' run defense has been impressive in recent weeks, the last three games against bigger, power backs. Ajayi leads the NFL's No. 3 rush attack and can be explosive, testing the Patriots' linebackers and overall tackling. Likely, though, it will be the battle in the passing game that will be the key for the New England defenders against a backup quarterback and cast of weapons that have something to prove. ...

A few final notes here. ... Blount, who had an NFL-best 18 rushing touchdowns last season with the Patriots, had an 11-yard TD run Sunday against the Vikings. It was just his third of the year.

Jake Elliott has converted 27 of his last 30 field-goal attempts.

Tight end Trey Burton has just four catches for 36 yards in the last five games.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers