Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz must earn his money this week

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

After facing early adversity, Carson Wentz must rise to the occasion against the Detroit Lions this week to avoid sending Philadelphia Eagles fans into a panic.

I am still not completely sold on Carson Wentz.

Yes, I saw his near-MVP season in 2017.

Yes, I saw his gutsy performance last week that almost earned the Philadelphia Eagles an improbable win. Keyword: almost.

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But what I, and really all of us, need to see is a signature performance in an important spot. Look no further than this Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Lions.

You wouldn’t normally think that the third game of the season for a 1-1 team would be so critical. But this one is.

With the 2-0 Dallas Cowboys set to face the laughable Miami Dolphins this week, you can already pencil in a 3-0 start for Big D. Actually, you can mark it down in Sharpie. And so the Eagles must solve Detroit this week in order to stay one game back of Dallas.

Even more ominously, the Eagles must travel to play the Green Bay Packers just four days after facing the Lions. In case you’re wondering, the Packers play at home this Sunday against the Denver Broncos, so they can just kick back and wait for the Eagles to come to them.

It’s far from an ideal scenario for the Eagles, and they will lose that game. Believe me, I told you they were going to lose in Atlanta last week.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, travel to New Orleans in Week 4 to face the Saints. The Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints, mind you. I’m thinking that they have an excellent chance to exit that game 4-0 and leading the NFC East by at least two games.

This is why a Week 3 game against the Lions is so critical. The Eagles need to win this one simply to avoid falling far behind the Cowboys early in the season. Eventually, the Eagles will arrive at the “soft” part of their schedule, but it may not make a difference if they are already three or four games behind Dallas in what is essentially a two-horse race in the NFC East, the winner guaranteed a home playoff game at the very least.

All of this brings me back to Wentz, who needs to demonstrate why he is a “big game quarterback” this Sunday and start to validate the mammoth contract that the Eagles gave him. He’ll be missing DeSean Jackson at the very least, and possibly Alshon Jeffery and/or Dallas Goedert. The absence of such weapons would be a blow to any quarterback.

But, you know what? The best players, the best quarterbacks, find ways to win even in adverse situations.

I’m not saying that Wentz needs to win the game on his own, because the O-line needs to protect him better and the defense needs to do its part. But, given a full week of practice with the offensive players he has at his disposal this Sunday, Wentz simply must execute the winning game plan that Doug Pederson has devised.

That’s correct; I am always going to have faith that Doug Pederson has devised a winning game plan and that the Eagles will prevail if the players execute said plan. You don’t need any other proof of this than Super Bowl LII.

Even with some limitations to the offense, this Eagles team has enough ability to defeat the Lions. Detroit isn’t half-bad, but don’t forget that they’re just two weeks removed from blowing an 18-point 4th quarter lead to a quarterback playing in his first NFL game, ultimately having to settle for a tie. Nobody should be scared of them.

There is a difference between a “career” game and a “signature” game. A career game would be if Wentz threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns on Sunday. Or he could have the game that Nick Foles had on the day of my wedding, meaning that all of my family and friends missed it. Oops. Sorry, guys.

At any rate, Wentz isn’t going to do that. Not this week.

But a signature game? The final stat line might not be pretty, but if we can look back after the game is over and pick out a handful of plays that a quarterback made that were critical in ultimately securing a win for his team, that’s what a signature game is all about. That’s what Wentz needs to do.

Here’s what I’m looking for from Carson Wentz on Sunday:

  • He needs to spread the ball around, not just to different receivers, but to different levels of the field. With Jackson out, long bombs are probably out of the question, but Wentz still has capable targets in short and mid-range situations. Of course, it helps if they actually catch the ball. Looking at you, Nelson Agholor.
  • Be smart with when to extend the play and when to give up. He can’t expose himself to big hits after he was lucky to come out of last week’s game in one piece.
  • Perhaps most importantly, don’t turn the ball over. If Detroit can force him into multiple turnovers, it’s going to be a long day.
  • Be prepared for a possible game-deciding drive in the fourth quarter. He hasn’t had much success on these so far, but coming through in this game is absolutely critical.

Losing on Sunday could be a legitimate season-crusher, even when we haven’t made it out of September yet, because the Eagles would most likely be sitting at 1-3 just four days later after their trip to Lambeau Field.

Carson Wentz’s reputation could take a big hit on Sunday if he fails to deliver a win. And while it’s likely that any kind of loss wouldn’t be entirely his fault, he must be held the most highly accountable when the team fails on the field.

I’d like to tell Wentz because I’m sure he is reading this, that I don’t expect him to be perfect on Sunday. But I expect him to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to victory because this season could get really ugly really fast if he doesn’t.

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If he wants to be in the conversation of “Best Quarterbacks in the NFL”, this is a game he must win.