Excitement for underdog Eagles reaches fever pitch
Embracing their inner Rocky Balboa, Philadelphians everywhere are jumping feet first into the NFC Championship Game, confident that the underdog Eagles (14-3) will defeat the Minnesota Vikings (14-3) 6:40 p.m. EST on Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl in two weeks.
“I think they can win,” said Quincy Harris. “I was doubtful when [starting quarterback Carson Wentz] went down; we were looking a little shaky. But let’s not forget that Nick Foles is a former Pro Bowl quarterback. If we can eliminate the mistakes and the turnovers, I think we’re Super Bowl-bound.”
As the midday host of “The Q” on Fox 29 and the new “Quincy Harris Morning Show” on WRNB 100.3 FM Philly, the Temple graduate exudes optimism, even though the Eagles will be without Wentz, who was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL this season until a torn ACL last month sidelined him until next season.
Foles, mostly a career backup who once made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Eagles, has Philadelphia one game away from reaching its third Super Bowl in franchise history.
“It’s such a great feeling,” said South Philly native Patty Jackson, weekday and Sunday host at WDAS 105.3 FM. “It was like a punch to the gut when Carson went down, and now to see what has happened since the injury, with everything the team has overcome, this team has really come a long way.”
Around since 1933, the Eagles have appeared in just two Super Bowls and have never won. They won three NFL Championships, the precursor to the Super Bowl, in four appearances.
Few could have envisioned the Eagles at the brink of a third Super Bowl appearance after Wentz was lost for the season on Dec. 10 in a 43-35 road win against the Los Angeles Rams. Before then, with a stellar defense that has been the best at stopping the run, the Eagles had been viewed by many as the odds-on favorite to reach and win their first Super Bowl.
But Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a pair of wins in their last three regular season games, and the team finished with the best record (13-3) in the NFC to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, the loss of Wentz had a huge impact. The Eagles’ offense, the third-highest scoring during the regular season with an average of 28.6 points, sputtered under Foles. And last week, leading up to their first-round 15-10 win over Atlanta, the Eagles became the first top-seeded team in league history to open the playoffs as an underdog.
They are underdogs again against the Vikings — another first, as no top seed has ever been an underdog twice — but Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams doesn’t understand why the loss of Wentz makes the Eagles less likely to win.
“I think that it’s motivation for the players,” Williams said. “You don’t have to be a player to understand that the quarterback is important, but he is not the entire team. In all the years I have been watching football, there has not been a quarterback who has won a game by himself. You have to win as a team.
“We may not have the best quarterback but we have a very good offense and defense with Pro Bowlers, and we have good special teams,” Williams said. “That, and it is a matter of will. People have to be willing to execute.”
The Vikings have the top-rated defense in the NFL. However, their quarterback, Case Keenum, like Foles, also began the season as a backup. In fact, Foles and Keenum were teammates on the 2015 St. Louis Rams.
An Eagles victory would send them to the Super Bowl in Minnesota in two weeks where they would face the winner of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday pitting the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots against Jacksonville.
Williams is certain the Eagles will get there.
“When we win, I want the people who hopped off the bandwagon to know that we are taking their driver’s licenses,” Williams said. “You will not be allowed to drive to Minnesota for the Super Bowl, and you will not be allowed to come to the Super Bowl parade.”