Get to Know: Philadelphia Eagles

PHICARSON

Super Bowl slump? So...is it fact or fiction?

Every year, we look for evidence to support the theory that with each championship win comes the moment when the pedestal gets snatched from underneath the victor and they take a not-so-graceful tumble.

The 2018 Eagles have resembled yet another franchise suffering from the post-big game lull. Backup quarterback Nick Foles filled in admirably during the team's Super Bowl run after Carson Wentz's late-season injury, and with Wentz still sidelined to start 2018, Foles was once again given the nod and the Eagles started 1-1 before Wentz returned to action.

Philadelphia's lineup fluctuated on both sides of the ball in the first six games, preventing either side from establishing a rhythm, and the record reflects that at 3-3 following a blowout victory over the Giants last week. The last reigning Super Bowl winner to start 3-3, the 2014 Seahawks, righted the ship, finishing 12-4 and reaching a second straight Super Bowl (where they lost to New England). Some other recent champions haven't fared as well: The 2012 Giants (began 4-2, finished 9-7), 2013 Ravens (began 3-3, finished 8-8) and 2016 Broncos (began 2-4, finished 9-7) missed the playoffs altogether.

As it stands, the Eagles are still neck-and-neck with the Redskins (3-2) and Cowboys (3-3) for the division lead, making their Week 7 game against the Panthers that much more pivotal to their chances of changing the narrative.

Take a look at some pictures of past matchups between the Panthers and Eagles.

Offense rounding into form: After tearing his ACL in Week 14, Wentz watched the team he powered to an 11-2 record go on to win the franchise's first title. When he returned in Week 3 of this season, Wentz began his journey to picking back up from where he left off.

So far, Wentz has reinvigorated the offense. In four games, Wentz has gone 108-of-158 for 1,192 total yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. His 68.4 completion percentage is ranked seventh amongst QBs with at least 150 attempts and his 104.7 quarterback rating ranks ninth in the NFL. The offense in general has seen a boost in total yards; the Eagles have gained 350-plus in each of the four games. Wentz's immediate impact has been felt, but he wasn't the only important offensive piece missing for head coach Doug Pederson.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey returned in Week 4 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery in February. Jeffrey has totaled 18 receptions for 218 yards and three touchdowns in three games. Fellow wideout Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz served as the primary targets with Jeffrey inactive, and all three pose threats from anywhere on the field. The rotation has also missed veteran receiver Mike Wallace, who was placed on IR after fracturing his fibula in Week 2.

Something else to keep an eye on? The Eagles rank first in time of possession per game, but the blows to the run game could limit their effectiveness moving forward. With lead back Jay Ajayi on IR after tearing his ACL in Week 5 and change-of-pace back Darren Sproles sidelined with a hamstring injury since Week 1, the duties will belong to Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. It wouldn't be shocking, based on trade rumors, if another name gets added to the carousel.

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No running backs allowed: How does a team that ranked fourth in total defense in 2017 improve? By adding two multiple-time Pro Bowlers to their defensive line.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata joined a group that already included DT Fletcher Cox, DE Brandon Graham and linebacker Jordan Hicks, creating quite the human forcefield. Ngata is questionable for Week 7 after a calf injury sidelined him after Week 4, but he has contributed to the Eagles' strong run defense.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's group has held opponents to 19.3 rush attempts per game - the best in the NFL - and 79.8 rushing yards, the second least in the league.

The defensive line, along with the secondary led by Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, have also limited teams to 19.5 points per game.

Executing the game plan against quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers' top-five ranked rush attack is something the versatile Jenkins is making sure his guys are ready to do.

"I can't think of another quarterback in the league where they're running 'quarterback powers,' so you really have to account for him as a true running back in their run game, which is why they're always in the top of the league in rushing," Jenkins said. "It's things that guys aren't used to doing. So this week of preparation is going to be key for us.

"We won't have to prepare for these types of things for the rest of the year."

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