A season-altering injury in Philadelphia has created some playoff drama in the NFC.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson announced on Monday that quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a torn left ACL against the Rams.
“I hate it for the season he’s been having,” Pederson said.
Nick Foles, who’s started 36 games and has a 20-16 record as a starter, will attempt to replace Wentz, who had thrown 33 touchdowns passes while guiding the Eagles to an 11-2 record.
The Eagles currently have the No. 1 seed and would have a first-round bye along with Minnesota (10-3).
The Rams (9-4) would be the No. 3 seed and host the No. 6 seeded Falcons (8-5) if the playoffs started today.
The Saints (9-4) would host the Panthers (9-4) as the NFC South Champs because they’ve beaten the Panthers twice this season.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots are on a collision course for the AFC title, the NFC is now set up for a wild finish.
While the Eagles looked Super Bowl worthy, they figure to fall back to the pack. The hottest team figures have the best chance to roll to the Super Bowl.
The Falcons were the No. 2 seed last season and beat Seattle and Green Bay on their way to Super Bowl LI.
Jacksonville’s win over Seattle, coupled with the Falcons win over the Saints and a previous win over Seattle, the Falcons leaped into the sixth and final playoff spot with three games to play.
The defending NFC champion Falcons hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks by virtue of their 34-31 win on Nov. 20.
The Falcons are one game behind the Panthers and Saints in the NFC South.
If the Falcons win their remaining games at Tampa Bay on Monday at New Orleans on Dec. 24 and against Carolina on Dec. 31 they will repeat as NFC South champs.
“We are going to throw a hell of a week and get ready to play Tampa,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Outside, we know that’s a conversation for sure. That’s human nature. But the best way for us to control the future is for us to play really well right now.”
There’s a doomsday scenario where the Saints, Falcons and Panthers could all finish 11-5, which could happen if the Falcons win-out and the Saints and Panthers win their other two games and lose to the Falcons.
The Saints have to beat the Jets and Tampa Bay and lose to the Falcons.
The Panthers must beat Green Bay and Tampa Bay and lose to the Falcons.
The Saints beat Carolina twice. Under this scenario, the Falcons would have beaten the Saints twice and split with Carolina.
The second tie-breaker is best won-lost-tie percentage in games played with in the division and that would go to the Falcons (5-1), Saints (4-2) and Carolinas (3-3).
The Falcons got hot down the stretch last season and are trying to repeat that same scenario.
“Guys start turning it up as the regular season is coming to an end,” Falcons safety Keanu Neal said.
The Falcons have been off since defeating the Saints 20-17 on Thursday. They return to practice at noon on Tuesday.
“We were fortunate that we have this little time to get healed up,” Quinn said. “We will treat it almost like a bye.”
The Falcons defeated the Bucs 34-20 on Nov. 26. Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing quarterback, but Jameis Winston has since returned and is slated to start.
“We are way more equipped to stay right where we are at, on the task at hand,” Quinn said. “That will be playing Tampa down there. It will be a division game … another game, battling for it.”
The Panthers play the Green Bay Packers next week and may face quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’s could return from a broken collarbone.
“The current thinking, I am told, is that Aaron Rodgers will return when he is eligible to come off of injured reserve and play,” said NBC analyst Mike Florio of proffootballtalk.com. “That would be next week against the Carolina Panthers.”
Rodgers returned from a similar injury in 2013
“Keep this in mind, it was four years ago that he missed a total of eight weeks, when a left collar bone was broken,” Florio said. “If he returns next Sunday against Carolina, it will be a nine-week absence for Rodgers. For now, the thinking is we will see him.”
The Jets, who play the Saints, also have a quarterback injury. Luke McCown broke his left hand and Bryce Petty is set to take over.
The Falcons are trailed by Seattle (8-5), Detroit (7-6), Green Bay (7-6), Dallas (7-6), Washington (5-7) and Arizona (5-7) in the playoff race.
In addition to Seattle, the Falcons own head-to-head tiebreakers over Detroit, Green Bay and Dallas.
Tampa Bay (4-9), Chicago (4-9), San Francisco (3-10) and the New York Giants (2-11) have been eliminated from the playoffs.
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