PHILADELPHIA (AP)As the Eagles weathered a smidgen of adversity with a late-season losing streak, 76ers coach Doc Rivers stepped in to steady unease that Jalen Hurts & Co. were spiraling toward an early postseason exit.
”They’re going to be in the Super Bowl. Relax,” Rivers told reporters. ”It’s a guarantee.”
Bold statement, Doc.
Rivers laughed as he made the prediction ”with my limited football knowledge,” but he knew enough to understand the team with the best record in the NFL played across the street.
But how far the Eagles go – and no one in the organization would be so foolish as to make such a bold prognostication as guaranteeing a Super Bowl berth – depends predominantly on Hurts.
And Hurts knows all eyes – and maybe a few rough shots on his banged-up shoulder – are on him.
”I’ve got a bounty on me every week I go out there,” Hurts said Tuesday. ”I’m going to go out there and just play my game.”
Fans are clamoring to know if Hurts has recovered enough from a sprained right shoulder to play at full strength in an NFC divisional round game Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field against the New York Giants.
”Full go,” coach Nick Sirianni said Tuesday.
Hurts was not even listed on the Eagles’ injury report.
Hurts and the Eagles (14-3) enjoyed the spoils of earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC and spent the week scouting – and snacking – while the Giants edged out a 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants were one of four potential opponents the Eagles could have played this week and their game last weekend was on the big screen at Philadelphia’s complex while Sirianni reviewed a potential game plan against their NFC East rival.
”We were preparing for the games and did a lot of work on the Giants that day,” Sirianni said. ”We got it right there.”
In a city that boasts a robust food scene, Sirianni turned some heads when he revealed he ordered stuffed-crust pizzas from Pizza Hut for his coaching staff as they watched the game. Eagles fans might enjoy some gastronomic second-guessing of a coach who has otherwise largely made all the right calls this season.
The Giants should know as well as any team how often Sirianni and the Eagles seemingly had everything go right. The NFC East champion Eagles already defeated the Giants twice, 48-22 on Dec. 11 at MetLife Stadium and 22-16 on Jan. 8 in the regular-season finale in Philly. Hurts, who returned for the finale after missing two games because of his bad shoulder, mostly ran a vanilla offense against the Giants’ second-teamers.
Make it 3-0, and the Eagles will host the NFC championship game.
The Eagles went 14-1 in games Hurts started.
”He’s better today than he was two weeks ago,” Sirianni said. ”He’s continuing to get better and he feels good.”
Hurts could have added protection against the Giants, with All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson expected to return for the first time since he suffered a torn adductor in a Dec. 24 loss at Dallas. The only starter who might miss a playoff game is cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe), who has not played since he was hurt in the Dallas game.
Johnson was a limited participant in a walkthrough practice Tuesday and Maddox did not participate.
With the Phillies just three months removed from their unexpected run to the World Series, championship expectations gave gripped the area. Just 80 miles north of the city in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts moved its ”Alice in Wonderland” mural unveiling up a week to Feb. 5, saying ”the Philadelphia Eagles have a pretty good shot of making it to the NFL championship game.”
The Eagles hope they’ll make a pretty important date just west of Phoenix.
The Eagles have made a statement all season that they’re the team beat on the road to the Super Bowl. Sirianni and Hurts wore black sweatshirts with the slogan ”It’s A Philly” thing – several Eagles had the merchandise in their lockers – in a nod to the ethos ranging from inside the locker room to the street vendors hawking knockoff T-shirts that has enveloped Philadelphia.
”It’s a swagger,” Hurts said. ”It’s kind of in the air of its own when you talk the passion in this city, the support in this city. The love for the Philadelphia Eagles in this city is truly a Philly thing. It’s a special city, it’s a special time. We know we have the support of our city through everything and let’s show up on Saturday.”
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