PHILADELPHIA -- Carson Wentz is not going to win the Super Bowl title this season that his backup won last season, and odds are he is not going to reach the postseason either. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Philadelphia Eagles a 17.8 percent chance to make the playoffs, which means there is an 82.2 percent chance that Wentz will be just as miserable sitting at home next month as he was last winter sitting on his team's bench.
Wait, didn't Wentz say all the right, team-centric things about Nick Foles and the historic run the Eagles made without their injured franchise player? Of course he did. What was he supposed to do -- look and sound as thrilled about the season's final outcome as Bill Belichick did?
Let's face it, human nature is what it is. Once upon a time, Phil Simms watched his Giants backup, Jeff Hostetler, upset Buffalo in the Gulf War Super Bowl while he whispered to himself, "Oh my God, this [Buffalo] team was made for me to throw against." Out with a broken foot, Simms left the field before Bills kicker Scott Norwood went wide right in the final seconds and left the Giants' locker room before the celebration began. He couldn't stomach the sights and sounds of his team winning it all with another man under center. "Pretty devastating," Simms called the experience.
Simms already had won a Super Bowl, four years earlier, with a nearly flawless performance. So how do you think the young, restless and (at the time) ringless Carson Wentz felt while watching Foles tear New England's defense to shreds with his offense?
Now here's the good news for Wentz and his legion of devoted fans, LeBron James included: Even in this 6-6 season, his comeback season from the serious knee injury he suffered last December, Wentz has shown subtle signs that he will someday have a Super Bowl victory to call his own. The smart money would be on sooner rather than later.
When the Eagles were humiliated a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, left to the merciless designs of Sean Payton, they looked more than willing to call it a season. They lost by 41 points to fall to 4-6 after Wentz threw three interceptions and no touchdown passes. Nobody would've blamed the Eagles for effectively finishing with six consecutive bye weeks. This was supposed to be a free year, anyway, after they finally gifted their city its long-lost title.
But instead of folding, the Eagles responded with their first win streak of the season. They beat the Giants, and on Monday night, they beat Washington after the Redskins lost yet another quarterback, Colt McCoy, to a broken leg, forcing Jay Gruden to send onto the field the mummified remains of Mark Sanchez. Wentz threw for two touchdowns, a two-point conversion and 306 yards in the 28-13 victory, surviving a brutal interception to advance to Sunday's road game against Dallas with an actual chance to land in first place in the NFC East.
"This group," Doug Pederson said, "doesn't let a lot bother them."
Philly's resilience is a testament to its most important player, Wentz, who was threatening to become the league MVP in 2017 before two Rams defenders sandwiched him and blew up his knee on his headfirst dive into the end zone. Wentz hasn't been the same athletic dynamo in his comeback, and it's probable that he won't have his legs completely underneath him until next September.
And yet on Monday night, Wentz delivered a forceful reminder of the whirling dervish he used to be. He was once again a master of improvisation, making play after play on the run. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Wentz completed six of seven attempts for a career-high 100 yards on throws outside the pocket and established a career high with 163 passing yards on play-action.
"He's gifted at doing that," Pederson said, "and it's just something that happens naturally for him."
It happens as naturally as Wentz deflects questions about the individual mark he has already set at age 25. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that in 39 starts, Wentz has more games of at least 300 passing yards (13) than Ron Jaworski (12) and Randall Cunningham (12) managed for the Eagles, leaving him behind only Donovan McNabb (27 in 142 starts) on the franchise list.
"Honestly, I don't really know much about the numbers," Wentz said. "I know that we left some yards out there. I know I missed a couple, so I really don't think too much about 300-yard games or this or that. All I know is at the end of the day, we got a win and finally got some momentum going."
Wentz was a perfect 5-for-5 on the opening touchdown drive that set the promising tone. Golden Tate finally looked like Golden Tate, and Darren Sproles scored while playing for the first time since he was injured in Week 1. The Eagles were good enough on this night to survive a 90-yard touchdown run from the ageless Adrian Peterson and good enough to suddenly think big things as they prepare to face the revived Dallas defense.
"I think we're really playing well together, meshing together," Wentz said.
The truth is the division title remains something of a long shot. The Eagles have to play road games against the Cowboys, Rams and Redskins and a home game against the Texans, while the Cowboys follow the matchup with Philly with games against the Colts, Buccaneers and Giants.
Either way, against the odds, the Eagles should take something meaningful from 2018 -- namely, that Wentz compensated for his temporarily diminished athleticism with the kind of grit and leadership that will surely prove invaluable to his team in its next serious postseason run.
That run could happen next year or the year after or the year after that. But Wentz is too good and too tough for it not to happen at some point.
In the meantime, however, Philly's franchise player will likely suffer next month while watching other teams face off in the playoffs. Deep down, Wentz will hurt as much as he did watching the 2017 Eagles shock the world without him.