Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson essentially admitted that his brain had a mind of its own, so much so that he couldn’t help but entertain various options with his team on the cusp of capturing the top seed in the NFC. Pederson’s Eagles could receive that tag should Minnesota fall to Green Bay on Sunday, or the club might have to earn it on Monday when it hosts the Oakland Raiders.
“I’ve begun thinking, but my focus is winning the game on Monday night, because that to me is the most important thing,” Pederson said. Nick Foles stepped up in place of the injured Carson Wentz and threw for four touchdowns in Philadelphia’s 34-29 win over the New York Giants, a total that is three fewer than when he tied an NFL record in Oakland on Nov. 3, 2013. The Raiders’ slim postseason plans were dashed following back-to-back losses to Kansas City and Dallas, with the latter setback featuring an index card and a touchback as Derek Carr vied for the go-ahead score in the waning moments of the contest. “We’re just going to play to win,” coach Jack Del Rio said of his team’s mindset. “We’re going to do everything we can to get over this ‘close but no cigar’ finish we had.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Eagles -9. O/U: 47.5
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (6-8): Marshawn Lynch has scored five touchdowns in the past six games, but the rugged star will be tested by the league’s top-ranked rush defense that is permitting just 71.5 yards per game. Carr tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree versus the Cowboys, with the wideout reeling in seven receptions in back-to-back contests since serving a one-game suspension for his actions in the early going against Denver on Nov. 26. Amari Cooper was limited in Friday’s practice with an ankle injury, leaving questions as to whether he’d take the field against the Eagles.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (12-2): Alshon Jeffery has collected seven of his NFC second-best nine touchdown receptions in the past seven games while Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz has scored a touchdown in six straight home contests. Nelson Agholor has gotten his piece of the pie with three touchdowns in his last four games, with 22 receptions for 264 yards in his last three. Jay Ajayi continues to churn out big chunks of yardage since being acquired in an in-season trade with Miami, averaging a robust 6.4 per carry in six games with his new team.
1. Philadelphia DE Brandon Graham has recorded 4.5 of his career-high 9.5 sacks in the past five games.
2. Raiders DE Khalil Mack has collected at least one sack in five straight games, but will be tested by Pro Bowl RT Lane Johnson.
3. DE/LB Trent Cole announced his retirement on Friday, but will make it official on Christmas night as a member of the Eagles, with whom he played 10 seasons and ranks second in franchise history with 85.5 sacks.
PREDICTION: Eagles 30, Raiders 21