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Eagles are alive in NFC East, Aaron Rodgers lies again, and the Philadelphia Union are on the cusp of history | Marcus Hayes

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 11/29/2021 Marcus Hayes, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A month ago the Eagles lay listless at 2-5, looking up at the Cowboys, who’d won six in a row and seemed certain to win the division and likely to be the NFC East’s only playoff team.

Then the Eagles won three of four, the Cowboys lost three of four, and suddenly, it’s a race. As we always thought it would be.

Further, the Birds, at 5-6, have the easiest route to a wild-card berth, sitting a half-game out behind the 5-5 Vikings and 49ers but facing the NFL’s easiest schedule in the final seven weeks, including a bye in two weeks.

They should be favored to win at the Giants and Jets, again when Washington and the Giants visit, and maybe even when they travel to Washington. Deliciously, the Birds face the Cowboys in a season finale that seemed certain to be meaningless a month ago.

Before that matchup, the Cowboys have to play the angry Saints on Thursday, and they face what will be a focused Cardinals team in Game 16, just before the Game 17 showdown in Philly.

Amazing.

How did all of this come to pass?

Mostly because, after Game 7, first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni decided to be his own man — to ignore the pass-first edicts from owner and analytics addict Jeffrey Lurie, and to lean on the only offense quarterback Jalen Hurts can run — a 60-40, run-heavy scheme that features the Eagles’ superior offensive line and hides Hurts’ inferior arm.

Secondarily, because first-time defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon began to trust his secondary, more frequently sending blitzers to help a defensive line that saw max-protection (five or six blockers) on nearly every passing play.

The Cowboys helped, of course.

After all, Mike McCarthy remains their head coach.

They also saw a rash of injuries to principals, such as quarterback Dak Prescott (calf), running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee), receiver CeeDee Lamb (concussion), and left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle). Prescott has been particularly inconsistent in the four games since his return from the injury that cost him Game 7. He has an 89.6 passer rating and is averaging 4.80 yards per attempt, after his 115.0 rating and 8.39 Y/A in the first six games had him leading early in the MVP race.

The Cowboys also lost unvaccinated receiver Amari Cooper for the last two games because of his COVID-19 infection. Coop likely did his own research — just like the bad teammate 1,100 miles north.

Open mouth, insert foot (or toe)

Packers quarterback and renowned liar Aaron Rodgers, who had COVID, is upset with the Wall Street Journal for reporting that he has COVID toe, a painful side effect of some COVID-19 infections.

The WSJ source: Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers on Tuesday told his weekly podcast audience on The Pat McAfee Show that his toe injury — a “painful,” “COVID injury” — was, in fact COVID toe. In the moment, it was unclear if he was joking or not. The Journal assumed not, and framed a story about COVID toe around Rodgers’ perceived misfortune.

After all, what kind of jerk would joke about a terrible side effect of a disease that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide?

A narcissistic science-denier jerk, that’s who. A jerk who lied to the public for four months about being vaccinated, then missed a game because of his own COVID infection. A vacuous, self-unaware jerk who seeks medical advice from a science-denying podcaster like Joe Rogan.

As it turned out, Rodgers was joking. He now claims that the toe is fractured — and, audaciously, gallingly, he wants an apology from the WSJ.

Rodgers, of course, should be apologizing to the Wall Street Journal, and everybody else. No issue concerning COVID is a joke; 1,388 Americans died of COVID on Tuesday, when Rodgers was yukking it up with his podcast bros.

Ha ha.

There are other anti-vaxxers in sports — half the Phillies team was unvaccinated for most of the season, while NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal won’t get the shot — but none act with the insensitivity of Rodgers, and none as high-profile as Rodgers promotes debunked claims about the vaccine, such as causes infertility, or promotes debunked treatments, such as ivermectin.

Rodgers clearly cannot fathom the depths of his cruelty, his tone-deafness, and his thoughtlessness toward the millions of people devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and its aftereffects.

For example: He changed his Twitter profile picture to his bare foot.

Real funny.

Whether Rodgers apologizes or not, he’s one sorry son of a gun.

Curtin calls

Homegrown treasure Jim Curtin — the Oreland native, Bishop McDevitt phenom, and Villanova star who turned an interim gig as the Philadelphia Union coach into a permanent job in 2014 — is one win away from guiding the club to its first MLS Eastern Conference final. The No. 2 seed Union host No. 3 Nashville at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN, right after the Eagles finish their game at the Giants.

The teams defended home pitch in the regular season, and the rubber match promises to be a perfect complement to Thanksgiving leftovers. Only hope Sunday’s game is as exciting as the marathon thriller they won last Saturday.

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