PHILADELPHIA (AP)The Eagles are trying to make Green Bay’s playoff hopes fade to black.
Philadelphia is flying high as the best team in the NFL with a 9-1 record, a pretty good mark in any season, but one historically in franchise history that has steered the Eagles on a path toward greatness.
Led by MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, the Eagles joined the 1949, 1960, 1980, 2004 and 2017 teams as the only ones in team history that opened the season 9-1. That’s some pretty heady company. Each of those teams reached a championship game.
The 1949 and 1960 teams won NFL championships and the 2017 team won the franchise’s first Super Bowl. The Eagles lost the Super Bowl in the 1980 and 2004 seasons.
Next up, a blackout.
The Eagles are set to debut all-black helmets Sunday night when they host the Green Bay Packers (4-7).
The three-time defending NFC North champion Packers have lost six of seven games and might need to win each of their final six regular-season contests just to make the playoffs.
Philadelphia’s black helmets will be paired with black jerseys and black pants for a unique look for a franchise synonymous with green.
For the rest of the NFL this season, green with envy.
And the Eagles know it. Coach Nick Sirianni went so far after last week’s win over Indianapolis to dedicate the win to Frank Reich, the recently fired Colts coach who gave Sirianni his big break as offensive coordinator in Indy.
”They’ve added some pieces this year and it’s really helped them,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. ”And I think a lot of their great players are playing at a really great level. I mean, you look no further than they’re led by Jalen Hurts, and I mean he’s playing at an MVP-type level.”
There’s little dearth of motivation for the Eagles, and Sirianni has yet to feel like his team needs much more than his usual Saturday night pep talk in the team meeting. The Eagles are the toast of the town and DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders and Darius Slay were among the members that received a roaring ovation when they attended a 76ers game this week.
It helps to enjoy the week when a player like Hurts at times makes wins look easy.
Hurts continued his MVP-level season when he capped Philadelphia’s fourth-quarter comeback from a 10-point hole with a 7-yard TD run on a draw play with 1:20 remaining. Hurts rushed for a team-best 86 yards in addition to the touchdown to increase his season totals on the ground to 440 yards and eight TDs. Combined with his 2,407 yards passing, Hurts ranks fourth in the NFL in total yards (2,847) and he also is fourth in total TDs (23).
Contrast those numbers to those for Rodgers, who is still fourth in the NFL with 19 TD passes, and sixth in both passing yards (2,542) and completions (243). Rodgers, who will turn 39 on Dec. 2, has 13 TDs and four interceptions over the last seven games, six of which have been defeats.
The dropoff is steep in Green Bay after the Packers won 13 games in each of the first three seasons under fourth-year coach Matt LaFleur.
Rodgers has four MVP awards. Hurts wants to win his first and his offensive coordinator has stumped on his QB’s behalf.
”Yeah, the way he’s playing right now, absolutely,” Shane Steichen said. ”When we needed to come up with big plays, he did it for us, and that’s what great players do. He’s continuing to grow and getting better every single day, but we’ve got to keep grinding away. It’s week by week, and we’ve got to continue to grow.”
Keeping the Eagles as the team to beat in the NFL can only help Hurts’ cause.
That includes winning the games at home a team like the Eagles are supposed to win – like Sunday against the Packers.
After dealing with injuries for much of his rookie season, Packers receiver Christian Watson has come on strong lately.
The second-round pick out of North Dakota State had his first three career touchdown catches in a 31-28 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys and followed that up with two touchdown receptions in a 27-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans. He is the first Packers rookie to catch multiple touchdown passes in back-to-back games since Max McGee in 1954.
FEASTING ON TURNOVERS
Philadelphia has the NFL’s best record in part because of a plus-12 turnover margin that leads the NFL. The Eagles entered this week’s action having picked off 13 passes to tie Buffalo for the NFL lead.
The Eagles essentially are succeeding with the same formula that helped Green Bay the last few years.
Green Bay’s plus-32 turnover margin from 2019-21 led all teams during that stretch, but the Packers are at minus-4 this season. Only five NFL teams entered this week with a worse turnover margin.
Rodgers hurt his right thumb in the final play of a 27-17 loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 9 and has been dealing with the injury ever since. Rodgers acknowledged Wednesday the thumb is broken.
The injury hasn’t caused him to miss any games, but it has limited his practice time, and his play hasn’t measured up to his MVP performances of the last two seasons. That Giants game started the Packers’ current 1-6 tailspin.
Packers guard Jon Runyan Jr.’s father played offensive tackle for Philadelphia from 2000-08 and made the Pro Bowl in 2002. Jon Runyan Sr. later served as a two-term Republican congressman from New Jersey and now is the NFL’s vice president of policy and rules administration.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Wisconsin contributed to this report.
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