At long last, the Philadelphia Eagles finally can bench their Super Bowl most valuable player.
Quarterback Carson Wentz is coming back. That means Nick Foles, who eight months ago helped the franchise to its first Lombardi Trophy, is resuming his role as backup after the Eagles’ 27-21 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“I’ve said all along that he’s our guy,” coach Doug Pederson said Monday in announcing Wentz has recovered sufficiently from torn knee ligaments to start Sunday against Indianapolis. “We drafted him to be our guy.”
And Wentz has delivered. He was the leading MVP candidate until suffering a season-ending knee injury during a Dec. 11 victory against the Rams at the Coliseum, and wound up setting a club record for touchdown passes despite sitting out the final three games of the regular season.
In terms of healthy and seasoned receivers, Philadelphia’s cupboard is bare. Three of the team’s top four wideouts are injured — Alshon Jeffery (rotator cuff), Mike Wallace (fractured fibula) and Mack Hollins (groin) — leaving the Eagles to make do with Nelson Agholor and a no-name cast that includes DeAndre Carter, Kamar Aiken, Shelton Gibson and Josh Perkins.
The Eagles are trying not to pile too many expectations on Wentz.
“We can’t expect him to just put his Superman cape on and be his old self,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “He’s going to be rusty. But we got a lot of good players on this team.”
Nobody understands that like the Indianapolis Colts, who slogged through the 2017 season without quarterback Andrew Luck. He sat out the year because of a chronic shoulder injury. In his second game back, he had two passes intercepted Sunday, but coupled with a strong defensive performance played well enough to orchestrate a 21-9 victory over Washington.
So Colts-Eagles features two superstar quarterbacks trying to hit their stride again, and Colts coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Eagles, going back to face his old team.
Everyone is at a loss
Whereas every AFC division has an undefeated team, and the AFC West has two (Kansas City and Denver), there are only two remaining NFC teams with unblemished records: the Rams and, surprisingly, Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay will play host to Pittsburgh (0-1-1) on Monday.
Suspended quarterback Jameis Winston is eligible to return after Week 3, but the Buccaneers might just stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s playing the best football of his career. Through two games, he has completed 78.7% of his passes for 819 yards, eight touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of such lofty altitude (151.5) it could use an oxygen tank. If he keeps it up against Pittsburgh, he might just win the starting job.
Cleveland is riding a 19-game winless streak, yet is favored to beat the New York Jets on Thursday night. Maybe that’s because the Browns (0-1-1) have covered the spread in each of their first two games for the first time since 2014. The Jets are not to be taken lightly, though, with a solid defense and a capable rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold.
Tied in knots
Before the 2017 season, the NFL shortened the overtime period from 15 to 10 minutes in the name of safety. Some people were concerned that the move would lead to more ties, which are unsatisfying and problematic at the end of the season when teams are elbowing for a spot in the playoffs. The rationale: Less time on the clock means fewer opportunities to score.
When there were no ties last season, those fears evaporated. But they have flared up again, now that there has been a tie in each of the first two weeks, with Pittsburgh and Cleveland playing to a draw, then Minnesota and Green Bay. If it happens again this week, the league will be pushing the panic button.
Oakland is one of three AFC teams at 0-2, along with Buffalo and Houston. The Bills are the last team to start 0-3 and make the playoffs, and that was in 1998. That was so long ago, Jon Gruden was a rookie coach.
The Raiders play at Miami on Sunday, the Bills play at Minnesota and the Texans play host to the New York Giants.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer