Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts finally returned to practice Thursday, but he's not quite ready to play yet. Philadelphia listed Hurts as inactive for Sunday's game vs. the New Orleans Saints, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter he could be available to play in Week 18.
Hurts, one of the key players involved in the current MVP conversation, last played Dec. 18, a 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears. Hurts sprained his throwing shoulder late in the third quarter of that game, but managed to finish the contest. Backup Gardner Minshew started Week 16, a 40-34 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
An injury to a quarterback could sharply derail any team's playoff campaign, especially so late in the season, but the Eagles didn't blink. Thanks to the superior play of pretty much everyone, the team had put itself in the best position possible. That win over the Bears had allowed the Eagles to lock up a playoff spot with three weeks left to play.
Since then, the Eagles have been running out Minshew at quarterback. Minshew is one of the better backups in the league, and his performance over the Saints on Sunday that will reportedly determine the Eagles' plan for Week 18.
When will we see Hurts play again?
Week 17 is important for the Eagles, and there's a lot riding on Minshew's performance. If they beat the Saints, they lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and secure a bye for the first round of the playoffs. That would give Hurts several weeks of no-pressure prep time before the playoffs because he wouldn't need to play against the New York Giants in Week 18 — he could just come in for a few downs or a drive or two to give himself a little game experience before the playoffs begin.
If the Eagles lose to the Saints, Hurts would need to start against the Giants in Week 18, since it will be their last and final chance to capture the No. 1 seed and corresponding bye week. Even with a week left before that game, the Eagles are already feeling good about Hurts. According to Schefter they were impressed by the throws he made in his limited return to practice Thursday.