The Philadelphia Eagles Can Win the NFC East
No, I don't need an intervention for a drug problem. And no, nobody has hijacked my keyboard. I actually think the Philadelphia Eagles have legitimate shot at winning the worst division in the NFL, the NFC East.
I'm not just saying that because Nick Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes last week against the Oakland Raiders, either. I knew Foles was the quarterback of the future before that. I even wrote about it.
No, this has more to do with the nature of the competition than anything else. Simply put, the rest of the teams in the NFC East stink, especially the defenses. The New York Giants are ranked a rather average 14th in overall defense in the NFL, but the Dallas Cowboys are ranked 30th, the Washington Redskins are ranked 31st and the Eagles are dead last at 32nd.
The Cowboys lead the division with a 5-4 record, but they will face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and they are a 7-point underdog on the road. Plus, Tony Romo doesn't exactly have a good track record of playing his best at the end of the season. The Redskins were the preseason pick to win the division, but RGIII doesn't look like the same player after his knee surgery. Without him at 100%, Washington is not a playoff caliber team. The Giants are 2-6 and looked like the worst team in football, before they won two in a row. Of course, those wins were against the 1-7 Vikings and an Eagles team with a gimpy Michael Vick in the first half and over-matched rookie Matt Barkley in the second half. They would need to go 6-2 or better in the second half and they have games against the 49ers, Lions, Chargers and Seahawks remaining.
Who Wins the NFC East?
That leaves us with the 4-5 Eagles, a team that I thought would be lucky to win 6 games this season. A team with a defense as bad as I had predicted, yet a defense that is suddenly playing better against good offenses. The Eagles defense is still giving up yardage, but they're not letting teams score at will recently. As a matter of fact, the Eagles defense has held their last five opponents to 21 points or fewer. Plus, they're still the No. 4 ranked offense in the NFL, in spite of the fact that they didn't score an offensive touchdown in back-to-back games against the Cowboys and Giants. The Eagles aren't a great team. Heck, they might not even be a very good team, but in the NFC East, a team just has to be average to have a chance to win the division.
The Eagles might just be the tallest midget in the circus that is the NFC East. Of course, that doesn't matter because even bad teams can make the playoffs if they win their division. Not that it would be a good thing for the Eagles' long-term outlook, since it would lower their position in the draft, but I really do think the Eagles have a shot at winning the division.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Let's look at their remaining schedule that suddenly looks manageable.
This weekend's trip to Lambeau Field in Green Bay was marked down as a loss by everyone until Monday night when Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone and will miss the Eagles game. Seneca Wallace is so bad he wasn't even in the NFL last year and was released by New Orleans and San Francisco already this season before the Packers signed him September. Green Bay has a bad offensive line that only looks decent because Rodgers can move around in the pocket. Wallace was 11-for-19 for 114 yards, no TDs and 1 INT, while getting sacked four times on Monday night against the Bears. Oh, and the Packers are on a short week. The Eagles should win this game.
Next up is Washington at home. As I said before, Robert Griffin III isn't the same player this season after his knee surgery and the Redskins aren't much of a threat without him in top form. The only reason to worry about this matchup is that it is at home for the Eagles. They have lost ten in a row at the Linc, but they gotta break that streak sometime, right?
Week 12 brings the bye week, followed by a visit from the Arizona Cardinals. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals stink. The Eagles double cover Larry Fitzgerald on every single play and dare someone else to beat them. That won't happen and they should get a win. Yes, even at home.
Week 14 brings the Detroit Lions and, most likely, a beat-down. There is no way this Eagles defense can stop Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. The Eagles defense's run of decent to good play will seem like a distant memory when these guys light them up.
Week 15 sends the Eagles to Minnesota, where the Vikings (1-7) will have already quit on the season. The Vikings will welcome another loss to enhance their draft position, so they can draft a franchise quarterback. Current QBs Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassell aren't the answer.
In Week 16, the Eagles will welcome the Chicago Bears to the Linc and a not-so welcome loss to Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. Just like with the Lions, the Eagles defense just doesn't have the talent to stop this offense. The only chance they have is that the Bears defense isn't very good. Still, it's at home and there simply is no home-field advantage for the Eagles.
Week 17 has the Eagles closing out the season at Jerry World in Texas. The Eagles will be either 7-8 or 8-7 going into this matchup with a Cowboys team that should have a similar record. Since the Eagles already lost to the Cowboys, they will need to win this game to even have a chance to win the division. The problem is that the Cowboys only have one loss in the NFC, so if comes down to tiebreakers, they might hold and advantage over the Eagles. However, there is a very real possibility that this game could decide the division.
If the Eagles are playing for the division title in Week 17, or even Week 16 for that matter, this season would have to be viewed as a success. Even by a cynic, like me. I didn't expect a winning season in Chip Kelly's first year as coach. Heck, I didn't think his gimmicky offense would work in the NFL. But since Vick inevitably got hurt and Kelly was forced to run a more traditional offense with Foles at quarterback, the team has done well. Foles is 2-1 in the games he started (TB, Dal, Oak) and he led a second half come-from-behind win over the Giants. Vick was 1-3 in his starts and was losing the first Giants game. I won't blame him for the second Giants game, because he was obviously playing hurt. But the team is winning with Foles playing in a more conventional NFL offense and that will continue for the foreseeable future.
The only thing that can screw this up for the Eagles is if Kelly is so in love with his stupid college offense that he still thinks Vick can win games for him. I think Foles will play well enough that Kelly will be forced to stay with the second-year signal caller. If he does that, I really do think the Eagles can win the NFC East.
Will they win the division? I can't say that for sure, but the rest of the teams in the NFC East are giving them that chance. Now they just have to take advantage of it.