Just how good are the Eagles?
A 6-5 record isn’t very compelling. They haven’t played a great schedule or beaten any top flight teams. You can easily make the case that this Eagles team is basically a step above mediocre.
This team also is doing some unusual things. Some really impressive things.
* The Eagles are the only team in the league to hold the last 7 opponents to 21 points or less. In that stretch, teams are averaging just 17.4 points per game.
* The Eagles lead the league in plays of 20 yards or more. They had 61 heading into Sunday. The next closest team had 45. That’s a huge discrepancy.
* Brian Billick, who apparently is much better as a writer than TV analyst, wrote an interesting piece about “toxic differential”. You add takeaway differential and explosive play differential. Seattle comes up first at +31. The Eagles are next in the league at +20. This doesn’t guarantee anything, but it shows you the Eagles can be special at times.
* Nick Foles leads the NFL in QB rating.
* LeSean McCoy is the league’s leading rusher.
* DeSean Jackson is 3rd in the league in receiving yards. He does lead the league in receptions of 20 or more yards.
* The Eagles are 6th in the NFL in Red Zone defense. They’ve only allowed 2 TDs in the last 12 RZ trips by opponents.
* The Eagles have 9 games with 400 or more yards. The only NFL team to have more (10) in the first 11 games is the 2007 Patriots. That also happens to be the highest scoring offense in NFL history.
* The Eagles are only the 8th team in NFL history with 2,800 yards passing and 1,600 yards rushing after 11 games.
What we’ve got here is an offense that is doing some historically good things and a defense that is keeping people out of the end zone. The defense shows glimpses of being a good unit, but still gives up way too many yards.
The Eagles seem to be an improving team. That begs the question…just how good can they be this year?
A lot of this question falls on the shoulders of Nick Foles. Is he on a hot streak or is he just a perfect fit for this system? Every game that Foles plays gives us another clue about who he really is. He leads the league in QB rating and yards per attempt. Foles hasn’t thrown an INT yet. He’s also run for a couple of TDs. The numbers are crazy.
Foles is 4-1 as a starter. He also played more than half of the first Giants game, which the Eagles won. The Eagles average 26.8 points per Foles start, and that included the Dallas disaster. Take that game away and the Eagles average 32.8 points per game. That’s crazy. Can you sustain this?
I don’t think Foles is excessively lucky. He’s playing good football. But it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll stay at a QB rating of 128. That would break Aaron Rodgers record of 122.5. Foles is good, but NFL record for a season good? That seems a bit much.
I know I’m asking a lot of questions in this post, but I kinda think you have to do that. None of us knows the answers for sure. The fun of this team is not knowing what to make of it. While I think it is smart to remain a bit skeptical of this team, I can’t totally dismiss the possibility that the Eagles could be tough to deal with down the stretch.
I don’t think the Eagles are a Super Bowl contender at this point, but this team can win the NFC East and it wouldn’t surprise me for them to win a playoff game or even two. I cannot see this team winning 3 or 4 straight games in the postseason. Improving or not, that’s a bit much for this group.
We do have to acknowledge that things can also go the other way. The remaining schedule has 3 teams with winning records (ARZ, DET, CHI) and one at .500 (DAL). The only losing team is the Vikings. None of these teams scare me, but the Eagles could lose to any of them. The Eagles aren’t anywhere close to a lock to win the East and get to the postseason.
I am cautiously optimistic. The Eagles are playing their best football of the year. The players say that they are in really good shape. Apparently Kelly’s sports science ideas are working well. The team has the bye week to get rested and refreshed for the final 5 games.
One thing I do know…this isn’t your typical 6-5 team. The stretch run ought to be pretty interesting.