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Eagles begin their quest to repeat Super Bowl victory

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The NFL season has come to an end with the Philadelphia Eagles winning their first ever  Super Bowl. Although there are no games being played from February to August, the offseason is an extremely exciting time where fans follow along as franchise executives build their rosters for next year. This period is filled with high profile trades, free agent signings, and culminates in the NFL draft on April 26th.

Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman, has been largely credited for the Eagles’ success in the past few seasons. This is partly due to recent draft picks paying off extremely well in the form of Carson Wentz, Jordan Hicks, and others. In addition to this, Roseman spearheaded the signing of key players such as Legarrette Blount and Nigel Bradham among others. Roseman overseas contract negotiations, salary cap management, and the team’s scouting department. So far this offseason, Roseman has led the Eagles through countless salary negotiations and trades, making the Eagles one of the most active teams in this period. While most teams who win a Super Bowl look to keep their roster in tact, Roseman has taken a different approach in the Eagles quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Going into the offseason, the Eagles had a massive salary cap problem in which they needed to get rid of $10 million on the team salary before next year. Roseman acted quickly and restructured offensive lineman Lane Johnson’s and tight end Zach Ertz’s contracts, freeing up the necessary amount of money to get under the $177 million league salary cap. Roseman then looked internally at the 13 players whose contracts had expired and were open to free agency. Star linebacker Nigel Bradham was the Eagles-main priority, and was successfully re-signed to a five-year 40 million dollar contract. This move was a steal for the Eagles, as linebackers have been receiving much more money recently, which shows Roseman’s negotiating prowess.

The Eagles then turned their attention outside and began making big name signings in order to bolster their already impressive roster. One of the biggest trades of the offseason was made for Seattle’s defensive end Michael Bennett. In this trade the Eagles gave up backup wide receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth round pick for Bennett and a seventh round pick. This trade was huge for Philadelphia as it strengthened their already tenacious defense which allowed the least passing and rushing yards per game of any team in 2017. In addition, it filled the gap left by long time Eagle star, Vinny Curry, who was signed by the Buccaneers to a three-year 23 million dollar contract. The downside with Bennett is his problematic off-the-field behavior which has landed him in the news once again this past week. Bennett had a warrant issued for his arrest after his alleged assault of a 66-year-old paraplegic women after Super Bowl LI. Bennett turned himself in but maintained his innocence. Roseman claimed that the Eagles were unaware of this incident while trading for Bennett

“I don’t think it’s fair in any situation to not give people the right to present their side. I don’t want to get into this, but our overriding philosophy on things are people are innocent until proven guilty.”

In addition to Bennett, the Eagles added veteran defensive tackle Haloti N’gata. Adding another defensive lineman was a very interesting move by Roseman, especially after the addition of Michael Bennett. Although N’gata is a very talented player, he is 34 years old and hasn’t played a full season since 2011. He will presumably take on a lighter workload next season for the Eagles, and will solidify the depth at defensive line.

After trading their number-two receiver Torrey Smith to the Panthers, the Eagles were in the market for a replacement. Roseman went out and signed Ravens veteran Mike Wallace to a one-year $2.5 million deal. Wallace, now 31, has continued to produce exceptional numbers even as he has passed his prime. This signing was a steal for the Eagles, as Wallace is a coveted veteran who is known for his fantastic locker room demeanor.

Roseman and the rest of the Eagles executives have shown the NFL that they are not satisfied with their accomplishments last season. They have been aggressive and effective in their offseason moves, filling gaps and upgrading positions across the board. It will be extremely interesting to see who the Eagles draft and also any other moves that occur before the season starts again in July.

The Eagles win it all

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Usually when a quarterback passes for over 500 yards, shattering his own Super Bowl record in the process, you expect his team to win. Alas, it was not to be for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles secured their first world championship in team history. Defense was at a premium in the game as the teams combined for an NFL-record 1,155 total yards of offense. But in the end, it was a monstrous defensive play that sealed the game for the Eagles.

The narratives leading into this game certainly built up much of the hype around it. It was Philadelphia’s third shot at a Super Bowl, their most recent loss being at the hands of the Patriots in 2005. On the other side, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were seeking their record-breaking sixth Super Bowl championship . The Eagles had lost their seeming franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, near the end of the regular season, and were forced to turn to former starter Nick Foles, who struggled in the regular season before stunning spectators and opposing teams in the playoffs. Wentz had been putting up MVP-caliber numbers while healthy. Tom Brady, meanwhile, won his third MVP award on Saturday night and was leading the defending Super Bowl champs, who had completed a 13-3 regular season. Both teams had featured high-flying offenses during the regular season, the Eagles being the highest and Patriots the second-highest scoring offenses. Both teams featured top 10 scoring defenses, though the Eagles were consistently more highly regarded as there were concerns of the Patriots giving up big plays.

The game began in rather slow fashion as both teams traded field goals during the opening frame. But it was on the Eagles’ next drive that they set the tone for the game, with quarterback Nick Foles delivering a perfect bomb to Alshon Jeffrey in the endzone. Jeffrey, who had Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe all over him, managed to extend to make a beautiful catch and held onto the ball for an Eagles touchdown. Such big plays became commonplace as neither defense could maintain consistent coverage. Patriots starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, best known for his heroic goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX, did not play a single defensive snap for reasons that remain unclear. Neither team’s pass rush could generate consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.

A scary moment for the Patriots came near the beginning of the second quarter, as Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks looked to extend his run through the open field. Malcolm Jenkins delivered an absolutely massive blindside to Cooks, after which he immediately crumpled to the ground and remained motionless. Thankfully Cooks was able to make it off the field under his own power, but he was ruled out of the game with a head injury.

The Eagles took over after a fourth down stop, and their next drive saw a couple of highlight reel plays. The first was a perfect lob from Foles to Jeffrey again, which Jeffrey managed to track down while falling towards the sideline. From there, former Patriot LeGarrette Blount, more known for his power running than his speed, burst through the Patriots secondary to give the Eagles a 12-point lead.

New England’s next drive ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, and the Eagles saw a chance to break the 20 point mark and put up a 16-point lead on the Patriots. Foles once again went deep down the sideline looking for Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffrey almost pulled off an insane one-handed catch but instead batted the ball into the hands of New England safety Duron Harmon, thus averting a potential crisis for the New England defense. It was time for some Patriots big plays as Tom Brady delivered a beautiful 40+ yard strike to Chris Hogan and James White broke a number of tackles on a rousing 26-yard run to the endzone.

With two minutes left in the half, the Eagles had plenty of time to march down the field, and they capped the final drive of the half with a trick play that got every Eagles fan on their feets. Quarterback Nick Foles lined up as a receiver and, completely unmarked, caught a two yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead going into the half. Tom Brady had been slightly overthrown on a similar trick play earlier in the half. At halftime, Brady had already thrown for 276 yards and the offenses had combined for 673 yards.

The Patriots started the second half with possession, looking to cut it to a one possession game. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski had been quiet during the first half, but he came out with a vengeance on this drive, catching five passes for 68 yards, including the five yard touchdown strike from Brady.

The Patriots defense looked to get a stop and put the ball back in the hands of Brady to potentially take their first lead of the game on the next drive. Instead, the Eagles were unstoppable, marching easily down the field, before Foles delivered on a controversial touchdown with another perfect pass. Eagles running back Corey Clement appeared to juggle the ball after the catch, thus preventing him from getting two feet down while in control of the ball. However, the touchdown call stood after review.

Once again, Brady faced a ten point deficit, but he led the Patriots offense calmly down the field, capping the drive off with another strike to former college lacrosse player Chris Hogan. The Eagles got the ball back, and the Patriots defense managed to get a stop of sorts, holding the Birds to a field goal. Brady was presented with an opportunity to deliver the Patriots their first lead of the game and he delivered, throwing a beautiful back corner fade to Rob Gronkowski who had been unstoppable on such routes all year.

The Eagles, now facing their first deficit of the gain, marched down to their own 45, before the Patriots managed to force a 4th-and-1. The Eagles went for it and, in one of the most crucial plays of the game, Foles managed to convert with a pass to tight end Zach Ertz right at the first down marker in spite of the Patriots bringing blitz. The Eagles then continued their march down the field before Foles delivered another controversial touchdown. Tight end Zach Ertz caught the ball about five yards short of the endzone and then dove in as he crossed the goal line to avoid a tackle. He lost possession of the ball when he hit the ground but managed to regain possession while the ball was still in the air. The play was reviewed for almost five minutes by the officiating crew before the touchdown call was confirmed. The Eagles failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt, thus giving them only a five point lead.

Brady got the ball back with over two minutes to play, which he has traditionally demonstrated is plenty of time for him to orchestrate a game-winning drive. Instead, it was the Eagles who delivered possibly the signature play of the game. With Brady dropping back to pass on second down, the Eagles brought a four-man rush. Defensive end Brandon Graham beat his blocker and stripped Brady of the ball as he attempted to clutch the ball. Eagles rookie Derek Barnett recovered and the Eagles kicked a field goal to seemingly clinch the victory. Brady got the ball back with under a minute left with a touchdown and two-point conversion being required to tie the game. The Patriots drove down to around the 50 before a last gasp Hail Mary in the vicinity of Gronkowski fell harmlessly to the ground. Victory Eagles.

But perhaps the most notable occurrence of the night was the celebration that occurred in Philadelphia afterwards. Hundreds of thousands of fans took to the streets to raucously celebrate, celebrations that included the climbing and tearing down of lampposts and even the destruction of the awning outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel. In a more organized celebration, the Eagles victory parade will be held this Thursday.

In one of the most exciting and record-setting Super Bowls ever, the Philadelphia Eagles held on to win with a clutch defensive play in a game where defense was an afterthought. It was a fitting cap to a season of great resiliency for the Eagles, as they faced a slew of high-profile injuries. Ultimately, it will be a game remembered in Philadelphia sports folklore for years to come.

The Morning After: A Post-Eagle Walk in Philly

in Campus Journal/Uncategorized by

 

Philadelphia had the air of a city recovering from a natural disaster on Monday morning – the shuttered businesses, the detritus, the ubiquitous sense of fellowship and renewed appreciation for life among those on the mostly empty streets.

Newscasters and cameramen walked around City Hall trying to capture remnants of the joyful storm. Finding interviews wasn’t hard – the verdant uniform worn by nearly all pedestrians announced that everyone had “been there,” and they were happy to talk despite their clearly potent hangovers.

“I had some beers, had some wings, it was great,” said a serene, if drained, young woman in full regalia to CBS as I passed by. “Go Eagles!”

Walking south on Broad Street, green objects in the cityscape seemed to shine with a particular and meaningful brightness, from the beer bottles tossed into planters to the teal street-sweeping vehicle driven by a man who gave me a slow nod. The sheer variety of Eagles apparel on display (hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, sweatshirts, and jerseys in a profusion of different fonts and shades of green) gave a sense not of conformity but creative cohesion – a celebratory mosaic. An impromptu economy of Super Bowl LII shirts had sprung up, with men hawking their wares on all four street corners at the busiest intersections.

Some of the aftermath of the post-Eagles celebration

As a football dilettante and New Yorker who has never really devoted the time to get to know Philly as well as it deserves, I had a limited claim to Eagles joy, but the sense of community was infectious. I had come into the city with the vague goal of visiting Hardena Waroeng Surabaya, an Indonesian restaurant in Passyunk, but mostly because I wanted to look around and it was a destination that allowed for a good long walk.

As I got further south, regretting my lack of scarf and gloves, Eagles-decorated or otherwise, the streets emptied out even more, the silence interrupted only by the scrape of Yuengling and Bud Lite cans blowing across the sidewalk and the occasional group of men chanting E-A-G-L-E-S with a certain mechanical exhaustion.

On S. 9th Street, seeking shelter from the wind, I stopped into Dasani’s Market, a family-owned business somewhere between a convenience store and a cafe. After the man in front of me tried to buy a newspaper (they had been sold out for hours despite it being 1 p.m.) I ordered a chai, and the proprietor, who I later learned was Mr. Dasani himself, assured me he would make one fresh.

“Have you had our chai before?” he asked. “I hope it will be a pleasant surprise.”

Waiting at a small red table in the corner and taking advantage of the magical conversational circumstances that made striking up a chat with any stranger a positive breeze, I asked how being in the city had been last night.

Mr. Dasani had watched the game with his family near Temple, and said the crowds were raucous until about 1 a.m., when everyone had headed to City Hall.

“The police helicopters were so loud it felt like “Apocalypse Now,” he said.

We discussed the game, agreeing that the announcers had seemed very pro-Patriot before I felt compelled to admit that I was from New York and thus not a true Eagle. Mr. Dasani assured me that this was acceptable because the Giants had defeated the Patriots in two Super Bowls.

“I think it was Chairman Mao who said, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’,” he noted as I burned the roof of my mouth on the scaldingly hot but transcendently gingery chai.

We parted and I walked through the Italian Market, which was deserted except for two outdoor grocers keeping warm by trash can fires. I bought some grapes (green of course) and kept heading south. In front of the South Philly Bar & Grill a couple prepared to depart in an Uber as if they were just then wrapping up their night and heading home, but not before a passerby asked them for a light. In a fit of wearied generosity, the woman offered him her lighter to keep.

“Are you sure?” he asked. She gave him an extra cigarette.

Pat’s was a relative hub of activity in the otherwise abandoned streets, a cheesesteak clearly being the only appropriate meal for the occasion, as a sort of Eagleswear for the stomach. I rested for a moment at an outdoor table next to a huge man in a Nick Foles jersey, eating my grapes and consulting Google Maps with numb hands.

Watching passersby, it seemed like the usually impenetrable barriers preventing city dwellers from acknowledging each other had been taken down for a day, and any person in a car could feel confident that if he or she chose to yell “Go Eagles” at a brawny stranger, he would call back, “Yeah, baby. World Champs!” without even looking up.

Feeling not so much refreshed as further chilled, I walked down E. Passyunk Ave, past closed coffee shops and dog boutiques, then turned right into a more residential area. Hardena Waroeng Surabaya seemed to have darkened windows as I approached, and my hopes of finding a meal sunk.

However, to my surprise the door opened, and I was immediately blinded by a cloud of steam fogging over my glasses. The drastic increase in warmth and humidity made me feel that I had entered a new weather system, and when my eyes adjusted to the relative darkness of the restaurant enough to take in the Indonesian art covering the warm brown walls and the asymmetrical haircuts of the young post-grads seated at the tables, it seemed that I had left the world of the Eagles far behind.

Inside of Hardena

Hardena serves Indonesian specialities cafeteria-style, with a plate of rice and a generous helping of any two items for $8. The woman behind the counter offered to give me a rundown of what was being offered that day, and I settled on thick chunks of eggplant sauteed in a homemade citrusy hot sauce and a tofu and egg yellow curry replete with whole boiled eggs.

The food was hearty and delicious, and I relaxed in the peace of the small restaurant, its only soundtrack the gentle clanking of pots and a quiet debate between two young women about the feasibility of polyamory.

An Indonesian woman with two small daughters came in, and the elder tried to assuage her case of stroller jealousy by sitting on top of her younger sister as her mother ordered. The entire clientele became invested in the small drama, and an inter-table discussion of childrearing began.

I wondered if Eaglesism was actually so different from the everyday spirit of Philadelphia, or if it was merely a heightened form of the communal feeling that is made possible by Philly’s small size and rootedness. I always bristle when people describe New York as unfriendly, simultaneously insisting that New Yorkers are perfectly friendly and that the demand that a city be “friendly” seems both dweeby and a trifle totalitarian, but there is something about Philly that makes me reconsider. It would be going too far to call Philadelphians “friendly” or “warm,” but from limited observation they have an unpretentiousness that makes true engagement easier.

A man with dangling earrings got up and prepared to depart on a penny board, but not before putting on his Eagles hat.

As he left, the conversation turned to the game.

 

The Eagles rocky road to Super Bowl LII

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Following a 38-7 sweep of the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles have gained a chance to end the team’s 57-year championship drought. All they have to do is defeat Tom Brady and the Patriots.

For the most part, however, the past several seasons have been rocky for the Birds. The team entered 2012 with high hopes after finishing with four straight wins in the 2011 season. Despite a promising 3-1 start, the Eagles proceeded to lose 11 of their next 12 games, finishing the season with a disheartening 4-12 record, their worst record since 1998.

Shortly after, on New Year’s Eve of 2012, the franchise’s owner Jeffrey Lurie announced that Andy Reid, the head coach at the time, would not be staying for another season. Sure, Reid had brought the Birds their longest sustained period of success during his run from 1999 to 2012, but there was still a hole in the trophy case for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

When asked about finding a new head coach, Lurie commented, “It’s better to find the right leader than to make a fast decision. There’s no guarantee I’ll make a great decision, but I’m confident I will.”

So much for Lurie’s confidence. He proceeded to hire Chip Kelly, a former college football coach whose 3-year NFL run with the Eagles consisted of losing a wild-card game to New Orleans in 2013 and missing the playoffs in 2014 and 2015. The tactics that Kelly had used at the University of Oregon did not seem to work in the NFL. After failing to qualify for the playoffs in 2014, Coach Kelly demanded full control of the team from Lurie and went on to make some controversial moves.

Kelly let go two of the team’s best playmakers, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy. As if he had not fooled around enough already, the head coach then traded quarterback Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, even though Bradford had been out with a torn ACL for the entire previous season. With these bold changes, the Eagles went 7-9 in 2015, and Kelly was abruptly sacked just before the last game of the season.

“The original hiring of Chip was a bold choice,” Lurie admitted. “We knew what the potential pitfalls were … There’s a risk involved in allowing Chip to have that kind of say over player transactions. However, it’s risk/reward. Sometimes the risks don’t work, and in this case, it didn’t work.”

After Kelly’s firing, just before the end of the 2015 season, Lurie didn’t know who would replace him. He did, however, know what he wanted in a head coach.

“We’re looking for someone who interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with,” Lurie mentioned shortly after firing Kelly. “You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance. I would call it a style of leadership that values information from all the resources provided, but at the same time values emotional intelligence.” The players had a similar attitude; they simply wanted someone “genuine.”

After much thought and searching, Lurie turned to Doug Pederson, a former NFL backup quarterback who had both played for and coached the Eagles as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator. Pederson seemed to be exactly what the Birds needed.

“I understand the culture and passion of Philadelphia,” Pederson said. “I get it. I experienced that as a quarterback in 1999. I experienced that first hand. And now coming back, I understand what it feels like to win in this city. This city hasn’t won, and their organization hasn’t won in quite some time. It’s my job to turn that around.”

Pederson’s first move was drafting North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in 2016. Then, right before the start of the season, 2015 quarterback Bradford was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, and Wentz was named the starting quarterback in his first NFL season. Pederson and Wentz started the year well with three straight wins, but finished the season 7-9.

Despite the losing record in 2016, Lurie was still confident that Pederson was the right man for the job. Unlike with the fiasco involving Chip Kelly, this time, his confidence paid off.

This season has been remarkable for the Birds. In the regular season, the Eagles pulled off an impressive 13-3 record, tying the best record in franchise history. However, just before the end of the season, starting quarterback and MVP candidate Wentz injured both his ACL and LCL in a game against the Los Angeles Rams, which sidelined him from play for at least the rest of the season. The injury was a huge setback for his teammates, coaches, and fans.

However, the Eagles remained strong, with former starting quarterback Nick Foles stepping up to become the starter and finish the season to make the playoffs.

“I still want Wentz to be a part of the process [of the playoffs],” Coach Pederson said. “I mean, he’s a big reason why we’re 13-3 and where we are today. So same way with the rest of the guys that are hurt, I do want them to feel a part of what we’re doing and help their positions where they can.”

Wentz regularly talks with backup quarterback Nick Foles during practice and throughout the course of the day. He comes out on the sidelines before games, and, as team captain, he still goes to midfield for the coin toss.

With the support of both Wentz and the team, Foles has done a superb job as quarterback so far, winning both the Divisional and the NFC Championship, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by the Eagles since 2004.

Additionally, with the Super Bowl finally around the corner for the Birds, Philadelphia fans could not be more excited. After the Eagles crushed the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, fans dug deep into their seldom-seen stashes of Eagles gear. Car decals, flags, stickers, hats, jerseys—over the past couple of weeks, I have yet to step out of my dorm and not notice some form of fan support.

The obvious question of every Super Bowl remains, however. Who should the rest of us, those who are not Eagles or Patriots fans, root for? As a longtime fan of the New York Giants, this is an especially tough decision for me. There is no way I could support the Pats, but the Eagles haven’t been too kind on New York this year.

Safe to say, I won’t be rooting for either team, but rather against the Patriots.

Eagles Football: 2017 Season Profile

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For many people, the brisk Autumn winds bring the scent of caramel apples, the crunch of fallen leaves, and the warmth of woolen scarves. Everyone has their reasons for loving this special season. Needless to say, for a majority of Americans, fall means one thing; football.

Swarthmore students are lucky enough to be located just 30 minutes away from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, an NFL franchise boasting one of the most loyal fanbases in the country. Eagles fans expect to win and win big, but in recent years, it seems that all they’ve received from their beloved team is inconsistency in every facet of the game. The team has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, and their last postseason win was more than eight years ago. Last year, the Eagles finished with a mediocre 7-9 record.

Nonetheless, with every new season comes a renewed sense of hope for the Philadelphia faithful, and this year, there might just be a good reason. Most of the early-season optimism the Eagles are enjoying is due to Carson Wentz, their fresh-faced quarterback whose 2016 rookie campaign left many fans thrilled by his potential. The 24 year-old slinger showed flashes of excellence last season with minimal talent at wide receiver. With the recent addition of the big-bodied, star wideout Alshon Jeffery, formerly of the Chicago Bears, Eagles fans have a lot to be excited about on the offensive side of the field. There are injury concerns when it comes to Jeffrey, who has missed eleven games over the last two seasons, but there is no denying his ability when he is on the field.

Other assets on offense include former New England Patriot and Super Bowl Winner LeGarrette Blount, the 2016 season’s touchdown leader with 18 scores. Blount, along with Ryan Matthews and the small but quick Darren Sproles, will contribute to a very intriguing Eagles rushing attack. Tight-end Zach Ertz returns after putting up another solid season eclipsing 800 receiving yards and 70 receptions. The offensive line returns all of its starters, and performed well in the 2016 campaign. However, the Eagles will look to improve upon their average of 337 total yards of offense per game from 2016, which ranked 22nd in the NFL, and average of 22.9 points per game, which ranked 16th.

Defensively, the Eagles had a decent year in 2016, ranking 12th in total yards against per game and 11th in points against per game. However, there is room for improvement. The Eagles secondary must improve this year, as they allowed 60 percent of passes thrown their way to be completed last season. The Eagles drafted two cornerbacks, most notably Sidney Jones, in the hopes that their lackluster secondary play can be improved. There weren’t any departures at the linebacker position for the Eagles, and rising star Jordan Hicks has returned to anchor their defense. On the defensive line, the Eagles made three additions, most notably first rounder and all-time University of Tennessee tackle leader Derek Barrett. He hopes to bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks alongside pro-bowler Fletcher Cox and former first rounder Brandon Graham.

Despite all of the encouraging additions, Eagles fans should still have somewhat reserved expectations for their squad this year. The Eagles play in the NFC East, one of the toughest divisions in football. Two teams, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, made it to the playoffs last year with records of 13-3 and 12-5 respectively. The Washington Redskins are competitive too, finishing with an 8-7 record in 2016, leaving the Eagles at the bottom of the division. The Eagles will play six games in this tough division, not to mention difficult match ups against the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. As of September 18th, they are 1-1 with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and a victory against their division rival, the Washington Redskins. The season is young, and so are the Eagles. Hopefully for the fans of Philadelphia, the Eagles can deliver this fall.

 

Making sense of the NFC East

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Going into this NFL season, the NFC East was predicted to stink. In fact, it was so bad that in an Onion article addressing every NFL team’s greatest strength, all teams in the NFC East were said to have the division as their biggest advantage. Yes, they were thought to be bad enough that they would in general get most of their wins by beating up one another.

Last season, the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins averaged a .478 winning percentage — good enough for roughly a 7-8 record. That just isn’t good. The Redskins had no offensive line and underperforming quarterbacks (QBs); the Giants’s Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions to 18 touchdowns and registered his lowest QB rating (by far) since his rookie year; Tony Romo choked away the final game of the season three years in a row, leading each time to 8-8 seasons and no playoffs; and Nick Foles was a fluke, playing on a team that would miss DeSean Jackson more than they knew. Each team appeared to have no chance of making the playoffs.

Fast forward to the present and the East has a surprising three teams in the playoff hunt, with a projected number one, five and eight seed in the much stronger NFC. The teams average a .600 winning percentage, equivalent to about ten wins over the course of a season. Fluke! Luck! Fire! Perhaps in some cases. Let’s break down which of these teams are legit, which are frauds and how this division has shocked the football world.

Let’s start with our home team, the Eagles, which thus far have been the best team in the division and the conference as a whole. Philadelphia has a 4-1 record, with the only loss being a close game to an impressive 49ers squad. This was expected, right? Last season they were the lone team in the playoffs, at 10-6, and Nick Foles led the league in QB rating behind arguably the best offensive line (OL) in the league. Same old story, right? Not exactly. This year’s Eagles squad might not be as sustainable over the course of a full season as last year’s rendition. How can a 4-1 team be unsustainable? Look back at the Arizona Cardinals from 2012, who were 4-0 and ended up losing 11 of their last 12 games and missing the playoffs. Now, these Eagles are definitely not that Arizona squad, as they have a far superior coach and more talent at key positions (QB and RB). That being said, they do have some red flags.

First, although the Eagles have great special teams, seven return touchdowns, five in the past two weeks just aren’t sustainable numbers. Additionally, they have made a habit of falling behind in games and having to crawl their way back, as well as barely winning close games over teams that they should have easily beaten. They barely beat the Rams 34-28 after conceding 17 straight points and won 37-34 against the hapless Redskins. While they did win these games, this cannot continue if they are to beat out the Cowboys for the division title. They have around a 40% third down efficiency, and Nick Foles, who led the NFL in rating last season (despite Peyton Manning having arguably the greatest season in NFL history) is 38th this season. The offensive line has been decimated by injuries and thus LeSean McCoy only has one touchdown this season, running for an average of under three yards per carry. And it wasn’t just the offense that has stagnated. The defense allowed the Redskins (19th in the league in PPG) to score 34 points and St. Louis to score 28, while Austin Davis threw 375 yards and three TDs. Anytime Austin Davis throws for almost 400 yards and three TDs, something is wrong with your defense. This isn’t a sustainable model. They are being out-thrown and out-rushed, with a negative turnover ratio and they have less time of possession than their opponents do. Eventually, this will catch up with them.

Now we get to the Dallas Cowboys, the team everyone loves or loves to hate. Indeed, it is the team that has finished 8-8 the last three seasons. Well, they’re halfway to that win total with only slightly more than a quarter of the season passed after a four game winning streak. In contrast to Philadelphia, the Cowboys look more hopeful. While the Eagles’ total yards and rushing yards are 14th and 23rd respectively, Dallas’ offense is more respectable, with a 400 yards per game average (fifthth in the league) and 160 rush yards per game — good for 2nd. The Cowboys may have the best offensive line in the game, and this is shown through Romo’s longer time in the pocket — he already has 9 touchdowns and a 99 QB rating against only 1 INT and Demarco Murray’s absurd 134 yards per game and 6 touchdowns. The Cowboys are closing out games strongly and already have a key victory against the talented Saints, 38-17. The Cowboys should manage at least a 2-2 record against Seattle, New York, Washington and Arizona and then against Jacksonville, leading them to a 7-3 start at the bye. That is the record of a balanced, playoff-bound team that is ready to finally be reckoned with.

The Giants are good — as good as their three game winning streak suggests — however, they might disappoint long term. Eli Manning is finally comfortable in the system that led to his 27 picks last year (11 TDs-5INTs this year), the talent is clicking, they’re over 50% on 3rd downs and the Giants have won three straight games by 10+ points for the first time since ’08. That’s not enough? This is despite only recovering one of their fumbles this season and two of their opponents’. Despite that bad luck they’re still 3-2. So why do I doubt them? Because they have Philadelphia, Dallas (away), Colts, Seahawks and 49ers in the next 5 weeks. This will test them greatly, and I just don’t see them coming out of that at .500.

The Redskins seemed to have potential early on. They sacked the Jaguars 10 times, had 53% third down efficiency, played the Eagles to a very close game and had a defensive line to be reckoned with. Once Robert Griffin III went down, they only improved. So what’s wrong? The bottom line is that the Redskins are just a poor team — they’re just not very good. They allow 27.2 ppg (27th in the league) and allowed five turnovers against the Giants. Three of their losses have been by double figures (and this week’s Seahawks loss could’ve been far worse if an amazing three touchdowns hadn’t been nullified by flags) and their lone win? Jacksonville. This team has issues at the quarterback position, allowing teams to run all over them, and if it weren’t for the Jaguars game, they would have the worst defense in football. They’re 1-4 and they will stay in the cellar of the NFC East.

The NFC East’s surprising run has been scintillating and fun to watch and I personally would love to watch them continue to play at such a high level. Simply put, however, I doubt their potential to maintain this level of play over the course of a long season. Either way, the race for the division title is wide open and going to be a fun ride.

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