Our hometown Philadelphia Eagles enter the bye week sitting atop the NFC East at 6-5. I know a lot of folks out there are saying the division is weak this year but for those of you unfamiliar with recent Eagles history it’s been quite some time since we’ve been in this position. The Eagles haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season. Since that time we’ve endured two consecutive miserable seasons to end the Andy Reid era. The team has basically been playing meaningless games at this point of the season over the past two years so it’s absolutely refreshing just to have meaningful football being played right now in Philly let alone a division leader.
Entering Sunday the Eagles lost the last 10 home games in a row dating back to September 30, 2012 when they defeated the Giants at the Linc. It had been 413 days since that victory. Since that date countless Eagle fans including myself continued to flock to the stadium week in and week out to only endure loss after loss and watch this team plummet. Now a year after finishing 4-12 under long time coach Andy Reid the Eagles are doing the unthinkable sitting in first place at 6-5 under first year coach Chip Kelly.
Coming into this season I thought the Eagles would be improved under Kelly but I never would have suspected they’d be sitting atop first place this late in the season. Kelly has this team rolling right now under QB Nick Foles. The offense has been full of life this year. Everything from the up tempo speed to the innovative play calling which we haven’t seen before. LeSean McCoy passed 1,000 yards rushing on the season against the RedSkins. He’s clearly been a huge reason for the success of the Eagles offense. During the two game losing streak that saw the Eagles lose mightily to the Giants/Cowboys McCoy wasn’t getting the amount of touches and was pretty much ineffective. McCoy will continue to be the key for the offense going down the stretch after the bye week.
The other main component over the past few weeks has been QB Nick Foles who’s still yet to throw an interception this season and has an outstanding QB rating of 132.5. Earlier in the season I thought Mike Vick was a perfect fit for this offense. He had the Eagles moving quite nicely down the field the first few games of the season and fit that mobile QB type that is usually prototypical for a Chip Kelly offense. Once he hurt his hamstring though it was evident he wouldn’t be the same player. When you look back on the early part of the season Vick also was not doing a good job of spreading the ball around to all the offensive weapons available. Riley Cooper was basically invisible this season until Nick Foles got his turn to start. Cooper along with DeSean Jackson have been a lethal combo since Foles took over. Foles also has done an outstanding job of getting the tight ends involved with the offense. Earlier in the season the tight end position was a non factor. The way Foles has played the past few weeks it’d be hard for coach Kelly to go back to Vick at this point with 5 games remaining in the season. Sure Foles had a hiccup against Dallas back in October but since that game Foles has been lights out. The discussion during the 2 game losing streak to Dallas/NY was if the Eagles will need to draft a QB in next year’s draft. I’m more inclined now than ever before to say Nick Foles is the QB of now and the future.
The most impressive part of the Eagles going into the bye week has been the performance of the defense under first year defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Prior to the start of the season myself and many others questioned the move to bring in Davis. He was a defensive nomad going from team to team coaching one underperforming defense after another. His track record along with the question marks on the defensive side of the ball all pointed toward another possible bad campaign for a defense that has struggled mightily since the death of long time Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. But I’m happy to say this defense resembles a Jim Johnson type defense once again. They are getting after the ball, gang tackling runners, creating plays, getting turnovers, and finding their way to the QB. We all knew the offense would be a strong point of this team but no one figured the defense would come up the way they have so far this season. It was a slow progress but it’s clear they’ve hit their stride over the past few weeks.
Now the Eagles enter the Bye week at 6-5 in first place with five games to play with 3 of them being at home. They finally got the home losing streak out of the way and have proved a win is possible no matter where they are playing. So here’s the breakdown entering the stretch run. The Eagles will resume play at home against the Cardinals followed by another home date against the Lions. Both of those will be tough games as the Cards have a great defense while the Lions have only the best wide receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson and a high powered offense led by QB Matt Stafford. Following the Lions the Eagles go to Minnesota to face Adrian Peterson and a Vikings team that has struggled so far this season. Following the Vikings it’s a home game against the Bears then at Dallas which could possibly be for the division if the Cowboys get their act together following their bye week.
With the Eagles getting a bye week this late in the season I feel it’ll be a huge advantage for the birds entering December. They’ll come back after Thanksgiving fresh and ready to roll. I can’t believe I’m saying it but we’re talking playoffs in Philly when it comes to football. As long as this team stays healthy the rest of the way I see no reason they can’t run the table or win 3 or 4 of the last 5 games to clinch the division and move on to the postseason for the first time since 2010. Buckle up folks it’ll be a fun December for football fans in the Delaware Valley.