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November 14, 2023

10 reasons the Eagles are set up for a Super Bowl run

The Eagles have flaws like every other team in the NFL, but also have a lot of reasons why they can make it all the way back to the Super Bowl.

Eagles NFL
111423JalenHurts Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles employ Jalen Hurts, which puts them in a good position to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Philadelphia Eagles are nine games through the 2023 regular season, and they have eight games to go. They're the only one-loss team in a league where every other team has at least two, and yet locally there's sometimes a feeling of doom and gloom surrounding the Eagles because for most it's "Super Bowl or bust." 

Do the Eagles have flaws? Like every other team ever, yes, they most certainly do, notably their pass defense, or perhaps more positional-focused gripes in the secondary or at linebacker. Here we'll take an optimistic look at the Eagles' chances of getting back to the Super Bowl, and this time closing the deal.

1) Jalen Hurts: Still pretty good, and hitting his stride.

Jalen Hurts' last three games: 69 of 92 (75.0%) for 805 yards (8.6 YPA), 8 TDs, and 1 wonky INT, for a passer rating of 125.5. And he has done it on one leg. After a slow start to the season, Hurts and the Eagles' passing offense have rebounded in a big way, and Hurts is currently the No. 2 favorite to land NFL MVP honors, behind only Patrick Mahomes. 

(Note: If we're comparing Hurts' numbers with Mahomes' and factoring in rushing success — and, you know, team record — Hurts is having the better season, but whatever.)

2) A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert: Also pretty good.

Brown is getting some deserved MVP hype with 1,005 receiving yards through the first nine games of the season. He is on pace for 1,898 receiving yards on the season, which would smash his team record of 1,496 receiving yards in 2022.

Smith's numbers are down a bit as a result, but he's still catching 70.0% of the passes that come his way and he's averaging 8.9 yards per target. 

Meanwhile, Goedert's season had gotten out to a slow start (13-88-0 in his first four games), but he was heating up (25-322-2 in his last 5 games) when he broke his forearm against the Cowboys. Goedert will be out for a bit, but will be back in plenty of time for the playoffs.

3) They're healthy in the trenches.

The Eagles had outstanding injury luck both in 2021 and 2022, but we have seen them suffer a spate of injuries in 2023, particularly in the secondary. The good news on the injury front? They'll soon be healthy in the trenches, which is where they win games.

Cam Jurgens will likely be returning to the starting lineup this week after missing five games with a foot injury. His return to RG will give the Eagles their starting five along the offensive line for the stretch run.

On the defensive side of the trenches, the Eagles haven't suffered any injuries that have kept players out for longer stretches, but Fletcher Cox (back), Jalen Carter (back), Jordan Davis (hamstring), and Milton Williams (shoulder) have all been on recent injury reports and should be big beneficiaries of the extra week of rest.

4) The edge rushers are heating up.

Haason Reddick got shut out in the sack column during the first three games of the season while he was wearing a cast to protect his surgically-repaired thumb. Since getting the cast off, Reddick has 7.5 sacks in six games, and he has helped close out games with late heroics against the Rams and in both wins against the Commanders.

Josh Sweat had 2.5 sacks in his first five games, but has four sacks in his last four games. He also had the play of the night (maybe of the year?) with a clutch sack of Dak Prescott in the Eagles' wild win over the Cowboys Week 9.

And finally, Brandon Graham was quiet the first eight games of the season, but he had a breakout performance with 1.5 sacks against the Cowboys Week 9, again in a late-game situation when the Eagles needed it most.

Reddick, Sweat, and Graham combined for an absurd 38 sacks in 2022. They're on pace for 34 in 2023, and they were playing their best football of the season by the time the bye came around.

5) Opposing offenses aren't even trying to run the ball.

The Eagles are allowing 66.3 rushing yards per game in 2023, which (a) leads the NFL, and (b) is down from 121.3 rushing yards allowed per game in 2022. They are allowing 3.7 rushing yards per attempt (T-4th), and have only allowed three rushing touchdowns on the season, tied for the fewest in the NFL. They are also allowing a league-low 18.3% of rushing attempts resulting in a first down.

The Eagles' stout run defense has caused opponents to stop trying to run it against them. They are facing a league-low 17.8 rushing attempts per game, and just 29% of opposing offenses' plays are runs, also the lowest in the NFL.

Of course, part of that is because the Eagles' pass defense isn't as good as their run defense, so why run into a brick wall when you can throw over it? Still, knowing your opponent is likely to be one-dimensional while game planning for them is a pretty big advantage.

6) Continuity in the secondary is coming. (Well, probably.)

If you're a regular reader here, you have already seen the below chart showing the games started by the Eagles' secondary:

Opponent CB1 CB2 CB3 
Patriots Darius Slay James Bradberry Avonte Maddox Reed Blankenship Justin Evans 
Vikings Darius Slay Josh Jobe Avonte Maddox Justin Evans Terrell Edmunds 
Buccaneers Darius Slay James Bradberry Josh Jobe Reed Blankenship Justin Evans 
Commanders Darius Slay James Bradberry Josh Jobe Reed Blankenship Terrell Edmunds 
Rams Darius Slay James Bradberry Mario Goodrich Reed Blankenship Justin Evans 
Jets James Bradberry Josh Jobe Bradley Roby Reed Blankenship Terrell Edmunds 
Dolphins Darius Slay James Bradberry Josiah Scott Terrell Edmunds Sydney Brown 
Commanders Darius Slay James Bradberry Sydney Brown Reed Blankenship Kevin Byard 
Cowboys Darius Slay James Bradberry Sydney Brown Reed Blankenship Kevin Byard 
Chiefs (proj.) Darius Slay James Bradberry Bradley Roby Reed Blankenship Kevin Byard 

The Eagles had eight different starting five combinations in their secondary in their first eight games before finally repeating one in Week 9 against the Cowboys. It is difficult to play well on the back end with such little continuity. 

The loss of Avonte Maddox (likely) for the season has created chaos in the Eagles' secondary, which was further compromised by injuries to Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Reed Blankenship, and Justin Evans. Nine games in, the Eagles have already played nine (!) cornerbacks and six safeties. Last year they only played five cornerbacks in the regular defense all season — Slay, Bradberry, Maddox, Scott, and McPhearson — and five safeties. 

• 2022: 20 games, 10 defensive backs
• 2023: 9 games, 15 defensive backs

While navigating the losses of players from week to week, there has been some good pass defense (notably against the Rams and Dolphins) and some bad (notably against the Commanders x2 and Cowboys).

The Eagles' projected five in their secondary Week 11 against the Chiefs will likely be Slay, Bradberry, Roby, Blankenship, and Kevin Byard. That is, in theory, their best starting five going forward. To be determined how long that group can stay on the field together, but it's hard to imagine that the Eagles can have worse continuity in their secondary than they did the first half of the season.

7) Turnover luck could be swinging back the Eagles' way

At one time this season Hurts led the NFL in INTs, and his INT percentage is double in 2023 (2.6% of his passes have been picked) what it was in 2022 (1.3%). He has thrown eight INTs this season. Here they are:

A recap:

  1. INT No. 1: Bad decision.
  2. INT No. 2: Miscommunication with D’Andre Swift. Hurts was lucky that Devin White couldn’t run or the damage would have been worse.
  3. INT No. 3: Neither a bad throw nor a bad decision. If we’re to nitpick, it just came out late, but the defender made an amazing play on the ball.
  4. INT No. 4: The defender was playing the back shoulder throw, and he made the play. A good throw to the back of the end zone probably results in a TD, but it's easy to play "Monday morning QB" after the fact. There’s also probably some legitimate criticism here on the loft of this throw, as you typically want a back shoulder throw to have more heat on it.
  5. INT No. 5: Obviously, this is on Goedert, not Hurts, and probably should have been called a fumble instead of an INT.
  6. INT No. 6: This was of course the game that Lane Johnson left early, and Jack Driscoll struggled to block anyone in pass protection. Hurts' arm got hit as he was throwing, causing a popup.
  7. INT No. 7: This was Hurts' worst decision of the season.
  8. INT No. 8: Hurts tries to throw through a blitzing slot CB to an open receiver, but the ball is batted and takes a very unlucky bounce into the waiting arms of a linebacker. 

So, depending on your view, three or four of those weren't really bad plays by Hurts.

The Eagles won the turnover battle the first two games of the season, but if you don't include CeeDee Lamb's fumble on the final play of the game Week 9, they haven't really won it since:

Opponent Takeaways Giveaways Differential 
Patriots +1 
Vikings +3 
Rams -1 
Jets -4 
Dolphins -1 
Commanders -1 
Cowboys +1 
TOTAL 11 -2 

Losing the turnover battle four straight weeks and still landing at 8-1 at the bye is pretty remarkable.

The Eagles have a quarterback who has proven that he can take care of the football, they are well-coached in situational football, and they have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL with players in the secondary who have a history of making plays on the ball. Logically, there's no good reason for the Eagles to have a negative turnover differential, and they're a good bet to turn that around in the second half of the season. 

8) The hard part of their schedule feels daunting at the moment, but could build character for the postseason.

The difficult portion of the Eagles' schedule began Week 9 against the Cowboys, and will continue through until late December. You already know the opponents by now, but a quick recap for those catching up:

• Week 9, Cowboys: W.
• Week 11, At Chiefs
• Week 12, Bills
• Week 13, 49ers
• Week 14, At Cowboys
• Week 15, At Seahawks

Looking back at the road through the playoffs a year ago, the Eagles had the extreme fortune of playing the Giants in the divisional round, followed by the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, a pair of teams that they thoroughly destroyed. Spoiler: The Eagles will be in the playoffs again this season. To be determined what seed they'll earn, but no matter who they face their path through the playoffs won't be as hard as the stretch of games listed above.

9) The Cowboys have a hard schedule, too.

The Cowboys have a couple of easy games upcoming, but then their schedule becomes very difficult. Records and point differentials in parentheses:

• Week 11: At Panthers (1-8, -89)
• Week 12: Commanders (4-6, -57)

And then like the Eagles, they have a difficult stretch of their own.

• Week 13: Seahawks (6-3, -1)
• Week 14: Eagles (8-1, +57)
• Week 15: At Bills (5-5, +78)
• Week 16: At Dolphins (6-3, +60)
• Week 17: Lions (7-2, +38)

Those last five teams have a combined record of 32-14 with a combined point differential of +232. Their season ends in Washington Week 18, like it did last year, when the Commanders blew them out.

The Eagles have a 2-game cushion, plus a head-to-head win over Dallas in the bank, plus a 3-0 record in the NFC East with three of the four hardest games already in the books, and a favorable record against common opponents should a tiebreaker come to that.

Common Opponent PHI DAL 
49ers  Loss 
Cardinals  Loss 
 RamsWin Win 
 JetsLoss Win 
 PatriotsWin Win 

That Cowboys' loss to the Cardinals was a killer. Anyway, the Eagles are in a very dominant position to win the division, even with a tough stretch of games ahead.

Of course, the real prize is the 1 seed, which (a site that measures how gambling markets view the NFL) projects as follows:

• Eagles: 54%
• 49ers: 20%
• Lions: 15%
• Cowboys: 7%

It should be noted that the Eagles are heavy favorites to land the 1 seed, despite betting markets oddly viewing the 49ers and Cowboys as better teams.

10) Jalen Hurts is difficult to beat anywhere, really, but especially in Philly.

Including the playoffs, Hurts has won nine straight starts in Philly, and 16 of his last 17. So, you know, if the Eagles are able to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they'll be tough to beat. #Analysis.

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