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December 24, 2017

Eagles Mailbag: The 'other' likely teams in the NFC playoffs aren't that good, right?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Friday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow.

Question from MikeInAz: Every Eagles writer keeps saying that the NFC is loaded with good teams that will be in the playoffs. It's no different than any other year. How is this group any better?

If the playoffs began tomorrow, the teams the seedings would look like this:

  1. Eagles (12-2)
  2. Vikings (12-3)
  3. Rams (10-4)
  4. Saints (10-4)
  5. Panthers (10-4)
  6. Falcons (9-5)

Five of the above teams have not even played their final two games and they already have 10 wins. The one team that has not yet reached 10 wins yet has the 2016 MVP at quarterback, and nearly won the Super Bowl last year.

Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at the combined wins of every NFC playoff group since the NFL went to a six-team format in 1990. Here's how many combined wins the six-pack of playoff qualifiers had each year, in descending order:

Year Combined wins of NFC playoff teams  
2001 71 
1998 71 
2011 70 
1992 70 
1991 69 
2015 68 
2009 68 
2005 67 
2013 66 
2012 66 
1996 66 
2014 65 
2003 65 
2002 65 
2016 64 
2007 64 
2000 64 
1997 64 
2008 63 
1995 63 
2010 62 
1994 62 
1993 61 
1999 60 
2006 59 
2004 59 
Average 65.1 

This year's likely crop of NFC playoff teams already has 63 combined wins (two below the average) with 11 combined games to play. There's an outside chance that when this season is wrapped up, this playoff six-pack could have the most combined wins of any year since the current playoff format was put in place. At a minimum, it will be near the top.

Now, if your argument is that some of the teams aren't as good as their records would indicate, that's another story, but I haven't heard that at all. The only team where that may be true would be with the Eagles themselves, due to the dropoff from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles.

Are there any juggernauts in the NFC playoffs? No. But this group is absolutely loaded with really good teams who will all be tough outs.

Question from Office Linebacker: Do you think the Eagles can realistically make a Super Bowl run this year?

Sure. Home field advantage is huge. The Eagles are 6-0 at home, and have an eight-game winning streak in Philly. Assuming they're able to wrap up home field, they have as good a chance as anyone else.

Question from Godders: Do they bring LeGarrette Blount back? Why is he even getting touches now anyway? Jay Ajayi looks much better to me. It's puzzling.

I'm torn on whether Blount will be back or not. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, so it's not as if he's been bad. It may depend on the price, which won't be high. Working against Blount is that the Eagles don't trust him in pass protection, and he's been disappointing in short yardage situations for a 250-pound back.

I do agree that Ajayi is clearly better, and the best back on the team. Once the playoffs begin, I think you'll see a spike in his carries.

Question from Drew S: What's the first Super Bowl you clearly remember watching?

I was born in 1977, and I don't remember the Eagles' Super Bowl against the Raiders after the 1980 season. I would probably say Raiders-Redskins after the 1983 season. I bet my grandmom on that game. She had the Raiders, and I had the Redskins. (I didn't know any better at the time. I was six, so give me a break.)

Anyway, Marcus Allen ran all over the Redskins, and I was out a dollar, which to a six-year-old in 1983 was a fortune.

Question from Gizmo: Do you think Mack Hollins will be a starter at WR? I'm not seeing the upside of Torrey Smith at receiver next year.

Me neither. Smith is not going to be worth the $5 million the Eagles will owe him, and they will save that full amount if they release him. That money will be better spent elsewhere. If they do move on from Smith as I suspect they will, then yes, Hollins will get a look as a starter at WR, and I wouldn't rule out another receiver in the draft.

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