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September 26, 2022

Who won the week in Philly sports: Jalen Hurts is the NFL MVP right now

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-TD-Celebration-Eagles-Vikings-Week-2-2022-NFL.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts strikes a pose after connecting on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins in the first half against the Vikings Monday, September 19, 2022.

This week's edition of "who won the week in Philly sports" has a new wrinkle in it because the Eagles played two games since last Monday. In those two games, both wins, the Birds have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 48-15. Cruising at 3-0, the Eagles look to be the class of the NFC and if the season ended right now, they'd have the NFL MVP under center for them.

I've always thought of myself as more pro-Jalen Hurts than the majority of Eagles media members, but I'd be a liar if I said I expected him to lead the league in yards per attempt while completing 67.3 percent of his passes in the first week of the season. Even the staunchest of Hurts supporters among the swarm of Eagles fans out there couldn't foresee passing performances like this.

I expected Hurts to take a step forward as a passer this season, as he's done every year since he first stepped on Alabama's campus as a freshman in 2016. Add that to his wheels and intangibles and there was a path to true contention for the Eagles with Hurts playing like an above-average quarterback. He upped the ante, did a 180, and looks like a young Donovan McNabb now. 

Taking continuous deep shots? Attacking the middle of the field and working the left side when he appeared allergic to doing so in 2021? Commanding this offense with expert pre-snap reads and coverage breakdowns that slow the game down and make it easier for everyone? He's not just driving the bandwagon for a potential Arizona trip in February, but he's the NFL's MVP three weeks into this young season.

Hurts' passing has caught up to his running game, leadership and vibes. That's a scary proposition for an NFC that looks increasingly weak and for the taking. Hurts is the toast of Philadelphia at the moment and a clear-cut choice for the person who "won the week" in the Philly sports scene. 

Narrative 📝

The MVP award is not just about raw stats, though Hurts' are quite good. He's had back-to-back 300-yard passing performances. He had just two of those in each of his first two years as a pro. His yards per attempt (9.3) and yards per completion (13.9) are more than any QB. He has seven total touchdowns. His 916 passing yards are third in the league and that's with basically taking the second half of the last two games off after he helped the Birds build insurmountable leads. 

The narrative is there though. Hurts is a figure who's easy to rally around given his collegiate and pro climb. He was a freshman star for the Crimson Tide in 2016. He was then benched at halftime of the 2017 College Football Championship in favor of current Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who led Alabama to a comeback overtime win over Georgia. Hurts was then relegated to QB2 duty behind Tagovailoa in 2018 before transferring to Oklahoma for the 2019 season. He responded to that rocky 'Bama exit with 5,149 yards of total offense and 52 total touchdowns en route to finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting.

Hurts built himself into a Day 2 prospect, as the Eagles selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, enraging both Eagles fans and Carson Wentz alike. Eight months later, he had usurped Wentz as the team's starter. Rumors swirled that the Eagles wanted to replace Hurts for the 2021 season, but they didn't. He struggled as a passer in his first full year as QB1, but he ran for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns and led the Birds to a surprise playoff berth. Yet again, there was chatter that the Eagles were going to upgrade at QB. Once more, Hurts entered this season as the starter and has now laid waste to all three defenses he's faced. 

The rise, fall and rise of Jalen Hurts has been six years in the making and Eagles fans are now reaping the rewards. 

Running the Table 🏃

No, the Eagles aren't going to go undefeated in 2022, but look at that schedule. Between now and late November's Sunday Night Football matchup with the Packers, it's a bit of a wasteland:

4vs. Jaguars 
@ Cardinals 
vs. Cowboys 
 9 @ Texans 
10vs. Commanders 
11 @ Colts 

The toughest matchup there is... probably Jacksonville this week? Let's throw the chips on the table: it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Eagles are 10-0 heading into the Green Bay showdown. 

Jaguars? That won't be easy, but it's at home and winnable. Kyler Murray is no longer the best Oklahoma quarterback in the NFL after the way Hurts is balling out. The Cowboys will be either without Dak Prescott or playing with a slowed-down, injured version of him. A home matchup against Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett after that? Thursday night games can be funky, but, come on, it's the Texans. The Eagles embarrassed the Commanders on the road and then this rabid fan base gets to watch Carson Wentz's return to Philly on Monday Night Football. The Colts beat the Chiefs in Week 3, but Matt Ryan looks all sorts of washed.

This is a 12-win team, but if things break right and they finish with potentially 14 wins, it's going to be hard for MVP voters to look over the Eagles' monumental team success, Hurts' come up and, of course, his on-field play. 

Ride the Wave 🌊

I got heat for comparing the 2022 Eagles to their 2017 counterparts after the Vikings win, but screw it, I'm continuing with that beat. There's a special quality to this Eagles team. Things are perfectly falling into place.

The unlikely QB1 is soaring. The formerly maligned head coach is the best in the entire NFC East and maybe the best in the conference outside of the Rams' Sean McVay. People wanted to exile the defensive coordinator after Week 1 and Jonathan Gannon's unit has allowed just 13 points since as the D registered 12 sacks. The Birds have the best wide receiver duo in franchise history. Everything is coming up Eagles as Hurts stands tall at the face of the organization and, perhaps if he picks up the hardware, the entire sport. 

Runner-up: DeVonta Smith 🦇

Last week's winner: Eagles fans 🦅

Who Won the Week 2022 Tally:

Howie Roseman: 4

Bryce Harper: 3

Rhys Hoskins: 3

Rob Thomson: 2

Jalen Hurts: 1

Eagles fans: 1

A.J. Brown: 1

Nick Sirianni: 1

Avonte Maddox: 1

Eagles: 1

Kyle Schwarber: 1

Tyrese Maxey: 1

Tobias Harris: 1

Joel Embiid: 1

Ray Didinger: 1

Phillies bullpen: 1

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