November 07, 2023
The 8-1 Eagles are the best team in football. But they don't always look that way.
As they've found ways to win game after game this season they've also left fans with concerns that this team might not be the runaway Super Bowl contender it was last season.
As the team takes a week off for their annual bye, let's take a look at a few of the concerns that could potentially undo their championship aspirations. First, three major concerns:
The Eagles defense overall is a solid unit. It plays very good situational football, as was seen in their dramatic win against Dallas (that bailed out an offense unable to run the clock out). They have the best run defense in football and one of the top three or four pass rush units. But they have issues in the secondary.
Teams do not have issues moving the ball through the air against the Eagles. Here's some of the numbers:
|Comp. passes against||241||Most|
|Pass attempts against||362||Most|
|Pass yards against||2,313||Most|
|Pass TD allowed||19||2nd most|
|Air yards on comp||1,450||Most|
|Interception rate||1.1%||2nd worst|
|QB rating against||99.4||5th worst|
How much of this is due to the rule of large numbers? The run defense is so good, and the offense scores so much, that opposing teams are passing at an astronomical rate against them.
They've also battled injuries and inconsistencies all season long. But no matter what combination of defensive backs they line up in the backfield, there seem to be holes that opposing offenses exploit. Except against the historical Dolphins offense — ironically enough. Can they win a Super Bowl with this issue, against offenses led by gunslingers like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson?
It's about to get really grueling. Philly hasn't had it particularly easy to begin with — they have beaten likely playoff teams like the Dolphins and Cowboys as well as the fringe Buccaneers and Vikings. But it's going to be even more difficult when the Eagles return from their bye. Here's the slate for the next five weeks:
|Week 11||at Kansas City||7-2||2nd|
|Week 12||vs. Buffalo||5-4||5th|
|Week 13||vs 49ers||5-3||3rd|
|Week 14||at Dallas||5-3||9th|
|Week 15||at Seattle||5-3||15th|
So that's three of the top five teams in football by DVOA, four of the top 10 and five of the top 15, all in a row after the bye week — starting with a Super Bowl rematch. The standings-trailing Cowboys and Lions have easier schedules. Is it possible that the Eagles go 3-2, or 2-3 over this stretch and find themselves in a tighter race for the NFC East and home-field advantage?
All they can do is play the games in front of them. But it will be clear if this team is still the best in the NFL after the next couple weeks.
Last season, one of the biggest reasons the Eagles won the NFC title was their lack of injury issues. They stayed extremely healthy. It was almost a miracle.
This year it's not been as lucky.
• Jalen Hurts — hasn't missed a game but has clearly is having some knee issues.
• Dallas Goedert — broke his forearm in Week 9, will miss four weeks or so
• Nakobe Dean — hurt his foot in Week 9, already missed multiple weeks this season
• Cam Jurgens — set to return to the offensive line after an IR stint
• Quez Watkins, Justin Evans, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Shaun Bradley — all currently on injured reserve.
And this is just the injury situation as it looks right now. They've also seen players like Jalen Carter, Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay, James Bradberry and numerous others miss time on the field due to minor ailments.
This team might boast the most talented roster in football. Whether they'll all be on the field together come January could be the determining factor for their championship hopes.
There are a few minor issues that could become major ones down the road.
The run game: The Eagles run game has degraded from dominant and best in the NFL to just decent. After 200+ yards twice in the first three weeks they're barely getting to 100 in recent weeks. They have the third most rushing yards in football, but that's on the second most rushing attempts. They average a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry, 15th best in the NFL.
Give/takeaways: Philly is -2 in turnovers this season, in the middle of the pack in the NFL. They have 13 giveaways (13th most) and just 11 takeaways (19th most). The secondary, as we mentioned, has the second fewest interceptions in the league. One would expect these numbers to improve — they'll need to for a Super Bowl run.
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