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October 02, 2018

What they're saying: Maybe the Eagles just aren't that good this year

Whenever the Eagles lose a game, Monday can be a very emotional day in Philly. And this week, it seemed even worse than usual following Sunday's overtime loss to the Titans. That's due in large part to the way in which the Eagles lost, a microcosm for what's been plaguing the defending Super Bowl champions throughout the first month of the 2018 NFL season.

The secondary was a liability. The offensive line struggled to protect their franchise quarterback. There were costly penalties at key times. Doug Pederson's play calling doesn't seem as sharp. And the list goes on.

Yet, here we sit a quarter of the way through the season, and the Eagles are 2-2, a half game behind Washington for the NFC East lead, and are just one or two plays from being 3-1 or even 4-0. So why does it feel like the sky is falling in Philadelphia?

Perhaps, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz pointed out on Tuesday, the Birds are also one or two plays away from sending this city into an all out panic.

"You can look at our team and say we're one play — and maybe I can point to a dozen plays from the Titans game — we're one play away from being 3-1," Schwartz said. "We're also two plays from being 0-4. We need to face that. And we're sort of right in the middle of that being 2-2. But Julio Jones makes a catch or Andrew Luck escapes out of a sack and finds somebody in the end zone, and all of a sudden, we could be looking at a completely different thing."

That seems to be a common notion surrounding the Eagles at the quarter pole: What are the Eagles? Are they the championship-caliber team we saw upset its way to Philly's first Lombardi Trophy? Are they merely a playoff team destined to play road games in January? Or are they something even worse?

The good news is, it's still early and they were only one game better a year ago. 

Here's one last look at what they're saying about the Eagles before turning our full attention to this week's NFC Championship rematch against the Minnesota Vikings.

What if the Eagles stink?

Dan McQuade | Deadspin

Being a Philly guy, Dan nailed the mood in his city following the Eagles' loss. It was too spot on, that the Carson Wentz-Joe Flacco comparison has me wondering if Dan is actually @FakeWIPCaller.

After months of nothing but good feelings about the Eagles, Philly fans have had to adjust to what (so far) have just been the same ol’ Eagles. Sure, they’re just 2-2. But, in the games they’ve won, the opposing team has had the ball down to the goal line with a chance to win in the final seconds. Sure, they’ve been injured. But they were injured last season and still won the Super Bowl. This year they’ve just looked bad.

Any Eagles fan would trade a lifetime of ensuing mediocrity for a Super Bowl win, especially the weird, unbelievable run through last year’s playoffs the Eagles made. But I am sure I am not the only Eagles fan who was thinking this the whole game: What if that was it? What if Carson Wentz is Joe Flacco, with an early championship and a lifetime of questions on whether or not he’s “elite”? And an even worse Joe Flacco, since Wentz didn’t even play in the Super Bowl the Eagles won. And Wentz was one of the Eagles who looked good yesterday. The offensive line was awful. The secondary was even worse. At least they finally had a good punt return?  []

More than a Super Bowl hangover

Robert Mays | The Ringer

The concern over the Eagles wasn't specific to their fans. Over at The Ringer, Robert Mays is also trying to figure out this team's identity. And like Angelo Cataldi, he doesn't see much of a resemblance between this year's version and last year's championship squad. At least not yet.

On an off day, the defending champs still had countless chances to slam that door shut. Tennessee had three fourth downs on its game-winning overtime drive. The final one came on a short flip to running back Dion Lewis, who took the pass 17 yards to the Philadelphia 15-yard line. Lewis tortured the Eagles in Sunday’s second half and overtime as he hauled in six passes for 48 yards, including a clutch 17-yard gain on a second-and-22 late in the third quarter (the Titans went on to convert the manageable third down). A tackle in space here or less contact on an incompletion there, and the Eagles would be 3-1 and sitting atop the NFC East without much to worry about. But Philadelphia’s problems lie in the margins, which proved to be the difference against Tennessee. The Eagles still have one of the most talented rosters in football, and they’re in a division without significant competition, but a quarter of the way through the season, this team looks like the flawed cousin of the one that won the Super Bowl.  []

It's too soon to give up...

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Not everyone, however, is losing faith in the defending champs. Bleeding Green's Brandon Gowton thinks it's still too early to panic, especially with a big game with huge playoff implications on the horizon.

It’s entirely fair to be very frustrated with Sunday’s result. It’s entirely fair to point out that this team has some real issues.

But I don’t think they’re doomed just yet.

Think about where this team was last year at this time. They were 3-1 instead of 2-2, so they were in a better spot, sure. But their three wins were very close. They beat Washington in Week 1 on a controversial Kirk Cousins fumble call at the end of the game. It took a miracle 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants. Then they only beat the Chargers by two points. It wasn’t until Week 5, when the Eagles hosted the Cardinals, that they had their first blowout win and started to look dominant. What if the Vikings come to town and the Eagles stomp them again to advance to 3-2? Is the season still over then?  []

... and here's why

Mike Kaye |

One of the reasons to remain positive — Mike Kaye of offered up 11 of them — has nothing to do with the Eagles. But it's true nonetheless.

11. The rest of the NFC East doesn't look all that impressive

The Redskins, Cowboys and Giants have all stumbled out of the gate. While the Redskins and Cowboys have each won two games, their wins haven't been all that impressive. If the Eagles are able to respond to their early adversity immediately, Philadelphia has very little to worry about in the hunt for the division title. 

As of right now, the Eagles only trail Washington and Dallas on formalities. The Redskins have yet to play a fourth game, so their sample size is smaller at this point. The Cowboys have the same record as the Eagles but Dallas played a division game sooner, defeating the Giants in Week 2.

It's still very early but the Eagles are still in a position to repeat as division champions.  []

Maybe 2-2 is the magic number

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sometimes trends are meaningless. Sometimes, they're invaluable. I'm not sure if this is the former or the latter, but it might be enough to cheer up a down-and-out Eagles fan, even if it's only for a second. Either way, it's a pretty wild stat. Sometimes I wonder where Roob comes up with this stuff...

Is 2-2 the end of the world? Maybe not.

The Eagles have made the playoffs the last six times they’ve opened a season 2-2, a streak that dates back to the 1980s.

Three of the last four times they’ve been 2-2, they’ve even reached the NFC Championship Game.

What does that really mean for the 2018 Eagles? Maybe not much. But it should give fans some hope that despite a couple ugly road losses in September, the season isn’t over.  []

There's always next year

Jeremy Fowler |

Apparently All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell expects a call from the Eagles next offseason. 

Bell believes the Jets, 49ers, Colts, Browns and Eagles would be among teams interested in his services on the free-agent market. He'd want to go to a team that values his skill set and winning.

"I know the guaranteed money will be there [in March]," Bell said. "If a team wanted to, they could definitely do what they needed to do to make me happy and satisfied."  []

RELATED: Report: Eagles have interest in Le'Veon Bell

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