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October 23, 2017

What went right and wrong for the Eagles on Sunday?

In a weird scheduling quirk, for the second straight week, the Philadelphia Eagles did not play on Sunday, so the team and their fans sat and watched the rest of the action around the league.

Here's what went right, and wrong, in Sunday's action:

What went right?

The Packers look as you would expect without Aaron Rodgers: There's a chance Rodgers could return by the end of the season from an injury to his throwing shoulder. Ideally for the Eagles, the Packers will be well out of contention by the time that happens (if it does at all). The Packers have been a nemesis to the NFC East teams in the playoffs. Since the 2014 season, the Packers have eliminated the Cowboys twice, the Giants once, and Redskins once. In that sense, they've been something of a blessing for Eagles fans. But certainly, you don't want to have to face Rodgers in the first round of the playoffs.

The Falcons are now 3-3 and look very beatable: The Falcons started the season 3-0, but have now dropped three straight to the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots. Last year, in one of their most impressive wins of the season, the Eagles beat the Falcons 24-15. After that loss, the Falcons got hot, averaging 36.4 points per game in their final nine games including the playoffs. The more losses they rack up early, the better it is for the Eagles.

The Panthers lost again: After getting beaten at home by the Eagles on Thursday Night Football Week 6, the Panthers dropped an ugly one on the road in Chicago. The Eagles have already proven they can beat this team, but it's still better to gain a game on an actual contender than a team like the Bears, who are going nowhere.

The Buccaneers lost: The Bucs came into the week at 2-3. They're now 2-4 after losing to the Bills. Again, the more teams that but some distance between themselves and the Eagles in the standings, the better.

The Vikings won: From a draft pick perspective, the Eagles own the Vikes' fourth-round pick. In that sense, anytime they win, that pick gets pushed further down the board. At this point in the season, however, with the Eagles starting 5-1 and looking like a legitimate contender, forget about all of that. 

If the Vikings make the playoffs, they'll be led by Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, or a rusty Teddy Bridgewater. With Rodgers out, the Vikings have a clear path to the playoffs in the NFC North, so as long as they're likely to win that division, they are as an ideal of a potential matchup for the Eagles in the playoffs as anyone. 

What went wrong?

The Cowboys' offense came back to life: Yes, Dallas beat a crappy 49ers team, but they did so convincingly, putting 40 on the board behind good days from Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott. The Cowboys have evidently decided to run Zeke into the ground while they can, as he is on pace for 397 touches this season. I wonder if relying so heavily on one player is the best strategy for a team that is eventually going to lose him for six games, most likely this season, but on Sunday it worked and the Cowboys' offense looked like it did a year ago.

The Giants lost to the Seahawks: With the Giants getting off to a 1-5 start heading into Week 7, the Seahawks are the far bigger threat to the Eagles' 2017 season. Since 2012, Seattle has made the playoffs every season, playing in 12 playoff games, and winning at least one playoff game every year. During that span, they are 8-4 in the playoffs, including two Super Bowl appearances, and one Super Bowl win. This is the team you least want to face in the playoffs in the NFC.

Meanwhile, the more games the Giants can win at this point, the better. Sitting now at 1-6, the best thing the Giants can do for the long-term betterment of their franchise is to go into full-on tank mode. The 2018 NFL Draft class looks to be a very strong one at the quarterback position. The worse their record, the better the odds the Giants can find the guy they like to take over for Eli Manning.

The Saints might actually be good: The last time the Eagles made the playoffs, they were beaten, of course, by Drew Brees and the Saints. New Orleans has now won four straight games by an average margin of victory of 16 points.

The Rams might actually be good: The Rams put it on the Cardinals on Sunday, shutting them out 33-0. They now have the best point differential in the NFC, at +74. The Eagles are next, at +43.

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