Eagles Wake-Up Call: Predicting Philadelphia’s Record In Remaining Games
The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-0 entering their Week 4 bye. There’s obviously considerable buzz around the Birds after their surprisingly hot start. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has been sensational. Head coach Doug Pederson has defied low expectations while defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is living up to his strong résumé.
The Eagles own the best point differential in the NFL. They rank No. 1 overall in DVOA by Football Outsiders. Most NFL power rankings, including ours, have the Birds as a top team in the league.
It’s clear that expectations for the 2016 Eagles must be adjusted. Prior to this season, the feeling here was this team was going to win around seven games. Now the Birds are almost already halfway to that win total.
Given the success the Eagles have had so far, here’s an updated record prediction for the 2016 season. Let’s break it down game-by-game.
Week 5 at Detroit Lions
Current Opponent Record: 1-2
Pick: Eagles win (4-0)
The Lions would be 0-3 if not for a last-minute comeback win against the Colts in Week 1. Detroit isn’t downright dreadful. Their offense ranks sixth in points scored. Matthew Stafford has played well. Detroit’s defense is a different story. The Lions have allowed the sixth most points. They rank No. 31 in defensive DVOA. Andy Reid has always been great coming off bye weeks so perhaps his protege Pederson will as well. Maybe Eagles players will even carry Schwartz off the field like Bills players did when Buffalo beat the Lions in 2014.
Week 6 at Washington Redskins
Pick: Eagles win (5-0)
There’s a chance this could be the first game the Eagles are without starting right tackle Lane Johnson if his 10-game suspension appeal is unsuccessful. The good news for the Birds is that Washington has looked like the weakest team in the division so far. Kirk Cousins is off to a rough start. It’s hard not to think Cousins could be going through regression similar to what Nick Foles went through in 2014. Washington still has some nice offensive talent but their defense has allowed the fourth most points in the league. Wentz should be able to best Cousins’ efforts.
Week 7 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Eagles lose (5-1)
This is the Eagles’ most intriguing game in the near future. The Vikings play at home against the Giants and the Texans over the next two weeks. There’s a realistic chance they could win both of those games before visiting Philadelphia. A battle of two undefeated teams would be really interesting especially given the quarterback situation. Wentz versus the quarterback the Eagles shockingly traded away for a 2017 first round pick just a week before the start of the season: Sam Bradford. Bradford hasn’t been anything special for the Vikings but been decent enough while the tough Minnesota defense carries the team to victory. This could be a game where Wentz struggles. If the Vikings can shut down 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, they have the potential to shut down most quarterbacks.
Week 8 at Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Eagles win (6-1)
Wentz hasn’t been the only rookie quarterback who has played well. Dak Prescott has done a nice job filling in for the injured Tony Romo. It will be interesting to see if Dallas turns back to Romo or sticks with Prescott at this point. One would think Romo will get his job back, but there’s no guarantee. Philadelphia’s strong defensive line going up against the highly-praised Cowboys offensive line will be a good matchup. The Eagles haven’t had much trouble winning in Dallas in past years. The Birds are 6-1 at AT&T Stadium since it opened in 2009.
Week 9 at New York Giants
Pick: Eagles win (7-1)
The Eagles own the Giants in recent history. Philadelphia has won 13 out of their last 16 games against the G-Men, including an 8-1 record in road games. Tom Coughlin was the head coach for all of those games so it remains to be seen if the Giants’ fortune changes under Ben McAdoo. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Giants have an improved defense. While that might be true, it’s not like it’s suddenly elite. Wentz and the Eagles’ offense will still have opportunities against this squad.
Week 10 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Eagles lose (7-2)
And so begins the Eagles’ toughest four-game stretch of the season. The Falcons’ offense is no joke. Atlanta has scored 104 points through three games. Matt Ryan is getting the ball to his play-makers. Julio Jones has the potential to be a serious problem for Eagles cornerbacks. The Falcons’ defense ranks last in DVOA, so the Eagles will be able to score. This one could be a shootout. The Falcons typically aren’t a good road team but they’ve gone 2-0 in back-to-back road games over the last two weeks.
Week 11 at Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Eagles lose (7-3)
It’s not very easy to get a win in Seattle. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They seem to be their best while at home. Russell Wilson is able to neutralize an opponent’s pass rush with his mobility. This could be a game where Pederson is simply out-coached by Pete Carroll.
Week 12 vs. Green Bay Packers
Pick: Eagles lose (7-4)
The Eagles will return home from Seattle to face another top team in the NFC: the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback that Philadelphia will face all season. Schwartz has experience squaring off against Rodgers from his time spent as head coach of the Lions. That might not matter much, though. When the Packers quarterback is playing at his best, Green Bay is very hard to stop.
Week 13 at Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Eagles lose (7-5)
This game is sneakily the Eagles’ toughest game on the schedule. Most would think it would be the Seahawks or the Packers game, but facing the Bengals on a short week in Cincinnati won’t be easy. So far the Bengals aren’t off to a good start in 2016. They’re 1-2 and their sole win was a one-point victory over the Jets. The feeling here is the Bengals will get back on track and they’ll be a tough matchup when December rolls around.
Week 14 vs. Washington Redskins
Pick: Eagles win (8-5)
The Eagles will host all three of their NFC East rivals over the final four weeks of the season. First up is Washington. After going on a four-game losing streak, this is where the Birds start to turn things around in time for the playoff hunt.
Week 15 at Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Eagles win (9-5)
The Ravens are the least impressive 3-0 team in the league. Baltimore only has the 10th best point differential despite being undefeated. They were down big to the Josh McCown-led Browns in Cleveland before squeaking out a big comeback effort. Baltimore escaped with a two-point win over the Jaguars in Week 3. The Ravens are winning but they’re not looking great.
Week 16 vs. New York Giants
Pick: Eagles win (10-5)
The Eagles will be sporting their Nike Color Rush jerseys as they play the Giants on Thursday Night Football. The last two times the Eagles wore all-black against the G-Men, they won by a combined score of 54-7. The Giants might be a little more competitive in this game since they could still be in the divisional race but Philadelphia’s success over New York will continue.
Week 17 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Eagles win (11-5)
For whatever reason, the Eagles struggle to beat the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. They’re 1-5 against Dallas in their last six games played at home. This year, the Eagles will make it 2-5 in their last seven as they defeat Dallas in the season finale. The Eagles will need to get their brooms out after they win this game because they’ll have gone 6-0 in the division if this entire prediction is correct.
The Eagles have a real good shot to win the NFC East this year. They have a promising young quarterback. Philadelphia’s defense figures to be the best in the division.
Can the Eagles actually put a playoff run together? The feeling here is they could win a home game on wild card weekend before losing in the divisional round. But then again maybe the Eagles will continue to defy expectations like they have so far this season. Maybe this Eagles team is actually a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Who would have thought?
WHAT YOU MISSED
“We want to make sure that he’s risk-free from anything permanent.” With the success of Dak Prescott, the Cowboys won’t be rushing Tony Romo back to the starting job.
Where do the Eagles land in this week’s Power Rankings?
“So how good are the Eagles? They’re better than anyone thought Sunday morning but probably not quite as good as they’re being made out to be Sunday night.” What They’re Saying.
“These guys — these veteran players — have really embraced it. They will do anything they can for a guy like that.” How Carson Wentz has inspired the rest of his teammates.
John Barchard and James Seltzer of BGN Radio recap the Eagles-Steelers game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles made a roster move to the practice squad.
Roster Move: #Eagles re-sign G Darrell Greene to the practice squad and release CB JaCorey Shepherd from the practice squad.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 27, 2016
Jim Schwartz‘s stock is skyrocketing, opines Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.
It’s only three games, and defensive-minded coaches haven’t exactly been in vogue in the NFL, but Schwartz would have to be on any early list of candidates for next offseason. He has already put his stamp on the defense, the same way he did in only one season with the Bills in 2014.
“It’s a comforting thing for me knowing that he’s called a lot of games . . . as a defensive coordinator,” [Doug] Pederson said Monday, a day after the Eagles stunned the Steelers, 34-3. “He’s been in my position as a head football coach. It’s just kind of turn that side over to him and let him roll.”
If Schwartz was content to stay a coordinator, he could be Jim Johnson to Pederson’s Andy Reid. Like Reid, Pederson has given his defensive guru autonomy over his side of the ball. That freedom has allowed Schwartz to govern as he sees fit. He’s tough, he’s aggressive, and he doesn’t suffer fools.
“Jim’s not as big of a jerk as people think,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Game day, he’s actually calm and fun. It’s during the week he gets on his antics.”
Schwartz isn’t immune to calling players out in team meetings. During film review, he has been known to point his red laser at the negligent as he details his mistakes. It has been a culture shift for some who had grown accustomed to former coordinator Bill Davis‘ more diplomatic approach.
“He tells us when things aren’t up to par,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “He doesn’t let anything slide by. He does a good job of putting the responsibility on us to get it done.”
Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com says a lot of things worked in the Eagles’ favor on Sunday against the Steelers.
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Every team has to deal with injuries in the NFL. Yet as much as pointing to injuries could be construed as making excuses for the Steelers, the fact is they lost a lot of bodies as the game went on.
Left guard Ramon Foster exited with a chest injury, and the Steelers’ top two interior reserves were already out. Pro Bowler Lawrence Timmons was sent to the hospital with a shin injury, while fellow interior linebacker Ryan Shazier played with a bum knee. Starting safety Robert Golden departed with a hamstring injury, and complementary receiver Eli Rogers was taken out by a toe.
With Le’Veon Bell already inactive because of a suspension, the Steelers were incredibly shorthanded by the time the clock hit zero. Sure, the Eagles were without a pair of starters in Zach Ertz and Leodis McKelvin, but that was nothing compared to heavy losses sustained by the other side. That was a depleted team on Sunday.
The Steelers got away from their game plan
You can’t help but think the Steelers probably abandoned the ground attack far too early in the game. Pittsburgh’s running backs carried only nine times on Sunday, and four of those came on the opening possession. That means the offense handed the ball off only five more times in a contest that was still only 13-3 at halftime. That could not have been the plan.
To the Eagles’ credit, they did a good job of stopping the run. However, once the Steelers became one-dimensional, that allowed the defensive linemen to pin their ears back and really get after [Ben] Roethlisberger, and they did exactly that.
So why should that be held against the Eagles? Because you have to believe other teams will be more patient with the run in the future after watching this front four tee off on Roethlisberger. A more balanced approach will make future opponents a lot less predictable and harder to defend, even if it’s not exactly Big Ben under center.
We’ll have a film breakdown on the Eagles-Steelers game and more.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.