Wake-Up Call: How Week 4 Impacts the Eagles
The Eagles were off yesterday on their bye week, and the Giants don’t play the Vikings until tonight, but here are a few thoughts on how Week 4’s action impacts the Birds:
1. Philadelphia’s 34-3 win over Pittsburgh looks even more impressive now.
It wasn’t crazy to predict the Steelers would respond to getting dominated by the Eagles by coming out angry at home and taking their attitude out on the Chiefs, but they took it one step further and thrashed a respected 2-1 team, 43-14. The Chiefs didn’t score a point until the fourth quarter, while Ben Roethlisberger recorded a nearly perfect passer rating of 152.5.
The NFL is an unpredictable league, and it’s balanced enough to where inferior teams can pull out surprise wins over heavy favorites, as some may have viewed the Eagles’ victory over the Steelers last week. But after watching Pittsburgh remind everyone why they’re thought of as a Super Bowl contender, it’s tough to not come away with an even more positive view of the Eagles and how that’s the team the Birds dominated (minus Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 144 yards and added 34 receiving yards in his return yesterday.)
The Steelers are now averaging 35 points per game against teams not named the Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s a reflection of how much of an equalizer the Birds’ defensive line is. The Eagles’ secondary played much better than the Chiefs’ secondary did against the Steelers, but Big Ben also showed how lethal he is when he isn’t pressured.
Philadelphia sacked Roethlisberger twice as much as Kansas City did and recorded more than double the amount of quarterback hits, which is partially why Roethlisberger’s passer rating jumped from 62.4 to 152.5, his touchdown-to-turnover ratio improved from 0-1 to 5-0 and his yards per pass elevated from 5.8 to 11.1 from Week 3 to Week 4. The Chiefs also turned the ball over twice in the first quarter, which is a subtle reminder of how impressive it is that the Eagles are the only team in the NFL to not tally a giveaway.
2. Maybe the NFC East isn’t as bad as we think.
The division was atrocious last year, and Dallas and Washington weren’t very impressive yesterday, but NFC East teams are now a combined 7-1 in games outside of the division. While Washington was down at one point in the second half to Cleveland and Dallas beat an uninspiring San Francisco squad, the four NFC East teams have the best combined win percentage (.714) of any division in the NFL. The NFC East is also the only division without a team under .500.
It’s still early, and the opponents haven’t been top notch, but the lone loss any team has outside of the division is Washington’s Week 1 defeat against the Steelers with about a quarter of the season now in the books. The Giants-Vikings game tonight will tell us more about the NFC East, but between the Eagles’ surprising start and the rest of the division taking care of business against subpar teams, the division may be much improved from a year ago.
3. The Eagles should be (and are) favored to beat the Lions this week in Detroit, where they lost 45-14 less than a year ago.
What a difference a year makes. After being embarrassed on Thanksgiving last year, the Eagles are now expected to return from this season’s trip to Detroit with a victory. The 1-3 Lions lost their third straight game yesterday as the Bears picked up their first win of the season.
Brian Hoyer threw for 302 passing yards, a pair of touchdowns and a 120.1 passer rating against Detroit’s defense, while Matthew Stafford threw zero touchdowns and a pair of intercpetions for a 56.8 passer rating. As we saw in Philadelphia just a week ago, anything can happen in the NFL, but the Lions look like another team the Eagles should be able take care of.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Take a look at our picks trying to beat the odds from the weekend.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane will keep an eye on two position groups as the Eagles return from the bye.
1. Outside help: Jordan Matthews has lined up on the outside about a third of the time, but he has essentially remained the Eagles’ slot receiver. But the three other receivers – Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and Josh Huff – have accounted for just 35 percent of the Eagles’ catches and 27 percent of their receiving yards. Agholor has shown mild improvement in his second season and Green-Beckham is still getting used to the new offense. So there is plenty of time for them to step it up. But the trio has mostly shown an inability to get separation downfield.
2. Linebacker rotation: Jim Schwartz waited a game before inserting veteran Stephen Tulloch into the defense, but it appears as if he will remain part of a linebacker rotation. He took about 15 percent of the snaps away from middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. It’s fair to question the reasoning since Hicks has performed at a high level, but Schwartz could be looking ahead in case he gets injured and toward the dog days of December. But could the coordinator also be planning to further cut into Mychal Kendricks‘ playing time? Schwartz could have Tulloch play in the middle on base downs and slide Hicks to weak-wide in place of Kendricks.
Tommy Lawlor thinks Wentz has been the team’s best quarterback in a long time.
Wentz has been terrific this year. He has been accurate with his throws. He hasn’t turned the ball over. He has managed the game well, which can be especially tough for a rookie. You don’t see wasted timeouts and confused players on the field. Wentz is running the show and and getting his guys lined up where they need to be. Last week we saw him start to make plays. He ran for 10 yards on one play. He got outside the pocket and made the play to Darren Sproles for the 73-yard TD.
Wentz is playing well, rookie status aside. This is the best QB play the Eagles have had since Nick Foles in 2013, and might be better than even that. Foles got a ton of help from his supporting cast and the Chip Kelly Factor. You might have to go back to Michael Vick in 2010 to find QB play like this. While Wentz is good, let’s keep a bit of perspective. He’s not Top 5 in yards, TDs, rating, completion percentage or yards per attempt. Lions fans should be just as excited by the play of Matt Stafford as Eagles fans are with Wentz.
It feels great to finally have a young, franchise QB in place. That is the foundation of the entire organization. You either have a QB or you don’t. The Eagles do.
And right now Wentz is undefeated and has yet to throw a pick. He has made a combination of the right decisions and the right plays to get this team off to a great start. Enjoy the good times. This is the NFL and we know there will be some bad games. At some point, Wentz will throw an INT, miss a wide open receiver at a key moment or make a bonehead decision that hurts the team. That’s just reality. Joe Montana did it. Tom Brady has done it. Even Bubby Brister did it.
The naysayers will come out in force when that bad game does happen. “I told you Wentz isn’t good at _____________ .” Try not to go crazy. Wentz is a really good young player and looks like the real deal. Enjoy the stud QB. Don’t get caught up some criticism.
Players will be available to the media from 12:15 to 1 p.m. today.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.