Time for some optimism. Enough of the doom and gloom because, frankly, there are five games to play and it’s not in the job requirements of anyone in the NFL to be down in the dumps. You just don’t do it. You get back at it and attack the day.
That’s what the Eagles are doing.
That’s the message from head coach Doug Pederson.
“We have a lot of season in front of us,” Pederson said on Monday following his NovaCare Complex press conference. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve been here before. We know that a lot can happen between now and the end of the season.”
Pederson knows it because he’s lived it. Last season, you remember, the Eagles were 6-7 and headed to a road game at the mighty Los Angeles Rams and darned if they didn’t pull off an against-all-odds win to get to 7-7. They hung on to beat Houston the following week at Lincoln Financial Field and then finished the regular season with a convincing victory at Washington and, along with a thank-you win from Chicago over Minnesota, made the postseason.
The Eagles not only made it, but they won a game in the playoffs and then were driving in the final two minutes when a Nick Foles pass to Alshon Jeffery glanced off of Jeffery’s hands and was intercepted, ending the dream.
The point is, anything can still happen.
And it usually does.
Now, before I go any further, I’m not here to paint a rainbows-and-lollipops picture. The Eagles had a horrid offensive performance in Sunday’s 17-9 loss to Seattle and the challenges on that side of the ball aren’t going away anytime soon. There is a lot of work to do here.
But I’m going to base my optimism, and my Path to the Postseason, on a few things …
1. The defense has been legitimately terrific. Playing well against Buffalo, Chicago, and New England is one thing, but those three offenses aren’t exactly at the top of the league in performance. Going out and sacking Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson six times and limiting him to 200 passing yards and really only giving up two big plays – albeit two touchdown plays – was impressive. The Eagles can count on the defense moving forward against Miami, New York (twice), Washington, and Dallas to, at the very least, keep the team in games.
2. While the offense has really been off track the last two weeks, the Eagles were heading in the right direction with wins over Buffalo and Chicago before the bye week with a healthy Jordan Howard at running back, an intact offensive line, and Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor on the field at wide receiver. Even with that lineup, the Eagles lacked the explosiveness they anticipated having when the season began, but the Eagles ran the ball effectively, kept defenses honest in coverage on the outside, controlled the football with end-of-game drives, and scored touchdowns in the red zone. So, it stands to reason that when those players return to the lineup that the Eagles' offense will be much improved. We’re keeping our fingers crossed at One NovaCare Way that the dominating right side of the offensive line with Brandon Brooks at guard and Lane Johnson at tackle will be ready for Miami and that Agholor and Jeffery can play as well. Howard sounds like he may be another week or so out.
3. While Dallas, which leads the NFC East at 6-5, feasted on a weak early-season schedule, the Eagles had some tough games out of the gates. Now, December is going to be a reversal of fortunes. The Cowboys have a tricky final three games before playing at Lincoln Financial Field – home with Buffalo (8-3) on Thursday, at Chicago (5-6) the following week, and then home with the Los Angeles Rams (6-4) in Week 15. The Eagles, as you know, play three teams – Miami, the Giants, and Washington – all with 2-9 records. That helps, doesn’t it?
4. That the Eagles have been here before helps a lot managing what is, let’s face it, an extremely (and deservedly so) passionate fan base. The Eagles put together a heckuva roster for the 2019 season. There are a variety of reasons for the 5-6 record, and the incredible spate of injuries is one of them. Literally every position on the roster has been impacted by injuries this season. The Eagles had those bad losses earlier in the season at Atlanta and home against Detroit that have, yes, been haunting. But the team remains focused and plays hard and doesn’t point fingers. All of that, whether you want to buy into it or not, means something.
5. From here on out, it’s playoff-atmosphere football. The Eagles are well suited for this December run because, more than anything, they win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. When you do that, you win games at critical times.
6. Finally, as an add to the favorable schedule, the Eagles make their final flight on Saturday when they travel to Miami. The rest of the way, they’re home for two games and they take a train to Washington and a bus to New York (New Jersey). Pederson will go to his late-season practice schedule and do everything he can to keep his players’ bodies fresh. The Eagles responded well to it last year and they’ll respond well again.
Get yourselves ready for a wild stretch ride. As disappointing as this season has been to date, the Eagles can still salvage 2019 with a perfect December. That’s the goal, one week at a time.