The Eagles have played 8 games so far, and its been one roller coaster ride of a season so far. The Eagles are second in the NFC East, with a 4-4 record, and just half a game behind New York. So far I’ve seen the Eagles do a lot of things well, and I’ve seen them do a lot of things badly, so what do they need to do to keep winning? I’ll break down what exactly the Eagles need to to do to find themselves sitting on top the division, with a playoff spot at the end of the season.
Firstly, they need to finish out the division by winning all remaining games. They still have 2 division games left, one against the Giants and one against the Redskins. While the Eagles are currently 2-2 in the division, finishing 4-2, and beating the Giants twice would be a huge step towards winning the division. As for the Redskins, dropping 2 games to them this season would be more of an embarrassment then anything else. While it certainly wouldn’t help the Eagles playoffs hopes, it is unlikely that the Skins are able to make the playoffs, based on their current record, and remaining schedule. As for the the rest of the schedule, it’s important that the Eagles win against the “easy” teams. In the next 3 games, the Eagles play the Dolphins, the Buccaneers, and the Lions, who have a combined record of 7-17. All three games are winnable, and if the Eagles can close them out, would put the Eagles at 7-4 before a 3 game stretch against teams with a combined 18-6 record (Patriots, Bills, and Cardinals).
Secondly, the offense needs to continue to click, and work in the way Chip envisioned it. We’ve seen this offense at times, and its shows itself at some point in every game, but if the Eagles want to make the playoffs, and actually go somewhere, then we need to see an offense that’s active and scoring through all 4 quarters. Sam Bradford needs to be better, and I’m hoping he’ll be more of the player we saw against the Redskins, where he threw for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. Regardless, he needs to turn the ball over less, and needs to make smarter decisions (among other things). We also need to see a continued high level of play from the backfield, who have been playing better football as of late. When the running game gets going, the whole offense opens up and plays better, so a continued high level of play will help Sam Bradford as well. Like wise, the receiver’s need to step up. I’m sure we were all very relived to see a lack of dropped passes against the Cowboys, and that definitely needs to continue. Perhaps most importantly though, is the play of the offensive line. The Eagles O-line has been up and down this year, but in all the Eagles wins, they’ve played well. The patch work line did a good job against Dallas, and of course, we are all awaiting the return of Jason Peters, but for the offense to do anything at all, the O-line needs to continue to play well.
The defense has done a lot of impressive things this season. 20 total take-aways, tied for first in the NFL, and a top 10 run defense has made a big difference from the team we saw last year. The secondary has taken a huge step forward, and while they’re not the top ten unit we’d all love to see, they are pretty darn good. They had had their problems, and struggled somewhat against Matt Cassel and the Cowboys, but have overall I’ve been impressed. The new players, whether through free agency or draft have also been good. Jordan Hicks and Walter Thurmond have been very, very good but I think that Byron Maxwell deserves some credit as well. After struggling the first 2-3 weeks, he’s been very good the last 3 weeks. Of course Malcom Jenkins is balling, he’s currently Pro Football Focus’s highest rated safety in the NFL with a grade of 96.0/100. (Walter Thurmond places into the top 10 as well). Needless to say the defense has been very good this year, and a continued high level of play will help the Eagles make the playoffs.
Am I the only one that notices that Chip likes to open games with the same 3 plays, and it almost always goes the same way? It always seems to start with some sort of screen pass, which almost always ends in a tackle for a loss, followed by a run that gains a yard or two, and finally, a short pass that doesn’t move the chains, and so out comes Donnie Jones. Now, I have no problem saying that I’m a big fan of Chip. I stick by his offseason moves, but I do wish he would start taking shots down field earlier, and more often. Bradford has proved he’s capable of making those throws and its time to let him be the best QB that he can be. One last thing would be penalties. They’ve been a pretty big problem this season, and while they haven’t always been great calls, (such as the two Byron Maxwell pass interferences late against the Cowboys) but it’s still something to work on. Overall, I think the Eagles will probably finish with a 10-6 record for the 3rd straight season, but it will be enough to win the division, and make the playoffs.