The Case for the Eagles Making a Late-Season Run

As always, one half-decent win (especially over the Cowboys) sends the hopes of Eagles Nation soaring, inevitably to be dashed. Chip Kelly was very quick to throw cold water on any thoughts of the season turning around at his Monday press conference.

He correctly pointed out that last year, the Birds were 9-3 after they DESTROYED Dallas on Thanksgiving, leading to all kinds of NFC Championship Game talk. And then they lost three straight to miss the playoffs entirely.

Yet, there are some good reasons to think this season can get a lot better, and there is precedent for that sort of thing.

Last year sucked, but in 2013 the Eagles managed an incredible turnaround at this exact same point in the season. They were actually worse in the first half of Chip’s first season– 3-5 after eight games. Mike Vick was hurt and erratic, Nick Foles had been hurt and stank out loud against Dallas in week 7, and third-stringer Matt Barkley managed to be even worse than Foles in his two appearances.

Then the Eagles went on a miracle 7-1 run, losing only a bizarre game to Matt Cassel’s Vikings, as Foles unleashed his 27-2 masterpiece season, rookie Lane Johnson got comfortable with the four veteran linemen, and another rookie named Bennie Logan surprised everyone with his rapid growth at nose tackle.

Sure, you say, but that was Chip’s first year, with a new coaching staff, a lot of new players and a radically new scheme. All that change needed to be digested. There’s no excuse this time. Plus Sam Bradford sucks.

Those are strong arguments, but the Birds did not actually have that many new starters in 2013. Most of the 23 roster changes were at the bottom of the roster, the Roc Carmichaels and James Caseys of the world. There were only a handful of new faces among the starters — rookies Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Bennie Logan, punter Donnie Jones, LB Connor Barwin and ill-fated DBs Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams.

Also, Foles had — up to that point — sucked as much as Bradford has this year. There was no reason to think he would end the year with the NFL’s best QB rating (119.2, better than Tom Brady has done this or any other year).

Foles had started only nine games before mid-season 2013, and he had looked pretty rough. His rookie year, he threw six touchdowns and five interceptions in a string of losses after Vick got injured against Dallas. Foles was just 11-29 for 80 yards in that miserable 17-3 loss to Dallas before getting knocked out of the game. Afterward, ESPN wrote:

“At least there won’t be a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia after this one. Nick Foles was awful and left with a head injury.”

Then Foles came back two weeks later against Oakland and threw seven touchdown passes. He remained awesome for the rest of the year, seizing Vick’s job without any argument, only to become mortal again in 2014. Bradford has been bad this year, there’s no question about it. But he’s comparable to Foles before the Eagles’ 2013 turnaround.

I had actually predicted in the summer of 2013 that Chip would take a half season to get the team together, but I had no clue the turnaround would be so stunning.

In many ways, the changes this last off-season were as big or bigger than those in 2013, with a new starting quarterback, two new running backs, three new starting defensive backs, two new guards, and a new top wide receiver. It should have been obvious that this team would need time to gel.

There’s obviously no guarantee that it will continue to get better. But the offensive line has been solid since week 4, and the running attack is rivaled only by St. Louis right now as the best in the NFL. They’ve averaged over 173 yards per game during that stretch, and very consistently: 186, 158, 177 and 172 yards, respectively. With three strong running backs, they have insurance against injury and schematic changes that might stop a single star RB.

Bradford was accurate Sunday, showing a strong arm and finding his open receivers. He clearly has upside, but with a steady 170 yards of rushing, he can be pretty mediocre and still win.

Plus, the Eagles have an easy schedule. New England and Arizona are likely losses, but the rest of the schedule is a row of cupcakes: Miami, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and (somewhat tougher) Buffalo.

Put it all together, and it’s very reasonable to think that this team could go 5-3 the rest of the way, winning the division at 9-7. The real question is whether the offense can improve enough to beat anyone in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, if they get there.

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37 Responses

    1. bet on it. they have as much talent as any team in the league. most of the super bowl winners are the teams that get it together by the end of the season.

    2. This guy Mark is pretty decent. I see them being 9-7, losing to two teams who could possibly square off in the Superbowl (New England and Arizona) and blow a game against a bad team they should win.

      BUT…does not mean Bradford should be back.

  1. I know you have a blog post to write, but stop it. Someone has to win the East, but the Eagles stand absolutely no chance if they make the playoffs. We barely skated by a Matt Cassel led offense for Ch r i sts sake. If we can hang with the Patriots, THEN let’s talk.

    1. There’s absolutely no way to know how they would do in the first round, should they make it. Could be a whole different team by then. They’ve shown improvement since week 3. Why can’t they continue to improve into a solid threat? They are 10th in defensive PPG and 13th in offensive PPG (offensive stats going up every week). They aren’t terrible and they’ve mostly shot themselves in their losses. To say they have no shot after 8 games in a 16 game season is very dumb and you live a miserable life.

    2. Yeah, I mean they’re not Super Bowl contenders, but there’s no reason to think they couldn’t win a playoff game against another Wild Card team.

      1. The general consensus among most rational Eagles fans at the start of this season was 10-6 season, a wild card berth, and a wild card win. I do believe such is still attainable as the NFL East is even more awful than expected, but it stops there.

  2. The Eagles beat a team on a 5 game losing streak. In OVERTIME. If the Eagles go anywhere it’s because the NFC is such a dumpster fire. The only team worthy anything has been the Panthers. Everyone else is coming back to the pack.

    1. It was a divisional game on the road. People who say Dallas is trash are the same people who say they would have rolled with Romo in. It makes no sense. Either they’re a horrible team or they are a good team with a back up QB in. Dallas’ defense is formidable and last time I check Matt Cassel doesn’t play defense for them. People are acting like Dallas gets blown out every game they are in. Can’t stand people who just brush wins in the NFL, divisional no less, under the rug like its no big deal. “Yea they won, but it was only by a touchdown AND it had to be in overtime.” Come on. If you view the glass half empty after a win as big as Sunday nights then you’ve officially become numb to being a Philly sports fan and I don’t envy you.

        1. No just stating facts and clear observations from watching the games. Anyone can do it. It’s not that hard.

    1. Actually their rushing yards allowed per attempt is above average and they’ve only allowed 3 rushing TDs all year. They just played the best rushing team in the NFL and then played the “supposed” best Oline in the NFL. Tall task to contain both of those teams. Hurt them in Carolina. Didn’t hurt them in Dallas.

  3. Dear Season Ticket Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep: Send in your playoff money NOW……..And to those of you dumb enough to apply it towards next year’s season tickets, thanks for the interest bearing loan—fucking morons….Also, did you see my slant-eyed “wife (read: Beard)” at the Dallas game….she love me long time………

    1. People who make fun of people for having season tickets = People who can’t afford to have season tickets

  4. THIS IS GREAT. I THINK WE COULD GO 6-2 IN THE NEXT 8 GAMES. WE ROLL INTO THE PLAYOFFS THE HOT TEAM AND WHO KNOWS WHAT COULD HAPPEN. HOW AWESOME WOULD IT BE IF WE WIN THE SUPER BOWL AFTER ALL OF YOU PEOPLE WERE COMPLAINING TO FIRE CHIP?

    E-A-G-L-E-S!

    1. PLEASE, SOMEONE TAKE THESE CAPS OFF.
      EVERY FUCKING DAY, HE TYPES IN ALL CAPS.
      POOR WATER ALL OVER ME AND END IT ONCE AND FOR ALL.
      THIS IS RIDICULOUS A 36 YEAR OLD MAN ACTS LIKE THIS.

  5. But losing Jordan Hicks is an absolute killer. With a healthy Agholor doing ANYTHING and improved health elsewhere they really could have made a significant run, but unless Kiko steps up, this Hicks injury will be what stops us.

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