Question –

When you looked at the Eagles’ schedule before the season, how did you see them coming out this four-game stretch? 2-2? 1-3? I highly doubt anybody out there saw 3-1 or 4-0 against the Chiefs, Bills, Niners, and Cowboys.

We could probably go back two weeks further and ask ourselves if the first Dallas game should be included in the gauntlet. It’s true that the last five games have constituted a brutal run, but with the bye week sandwiched in there, it seems like most fans consider the home Cowboys game to be the end of the first part of the schedule, and then they categorize the four games post-bye as murderer’s row.

So think of it however you’d like. For the sake of the exercise, we’ll say that the Eagles went 3-2 through the toughest portion of their schedule. If you told fans before the season that they’d be 10-3 going into the Seattle game, I think most would be over the moon and doing backflips.

But it goes back to the aphorism we’ve abused on this site – it’s not that they lost, it’s how they lost. It’s a great adage because it invites critical thinking and surface penetration. In this case, the losses were a lot more ugly than the wins were pretty.

Case in point:

  • They almost bottled it at home against Dallas and barely held on for a win. That fourth quarter in particular was an abomination, and if Dak made one more play, it would have been a home L.
  • The defense had to pitch a miracle second-half shutout to steal a W in Kansas City. The Chiefs made some backbreaking mistakes and dropped some key passes.
  • In the Buffalo comeback, Jake Elliott needed to hit a 59-yard field goal in the rain to force overtime.
  • They got their doors blown off by San Francisco and Dallas and weren’t competitive.

There’s certainly some truth to the idea that these guys are exhausted from this stretch of games. Anybody would be. But you can apply that thought without making it an excuse. Their biggest strength to this point has been resilience, which is an intangible trait that can’t be quantified. You make big plays in the game’s biggest moments and it covers up blemishes like your -4 turnover differential or a defense that can’t get off the field on 3rd down. In the last five games, they’ve given up 23, 17, 34, 42, and 33 points in regulation. That’s three straight games conceding 30+ when Washington was the only team able to do that through the first 10 games. The defense is a legitimate concern, Jalen Hurts is 4th in the NFL in giveaways, and both coordinators haven’t exactly inspired.

Furthermore, if you go back and look at the five-game stretch, the most important games were against Dallas and San Francisco, for division and conference seeding purposes. They went 1-2 in those three games. Buffalo and KC, while gutsy, were much-less meaningful wins, especially with the NFC looking much stronger than the AFC at the very top.

The good thing is that the Birds schedule gets a LOT easier from here on out. Playing Seattle on the road isn’t ideal, but Geno Smith is banged up and they’ve lost five of six. The Giants are a division rival but pretty much washed, and Arizona is plucky but has maybe half the talent the Eagles do. The Birds, at worst, really should win three of four to close it out. Dallas, meantime, has to play at Buffalo, at Miami, home to Detroit, and then at Washington. San Fran has Arizona, Washington, and LA, but that home game against Baltimore is gonna be a tough one. I’d take the Birds’ remaining schedule over the Dallas or San Fran schedules.

Regardless of how the Eagles do in these final four games, the way the last five played out is enough to leave that seed of doubt in fan and media brains. You will have people point out that they got clobbered by the other two top teams in the conference, and that’s certainly a legitimate and lingering thought. I don’t think trucking the Giants, Seahawks, and Cardinals is going to make that thought go away. It’s not going to assuage any concerns. The pragmatist, however, would note that the Eagles can’t look much worse than they did over the last two weeks, so if you’re a believer in “getting it out of your system,” so to speak, then the last two would constitute a full body cleanse.

It’s really hard to be upset with 10-3 at this point, and 3-2 coming out of the gauntlet. I think people will come back around as this week progresses. But the Eagles were so bad in these last two games that they did enough damage to strengthen the idea that this squad just doesn’t have it. Not now and definitely not in the playoffs.