The ability to look at the glass half full is great. For Eagles fans, perhaps it’s also necessary to enjoy the remainder of this season, because while the team has a 5-4 record and there are reasons to be hopeful a playoff run is still in order, there are also quite a few issues you need to overlook.
Hey, the term Negadelphia exists for a reason.
In all honesty, I probably fall slightly more on the optimistic side myself, for many of the same reasons you can read here. However, as somebody who entered the season with high expectations for the Eagles, there are some serious flaws nine weeks into the season that I haven’t been able to ignore.
In other words, while the Eagles could get hot, reach the postseason, maybe even make it all the way to the Super Bowl, there’s also strong evidence to support the contrary.
UNREMARKABLE WINS: You can only beat the teams on the schedule, yet the simple fact of the matter is the Eagles have beaten one truly quality opponent this season: the Packers. Washington and the Jets are abysmal, while the Bills (don’t care what their record is, they stink) and Bears don’t have NFL offenses. Meanwhile, the Eagles lost to the pitiful Falcons and mediocre Lions, not to mention were blown out by the Vikings and Cowboys.
Sure, the schedule eases up in a couple weeks, but what about their record so far has anybody convinced they wouldn’t drop a game to, say, Miami, or the Giants, much less come away with wins against the few respectable opponents remaining?
THE NEXT TWO GAMES: Speaking of which, things could get worse before they get better. There’s a very real chance the Eagles will dip below .500 again with back-to-back games coming against the Patriots and Seahawks. It wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but 5-6 doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, either.
THE LINEBACKERS: To be fair, linebacker isn’t a terribly important position in today’s NFL. It’s sort of like having an elite running back — never a bad thing, but competence is good enough to win.
Do the Eagles even have competent linebackers? OK, Nigel Bradham hasn’t been healthy, though he isn’t exactly a model of consistency anyway. Otherwise, Nathan Gerry has been the defense’s best linebacker this season, tackling issues be damned. For all the attention the poor cornerback play was getting earlier in the season, you better believe offenses have been taking advantage of the middle of the field, too.
JORDAN MATTHEWS: I like Jordan Matthews! I liked him during his first tenure with the Eagles, I liked him during his second tenure, and I suggested the club re-sign him a couple weeks ago, so I like him on this squad, too. But Jordan Matthews as the offense’s No. 1 receiver in 2019 is not ideal! And that’s exactly what he’s going to become if Alshon Jeffery misses time with an injury — maybe even if he doesn’t.
All of this is really a way of saying that listing Matthews as one of the reasons to be optimistic about the Eagles is actually highlighting what a disaster the wide receiver position is, because while he can certainly help, you prefer the guy who was on the street in November isn’t instantly the best option.
THE COWBOYS: Again, it might be a stretch to look at Dallas and suggest it’s a reason to feel confident in the Eagles. Not to argue the Cowboys are some formidable opponent, either, but the harsh reality is they’ve owned the Eagles recently, to the tune of three straight wins, not mention kicked their tails a mere month ago. The Cowboys also have a few things the Eagles don’t — namely, receivers and linebackers — so you could argue they’re a more complete team.
The one thing the Eagles have going for them here is Dallas plays a tougher schedule, but if they lose to the Cowboys again in December, it probably won’t matter. Right this moment, I don’t know how you can feel good about that matchup.
DIVISION CHAMPS OR BUST: And here’s the kicker. The Eagles more than likely need to beat Dallas. A lot can happen between now and Week 17, though as the playoff race stands now, the Eagles are essentially three games out of a wild-card spot, considering the Vikings would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Crazier things have happened, but at the very least, it’s not something anybody should count on happening.
Which means the only path to the postseason would be to win the NFC East, which probably means a) beating Dallas, which they haven’t done, b) winning at least three additional games, which based on the results is far from guaranteed, and c) doing it with replacement-level talent at wide receiver and linebacker.
WHO’S STEPPING UP? If the Eagles are to have any chance of overcoming this mess, it’s going to take some star-caliber performances. But who on this team is playing at a truly elite level?
Right now, the Eagles can hang their hat on the running game, solid offensive line and run defense. The pass rush appears to be trending in the right direction (who knows based on the competition they faced), and Carson Wentz has been very good but probably short of great. Is that enough talent to win in the NFL?
The Eagles need more from Zach Ertz, but he’s the focal point of defensive game plans because Jeffery and Nelson Agholor aren’t threats. They need Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod to stop blowing assignments, because Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are going to get beat from time to time. They need Fletcher Cox to be dominant, because it makes the other 10 guys on defense that much better.
The list goes on. The Eagles need a lot of guys to play a lot better, which unfortunately may be too much to ask.