Eagles analysis

Eagles mailbag: How do the Eagles stack up in NFC?

In the latest Eagles mailbag, Dave Zangaro answers questions about the NFC race, Jalen Hurts' knee and more.

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The Eagles are back from their bye week and are getting ready to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night in a Super Bowl rematch.

Since the Eagles play on Monday Night Football, their week of prep is pushed back a day, which means their first practice of the week won’t come until Thursday. That also means, we found ourselves with some extra time.

So I asked for mailbag questions and you guys came through. Had to break it up into a few parts, starting with:

Since 2000, there have been 31 teams that started off the season with an exact 8-1 record, including the Eagles four times: 2004, 2017, 2022 and now 2023. Of the previous 30 teams, over 36% went to the Super Bowl:

3 won the Super Bowl: 2017 Eagles, 2013 Seahawks, 2004 Patriots

8 lost the Super Bowl: 2022 Eagles, 2020 Chiefs, 2019 49ers, 2018 Rams, 2013 Broncos, 2006 Bears, 2004 Eagles, 2001 Rams

The biggest advantage the Lions have over the Eagles is their schedule. While the Eagles are ahead in the conference by a game, they still have to play the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks. The Lions’ schedule is much easier. They play the Bears, Packers, Saints, Bears, Broncos, Vikings, Cowboys and Vikings. Although that three-game stretch at the end is interesting because that’s actually harder than the Eagles’ final three games against the Giants, Cardinals and Giants.

In terms of the team, I agree with you that Ben Johnson is a really good offensive coordinator in Detroit and they definitely have some depth at the skill spots but the Eagles’ have better top-notch players, starting with A.J. Brown, who has been incredible. Overall, the Lions are a good team but the Eagles would take a head-to-head at most positions. I think they’re just the better team.

And it’s no shot at the Lions but I still think the 49ers and Cowboys are bigger threats to the Eagles getting out of the conference this year. For what it’s worth, the Eagles have this set up nicely for them. I think there’s a good shot they end up with the No. 1 seed but even if the Lions win that, having to go to Detroit for an NFC Championship Game wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

Yeah, it’s a good question and when we talk about the struggles of the rushing offense recently, it’s something that probably hasn’t been talked about enough. It’s hard to really quantify how much it’s hurting them to not have the threat of Hurts’ legs but it has to be. Whenever the Eagles are really humming on the ground, Hurts usually has something to do with it, even if it’s just making a defender hesitate for a second. 

Over the last two games, Hurts has 6 and 36 rushing yards so he’s not exactly that kind of threat right now. If and when Hurts is near 100%, then he’s still absolutely going to be a part of the Eagles’ run game. I know some worry about the added risk that presents but it’s part of what has made Hurts such a special player. Of course, we’re seeing him play really well in the pocket but his ability to run every once in a while would help too.

The way the Eagles get away with this is because while Hurts is obviously injured, he hasn’t been limited in practice and hasn’t missed a snap in a game. If Hurts was taking less snaps in practice or if he was skipping certain drills because of his knee, he’d have to be listed as limited. But he’s been a full participant all year. The Eagles would contend that there are a bunch of players who are injured but don’t end up on the injury report. Football players go through aches and pains. The difference here is that Hurts has such a spotlight on him and the injury has been impossible for him to hide.

A few years ago, the NFL simplified this process and took out the “probable” game designation, leaving just three: Out, Doubtful and Questionable. Here’s how the NFL defines each:

Out - Will not play

Doubtful - Unlikely to play

Questionable - Uncertain if player will play

According to the NFL injury report policy: “A violation of the policy may result in Commissioner discipline, which may include a fine on the involved club, fines or suspensions of involved individuals, as well as the possible forfeiture of draft choices by the involved club.”

Well … let’s see how it works out. To this point, the Eagles have gotten better-than-expected play from both Zach Cunningham and Nicholas Morrow this season. So that’s good news. We all understand Howie Roseman’s feelings on positional value and linebacker is just one of those positions where he’s never going to sink major resources.

The crazy thing is that the Eagles actually used a decent recourse (by Howie’s standards) on Nakobe Dean, who was the 83rd overall pick last year. A third-rounder doesn’t seem like a high pick but for an Eagles linebacker it is. And Dean obviously hasn’t worked out to plan so far as he’s dealt with a couple injuries this season and hasn’t played particularly well even when he’s on the field. The last time before Dean when the Eagles used a third-rounder on a linebacker was Davion Taylor in 2020. That one didn’t work out either.

I’d imagine Roseman feels somewhat emboldened by the success the Eagles have had putting minimal resources into the position. Even last year, the Eagles lucked out with T.J. Edwards, who went from undrafted to starter in a few years, and got decent play out of Kyzir White on a one-year deal. It feels like the Eagles are playing with fire a little bit but they are always going to prioritize the line first and it has worked so far.

I get that the idea of Devon Allen is exciting but this isn’t going to happen. For one, you really can’t go into a game with just two running backs active so unless the Eagles change their tune on Rashaad Penny, then Scott is still the third. And Scott is a really good kick returner; it’s just that the play doesn’t really exist much anymore.

Scott’s one return this year went for 38 yards, which is great. And he had 15 for 406 last year. Since the start of the 2022 season, there are 35 players in the league with at least 15 kickoff returns and Scott’s average of 27.8 yards per return ranks fifth in the NFL behind just Dallis Flowers (30.6), Nyheim Hines (29.2), Raheem Blackshear (29.0) and Keisean Nixon (28.0).

When I was a kid, and this question was a very important part of my life, my favorite color was blue. But I do think I’m more of a green guy these days. I think I like the various shades of green. I’ll take a classic green, a sea foam green. I like the full green palette. 

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