After the Eagles staved off a late Redskins’ rally two weeks ago, Philadelphia was “back.” The season had been saved. Last week, after a 34-7 Sunday Night thrashing of the Cowboys, the Eagles were thought to be among the contenders in the NFC again despite being just 3-4.
But of course, they’re not. Chicago 30, Philadelphia 24. Those choking frauds blew another 4th quarter lead this season – they’ve led going into the 4th quarter in 7 of 8 games – to fall to 3-5. The Eagles are two games behind the Bears and Falcons in the Wild Card race. The Eagles have lost to the Bears and Falcons, so they’d need to pass both of them to sneak into the playoffs. I know Las Vegas loves the Eagles, and the offensive is explosive enough to win eight in a row, but the defense is embarrassingly inconsistent and you gotta wonder – have opponents solved Mike Vick?
[Tangent: I am a huge Vick fan but look at how far his numbers have fallen from a year ago with the exact same offensive weapons: 9 rushing TDs in 2010, 0 this year; six interceptions in 2010, 9 this year; he's down a bit in YPA and completion percentage and down 15 points in QB rating. Perhaps that's an issue for Lisk to explore.]
There are 4 gimmies left on Philly’s schedule – Arizona, Seattle, Miami and Washington. So let’s put Philly at 7-5. Based on what you’ve seen so far this season, can the Jekyll-and-Hyde Eagles defeat the Giants (who seem to play up or down to their opponent), Patriots (free-falling, but Belichick and Brady are still breathing), Jets (emerging!) and Cowboys (another team that runs hot and cold). A split will leave Philly at 9-7. That wouldn’t be enough.
Here’s the problem – the Bears still play the entire AFC West (strangely, four weeks in a row), plus Seattle and Minnesota. The Bears get a rematch with Detroit in Chicago this week. I didn’t like the Bears coming into this season – who knew Matt Forte would be 2nd in the league in rushing? – but they just need a 5-3 mark the rest of the way to get to 10 wins. Based on that schedule, I think 6-2 is totally possible and 7-1 (a loss to the Packers) is not out of the question.
The Eagles basically need to go 7-1 to get to 10-6, and then need help.
It’s going to be a seriously difficult uphill climb for the Eagles to make the playoffs. (Want to scare an Eagles’ fan? Tell them to look at Atlanta’s remaining games. Three of the eight are against teams with a winning record – New Orleans twice, and at Houston. Yes, that’s the same number as the Eagles have … but they trail the Falcons by two games and won’t win a tiebreaker against them.)
If you want to forget the Wild Card, then winning the NFC East is your other option. The Giants are 6-2 and won in Philly. I know the schedule is a murderer’s row, and Coughlin’s team was supposed to go in the tank, but after beating New England on the road, can you really doubt the Giants? I’m reluctant to put Dallas (4-4) in the discussion, because even though it should peel off five wins in a row to get to 9-4 heading into the final month, Miles Austin is hurt, Sean Lee is hurt, and Dez Bryant is Dez Bryant. I have no earthly idea which Dallas team will show up each week.
So. Back to Philly. Despite having the best rushing offense in the NFL, the Eagles can’t hold 4th quarter leads. How do you, in a home game against a team with one of the shakiest offensive lines in the league, not get one sack?
It’s obviously too early to eliminate the Eagles, but there’s no room for error. I think the game in New York against the Giants Nov. 20th will be the season. Win and the Eagles are alive for the NFC East title; lose and it’s over.