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These Eagles are a little different. In a mediocre NFL, that might be enough to be a playoff team. | Mike Sielski

This was a bad team less than a month ago. Now, thanks to a parity-ridden league, the Eagles have some factors in their favor.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) escapes from Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) during the third quarter Sunday.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) escapes from Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) during the third quarter Sunday.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Less than a month ago, the Eagles were a terrible football team. One cannot argue that fact. They were 2-5, and on Oct. 24, they lost in Las Vegas to the Raiders by 11 points, though it felt as if they had lost by 111 points. Fletcher Cox was unhappy with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme. Jason Kelce was allowing his frustration to spill out like lava. Nick Sirianni was trying onside kicks and all but admitting that he was delivering a positive spin on his team’s situation because the reality was too ugly to address honestly.

That the Eagles, fresh from their 40-29 stampeding of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, are now 5-6 is a credit to Sirianni, his coaches, and the players. It’s also a function of three other factors that helped them beat the Saints, that have made them relevant again, and that should keep them in the NFC playoff race throughout their final six games. If the Eagles do end up qualifying for the postseason, it will be for these reasons.

1. No team in the NFL is great, and few are even good

Look around the league Sunday. The Texans, who were 1-8, upset the Titans, who were 8-2. The Colts, who were 5-5, destroyed the Bills, who were 6-3. The Vikings, who were 4-5, knocked off the Packers, who were 8-2. Only one team, the Cardinals, has fewer than three losses this season. Whatever the cause — a dearth of decent quarterbacks, the attrition of a 17-game season, the salary cap — the NFL is a parity-ridden amalgam made up mostly of teams that aspire to be above average.

The Eagles were dead. Now, just by achieving mediocrity, they’re Lazarus. They were better than the Lions — no significant accomplishment there. Everyone is better than the Lions. They were better than the Broncos, a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season in five years. And they were better than the Saints, who started their backup quarterback, Trevor Siemian; three backup offensive linemen; and a conglomeration of skill-position players fit for the fourth quarter of a third preseason game.

Now, look ahead for the Eagles. They have five games and their bye over the next six weeks, and their opponents are the Giants (3-6), the Jets (2-8), and Washington (4-6). As it stands now, they are likely to be favored in each of those games.

2. The Eagles have one aspect in which they are outstanding compared to the rest of the league, and it’s a great aspect in which to be outstanding

For four straight games now, the Eagles have rushed for at least 176 yards. That measure of productivity, from Jalen Hurts and the team’s running backs, wouldn’t be possible if the team’s offensive line weren’t playing so well.

» READ MORE: Eagles prove they can run on anyone in convincing win against vaunted Saints run defense

Once Lane Johnson, after missing three games because of mental health issues, returned to the lineup and got his equilibrium back, the line’s makeup has been the same: Johnson and Jordan Mailata at tackle, Landon Dickerson and Jack Driscoll at guard, Jason Kelce at center. And those players’ collective performance has been marvelous.

“We’ve got two great tackles,” Hurts said. “We’ve got freaks out there on the edge. Teams know that they’re great players. Teams know we have a great center. We’ve got young guys who can play guard at a very high level. I think Lane has done great things for a very long time, and the way Lane works, the effort, the toughness he has, even last year trying to play on his ankle injury. I’ve got a lot of respect for Lane and everything he’s been able to overcome.”

The Eagles’ offensive line might be the best in the NFL, and in a league with so much mediocrity, having that single elite element gives them a vital advantage over their upcoming opponents.

3. Hurts is an unusual quarterback in a few respects, and unusual is good

There are a couple of questions that, once the Eagles’ offseason has begun, will be worth asking about Hurts. Can his body withstand the punishment intrinsic to his being the Eagles’ best and busiest carrier of the football? Do the franchise’s decision-makers (i.e. Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman) want the Eagles to play a style that demands their quarterback and their offense run the ball so much, and if they don’t want to play that way, do they have to find a new quarterback? For now, though, let’s set up some guardrails and limit this discussion to this season.

» READ MORE: Watch: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts rushes for his second touchdown vs. Saints

In the here and now, Sirianni and his staff have been figuring out ways to accentuate Hurts’ strengths and play down his weaknesses. And though Hurts has improved of late as a pocket passer, throwing the ball out of a conventional drop-back or shotgun set has been a weakness of his. He wasn’t particularly sharp against the Saints, either, completing 13 of his 24 throws for just 147 yards.

But Hurts’ mobility and toughness make him an asset in the running game and this can open up the passing game. As my colleague David Murphy noted before the season, the best version of the Eagles’ offense is the one that uses Hurts in a similar manner to the way the Ravens use Lamar Jackson. He might throw the ball. He might hand it off. He might carry the ball and make a move on a defender like the one Hurts made on Saints defensive end Carl Granderson: planting his right foot, cutting against the grain, causing Granderson to crumple to the ground, dashing into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.

» READ MORE: Jalen Hurts’ spellbinding TD run a memory-maker in win over Saints and reminder of other Eagles greats | Jeff McLane

“Jalen is a special player who forces defenses to play different,” Sirianni said.

Opponents have to account for him. They’ll have to figure out how to stop him. Until they do, Sirianni and the Eagles will have a strategic edge on whoever they play. Who’d have thought such a thing a month ago?