The Eagles are 2-4. They should be 4-2.
They should be on their way to a 12-win season, hunting an NFC East title and its accompanying playoff berth. They should have beaten the 49ers and the Buccaneers when they visited Philadelphia, and they should be salivating at the rest of their schedule.
However, between Nick Sirianni’s limited play-calling and Jalen Hurts’ limited abilities, 12 wins now is out of the question. The surest way to salvage the season is the pull the plug on Hurts, who, after 10 starts, appears to be regressing. Either accomplished backup Joe Flacco or flashy Gardner Minshew would be better suited to work with a first-time play-caller like Nick the Lesser, because Nick the Greater -- Nick Foles -- won’t be walking through that door any time soon.
» READ MORE: Eagles should bench Jalen Hurts | Marcus Hayes
Still, in spite of Hurts’ shortcomings, the Eagles still could win 10 games, and not just because the 5-1 Cowboys are coached by Mike McCarthy.
Here’s how, and why.
It’s all downhill from here
ESPN’s Football Power Index indicates that the Eagles have played the third-toughest schedule to date, but have the second-easiest road remaining, behind the 4-2 Bills, who could run the table if they don’t lose at Tampa Bay in Week 14. The Eagles won’t run the table, but there’s not a single game they cannot win.
Only one of the Eagles’ six road opponents has a winning record, and that’s the 4-2 Raiders, whom they visit Sunday, after 12 days of rest. The Raiders are a team in perpetual disarray, these days still reeling from coach Jon Gruden’s inevitable fall from grace.
The combined record of the Eagles’ road opponents is 11-24. They have a three-game stretch all on the road, but their bye falls between the second and third games, and the combined records of those teams right now is 4-13. The Eagles play just three good teams -- the Chargers, Saints, and Cowboys -- but they play them all at home. Furthermore, the Cowboys are Game 17, which could be a meaningless game for the Cowboys.
So, yes, 8-3 is feasible.
In fact, anything less would be an underachievement.
Right tackle Lane Johnson, the team’s best offensive lineman, returned to the Eagles on Monday after missing the last three games while dealing with anxiety and depression. His best friend on the team, right guard Brandon Brooks, has a pectoral muscle injury but could return for Game 11 against the Saints. Together with 33-year-old center Jason Kelce, who grades as the No. 2 center among six-game starters according to profootballfocus.com, they form the NFL’s best right side.
No hurry, fellas. The reconstituted offensive line has played very well in your absence.
There are many questions surrounding the Eagles, and you should ask us yours! Beat writers EJ Smith and Josh Tolentino will answer many of them on Sunday’s live pregame show on Gameday Central. You can send questions to them here. Then stay with Gameday Central throughout the game for in-game analysis, stats, photos and more.
The kids are all right
First-round rookie DeVonta Smith is getting the hang of this thing, and quickly. His 27 catches and 345 receiving yards both rank second among rookies, and his presence has opened up lanes for second-year burners Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor.
Because of Hurts’ struggles, you might not realize this, but the receivers are getting open, as are the tight ends. Zach Ertz was traded last week, but that will mean only more targets for Dallas Goedert, who’s better, anyway.
The defense rests less
Since Sirianni ripped Jonathon Gannon and the defensive staff after their loss to the Chiefs two games ago Gannon has tripled his blitz frequency per game, from about three per game to nine per game. That means he’s trusting his secondary more, as he should.
When Gannon played his safeties deep and offered bland fronts against the Panthers and Bucs the last two games, Sam Darnold and Tom Brady moved the ball with ease. When Gannon disguised his fronts, blitzed and stunted, Darnold and Brady struggled -- and the secondary held up.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and the Chargers quarterback Justin Hebert might make Gannon pay, but he’d be foolish to quail against the Lions’ Jared Goff, the Broncos’ Teddy Bridgewater, the Giants’ Daniel Jones, the Jets rookie Zach Wilson, Washington’s Taylor Heinicke, or even the Saints’ Jameis Winston.
Gannon should be licking his chops.
Faith in Fletch
This one’s hard to defend, especially after Fletcher Cox delivered his worst start in his last 22 games. The last time he played as badly as he did against the Bucs it was Game 15 of 2019, the end of a bad season in which he was hindered by offseason foot surgery.
But with fellow defensive tackle Javon Hargrave leading all defensive tackles with six sacks, Cox should start to see fewer double teams, which have diminished his effectiveness against the run even more than it has hindered his pass rush.
He’s only 30. He can’t be cooked.
If he’s not, then the Eagles still have a good chance to reach 10 wins, despite the encumbrance of their head coach and their quarterback.
@ Raiders: L
@ Lions: W
vs. Chargers: L
@ Broncos: W
vs. Saints: W
@ Giants: W
@ Jets: W
@ Washington: L
vs. Giants: W
vs. Washington: W
vs. Dallas: W