Eagles in the best shape among NFC East teams | Early Birds
Jokes abound about the NFC East, but the 2-4-1 Eagles are in first place and look to be the best of a sorry group of teams.
We hope everybody enjoyed the weekend, one without Eagles football, which always leaves a void. The Eagles got to rest up after their 22-21 win over the visiting New York Giants on Thursday and now await the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles are in first place with a 2-4-1 record.
If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @SJnard.
— Marc Narducci (email@example.com)
Things looking best for Eagles
There are many jokes about the competency of the NFC East and rightly so, since this season it is by far the weakest division in the NFL. Here is how the teams stack up through seven games.
Despite his struggles, Carson Wentz is the division’s best quarterback (especially with Dak Prescott out for the season). Wentz’s two best games in passer rating were the last two, 84.7 against Baltimore and 91.1 against the Giants. He has excelled in keeping the Eagles competitive despite the rash of offensive injuries.
Receiver Travis Fulgham (23 receptions, 357 yards, 3 TDs in four games) has been the team’s most pleasant surprise.
The defensive line has arguably been the best unit on the team. Defensive end Brandon Graham has recorded six of the Eagles' 24 sacks.
The offensive line has been decimated by injury, making a once-strong unit struggle. Wentz has been sacked 28 times.
Linebacker and secondary play has been inconsistent.
The team is minus-5 in turnover differential.
Games against sub .500 teams: (4) At N.Y. Giants and Dallas; home vs. Dallas and Washington.
Games against .500 or better teams: (5) at Cleveland, Green Bay, and Arizona; home vs. Seattle and New Orleans.
Outlook: The Eagles are clearly the team to beat in the NFC East.
NEW YORK GIANTS (1-6)
Like Wentz, Daniel Jones has had really strong moments while overall being inconsistent.
The defense has been better than advertised, led by corner James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez, a tackling machine.
The offensive line, which had left tackle Nate Solder opt out before the season, is below average.
Their best offensive threat Saquon Barkley, is out for the year with an ACL injury and there is little running game.
The Giants have a minus-4 turnover differential.
Games against sub .500 teams: (4) at Washington and Cincinnati and home against the Eagles and Dallas
Games against .500 or better teams: (5) Home against Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Cleveland, at Seattle and Baltimore.
Outlook: The Giants have been competitive in all but one game, but even in this division it’s difficult to see them staying in the race unless they can get better offensive line play.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (2-5)
The defensive line, which helped record eight sacks in the season-opening win against the Eagles, is the strength of the team.
While offensive weapons are few, receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas have been effective.
The secondary, which includes former Eagle Ronald Darby, has been inconsistent.
Like the rest of the NFC East teams, the offensive line has struggled.
Games against sub .500 teams: (5) home vs. the N.Y. Giants, Bengals, and Carolina Panthers; at the Cowboys and Eagles.
Games against .500 or better teams: (4) at Detroit, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco; home vs. Seattle
Outlook: This might be the Eagles' top challenger. Getting another receiving weapon before the Nov. 3 trade deadline would give the offense a needed boost.
DALLAS COWBOYS (2-5)
A strong receiving corps.
An injury-depleted offensive line is way below average.
The worst defense in the league.
When Andy Dalton got hurt Sunday, the backup was rookie Ben DiNucci of James Madison.
Games against sub .500 teams: (6) at Eagles, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and N.Y. Giants; home vs. Washington and the Eagles.
Games against .500 or better teams: (3): home vs. Pittsburgh and San Francisco; at Baltimore.
Outlook: This looks like the worst team in the division and it would be a surprise if the Cowboys stay in the race.
What you need to know about the Eagles
If it seems Carson Wentz is playing better in the fourth quarter than the first three, Jeff McLane writes that the numbers back this up. McLane poses the question: Why can’t Wentz show more consistency in all four quarters?
EJ Smith writes that the Eagles' Doug Pederson will need to cure red-zone woes. Entering Sunday’s games, the Eagles were ranked 21st in red-zone scoring percentage.
With Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton suffering a concussion Sunday, Marcus Hayes writes that if the Eagles can’t beat the Cowboys with all their injuries and dysfunction, then they should just blow things up.
The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 3. In his weekly Q and A with Paul Domowitch, former Eagles president Joe Banner says that the Eagles have had conversations with teams about offensive linemen and linebackers they are interested in acquiring in a trade.
With all the injuries to the offensive line, Les Bowen outlines the situation and asks when it will get better.
This hasn’t been the best start for Eagles placekicker Jake Elliott. Against the Giants, he missed a 29-yard field goal try, and Mike Sielski asks whether it is time to start worrying about Elliott.
In looking at the NFC East teams, David Murphy suggests that the Eagles' tie against the Cincinnati Bengals could be the difference in their winning the division.
EJ Smith outlines the Eagles' injury situation, where receiver DeSean Jackson will miss “significant time” with an ankle injury.
Domowitch writes that Brandon Graham’s strip-sack to clinch the win over the Giants was a reminder of his Super Bowl heroics against the New England Patriots.
From the mailbag
Question: “Are the fourth down plays getting more predictable? They don’t seem like gambles anymore to me.” — David W. Wannop from Facebook.
Thanks for the question, David. Let’s just look at the fourth-down plays Thursday. In the first quarter, on fourth and 1 from the Giants’ 31, Carson Wentz scrambled 3 yards for the first down. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles trailing, 14-10, Doug Pederson decided to go for it on a fourth and goal from the 3. Wentz threw an incomplete pass to Hakeem Butler. While the play call was criticized, it’s fair to suggest that the Eagles could have gotten a pass interference call on Logan Ryan. It wasn’t called, so the play was considered a poor one, especially going to a tight end who had never played a snap on offense until that game. When a team is 2-4-1, a lot can be questioned, and so can the fourth-down calls. For the season the Eagles are 4-for-11 on fourth down conversions, so to answer your question, anytime you miss on 7 of 11, everything has to be looked at, including the play calling.