WHAT AN EAGLES season this has been! We started with such high hopes, but, to use a horse racing analogy, they almost fell to their knees coming out of the gate.
They somehow recovered to reach the halfway point at 4-4. Then, rather than cruising through the weakest three-game stretch on their schedule - against the subpar Dolphins, Buccaneers and Lions - and emerging at 7-4 and well on their way to a division title, disaster struck thrice and the Eagles' bandwagon emptied faster than Odell Beckham Jr. streaking for a touchdown. Then to everyone's amazement (even the sagacious Ray Didinger), they stunned the Patriots in Foxborough and kept LeSean McCoy in check in his return to the Linc and now find themselves at 6-7, tied for first place in the NFC East with Washington and the New York Giants. The bandwagon filled back up almost instantaneously.
So what are the Eagles' chances? I think the chances are fairly good, because their destiny is in their own hands (at this point, journalistic integrity forces me to remind you I picked the Eagles to finish 13-3 this season).
If the Eagles win the next three, they will be division champs, plain and simple. I am sorry to say, that won't happen. I expect the Eagles to be fired up Sunday and to play a good game against the powerful Arizona Cardinals, but I just do not see the secondary containing Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd. Arizona will prevail, 30-20.
The Eagles will bounce back, however, and beat Washington at home, then continue their harassment of Eli Manning and upset the Giants at the Meadowlands in the season finale. This will give them an 8-8 record and ensure that the best the other division contenders can do is 8-8, as well.
The Giants still have Carolina at home and Minnesota away, two tough matchups the G-men certainly could lose.
The Redskins have the easiest schedule, starting with Buffalo at home Sunday, and we all know they are tough to beat in D.C. Then, after playing the Eagles, they finish the season against the Cowboys on the road, but America's Team will have very little to play for and won't put up much of a fight. It is likely the Redskins will finish 8-8, as well, even if they lose to the Eagles.
If all of that happens, the Eagles will win the division title because their division record will be 4-2 (the key being two wins over the Giants), whereas Washington's division record will be 3-3.
A quick reflection on Shady McCoy's return. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis came up with a great defensive game plan, which was carried out well enough by the front seven to allow the Eagles to keep Shady under control and win the game.
McCoy did not have a great game, but he did something I thought would be impossible - he made Chip Kelly look good. His boorish behavior in the week leading up to the game and afterward, (running up the tunnel, not staying to shake hands with any of his former teammates, throwing his helmet and then refusing to talk to the press) turned the tide in Kelly's favor and reminded Birds fans about what a distraction Shady's selfish antics can be.
Now, if Kiko Alonso could play a bit better over the final three games, then Kelly might look like a real genius.
In my last column, I opined that Sam Bradford was not the long-range answer to the Eagles' quarterback problems and that they should not enter into a long-term contract with him.
It would make sense only to give him a two-year contract and draft a young quarterback and see how he develops. At this point, after a few solid games by Bradford, I think it will really come down to what the market will bear for him in the offseason. If he finishes strong over the last three games and the Eagles make the playoffs, it will be much more likely that he will command legitimate-franchise-quarterback money and a long-term deal. Although that prospect frightens many Eagles fans, a good run by Bradford would certainly make it more justifiable for the Eagles to overextend themselves a bit by bringing him back.
My biggest fear is that Bradford will continue playing at a level that's good, but not great. In this scenario, there might be enough interest around the NFL to still necessitate a long-term deal, even though we fans won't feel very confident committing to him.
But looking at the QBs who will be available as free agents or in the draft makes me equally nervous about the alternative. It will be a tough decision, no matter what, but, based on his recent comments, coach Kelly appears to believe that Bradford is the guy to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl and that Bradford will get the long-term contract he desires from general manager Kelly.
I sure hope Kelly turns out to be right, because, in the NFL today, a team will never hoist the Lombardi Trophy without a legitimate franchise quarterback.