WELL THE EAGLES' season is almost over. Only a New Year's Day game against a Cowboys team that has nothing to play for remains on our schedule. So with the season all but over and 2016 coming to an end, I thought it would be a good time for a quick evaluation of where the Birds are and how far they have to go to become a playoff team.
Despite a disappointing record, I think the answer to that question is not very far. Before you yell at me, let's look at the facts. The Eagles won one close game and lost six. Five of the six they lost were during Lane Johnson's suspension. Had they won three of them, the would be in serious contention for a wild-card spot in the NFC. The best news is that of the six narrow losses, all were to teams with winning records that are playoff contenders (Redskins twice, Giants, Cowboys, Lions and Ravens). Better still, they beat two teams that are almost certain to be in the playoffs fairly decisively - the Steelers and the Falcons. So any objective reading would be that the Eagles don't have too far to go to become a legitimate playoff contender.
This is pretty remarkable, considering that the Birds have a rookie quarterback, no top-quality wide receivers, no deep threats, and a group of cornerbacks who, to be charitable, are below average. I believe the answer to the Eagles' inability to stretch the field and go deep is easily obtainable. He is a spunky little guy who plays 139 miles to our south and wears No. 11. He might have lost a step, but, for him, losing a step means going from a 4.3 to a 4.4 and that's still good enough to be one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL. So, let's bury the hatchet and bring back Desean Jackson next year.
Then, let's hope and assume we'll have a Pro Bowl-caliber Lane Johnson for all 16 games next season. The Eagles were 4-1 when he was on the field this season, and, if he hadn't been suspended, he might have made a real difference in some of the Eagles' six narrow losses.
The 2017 NFL draft will be held right here in Philly on the Ben Franklin Parkway, so the Eagles need to draft a game-changing cornerback in the first round and a good young, physical receiver in the second.
Although I was concerned about the depth of the Eagles' offensive line going into the year, the play of Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai convinces me that they can be solid NFL performers and give us some decent depth. That said, I'm not at all opposed to the idea of adding some promising young linemen in the draft, as well.
So in this "most wonderful time of the year," I think Eagles fans have a lot to be happy about, as the future looks promising.
So, for Carson Wentz, my Christmas wish is obvious - Jackson and Lane Johnson for a full season.
While I'm at it, here are a few other Christmas wishes for our Philly sports teams and players:
The Sixers and Nerlens Noel: the Sixers should free Noel by trading him to Chicago, where he can be the shot blocker who replaces Joakim Noah. In return, we would get Doug McDermott, one of the best pure shooters in the NBA, who is exactly what the Sixers' offense needs.
Villanova coach Jay Wright: Kentucky, Duke, UNC and UCLA all getting upset early in this year's March Madness, so that the Wildcats can win a second straight NCAA title.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy: He is the best coach in America who hasn't taken a team past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We need at least a couple of tournament wins for the scrappy, sometimes explosive Owls in the tournament this season.
The Phillies and Aaron Nola: Nola to regain physical and emotional health and return to the middle of the rotation, giving the Phils six quality starting arms, which will enable them to trade Jeremy Hellickson or Clay Buchholz at the trade deadline for more quality young starters.
The Flyers: Here's hoping they channel the magic of the recent 10-game winning streak to make the playoffs and win at least a series or two.
So that's it. I hope all you Philly sports fans have a great holiday season (OK, Christmas season, Donald) and a healthy and fruitful 2017.