With the Eagles on a season-high three-game winning streak and Nick Foles atop the NFL in passer rating, this would seem to be an unfortunate time to have a bye week. Coach Chip Kelly believes in week-to-week momentum, but he insisted that the bye week would not be an excuse for the Eagles.
Kelly said the Eagles had planned their schedule in advance, so they knew how they would approach the bye week since June.
"If you come out after a bye and don't play well, if you blame it on 'we were on a roll and had to take a break,' you're giving yourself built-in excuses, and that's not what this deal is all about," Kelly said. "We don't make excuses. We knew we were going to start the season and play three games in 11 days. That is the way it is."
Kelly had the players at the facility on Monday for meetings. They will practice on Tuesday, and then Kelly will give them the rest of the week off. The players report back on Nov. 26 to begin preparing for the Dec. 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals. The coaching staff finishes its formal meetings on Wednesday.
The collective bargaining agreement requires four consecutive days off for the players during the bye. Former coach Andy Reid always gave the team the full week off. Kelly is giving the Eagles most of the week off, although he said he might have practiced more during the bye week if it came sooner in the season. At Week 12, the team needs more of a rest. This is the final week of byes on the NFL schedule.
The NFL bye week is different for Kelly. The bye weeks at Oregon often preceded a Thursday night game, so they were not as long. Kelly made his team practice intermittently through the bye week.
"We used it as improvement weeks," Kelly said. "Usually our guys aren't hightailing out of there and flying across the country and going home and doing all those other things."
There are no redshirt freshmen to develop during the NFL bye week. There are only 61 players - 53 on the active roster, and eight on the practice squad - and they are older. But the players have remarked how fresh they feel for this part of the season, and that's the by-product of the emphasis Kelly has placed on sports science initiatives focusing on sleep and nutrition.
"It's a well-thought-out research plan," Kelly said. "It's not just, 'Hey, let's try this.' So it's a two-way street in terms of they have to buy into it and they have done an unbelievable job buying into it because we're not with them 24/7, nor should we be with them 24/7."
The Eagles' injury report is more crowded than it has been at any point in the season, so the bye week will at least allow the team to get healthier. The Eagles missed linebacker Mychal Kendricks, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, and safety Earl Wolff in Sunday's 24-16 win over Washington. Tackle Jason Peters has played with injuries throughout the season. Quarterback Michael Vick and linebacker Jake Knott could be back after the bye. And a roster full of players with four continuous months of wear-and-tear will benefit from time off, regardless of the sports science.
"Just to get a bye, get everybody healthy and getting a win before heading into the bye week is something big," said running back LeSean McCoy, who briefly left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. "I cannot wait to get back and start working, but I am definitely going to enjoy my time off."
For almost Reid's entire tenure, the Eagles followed the bye week with a victory. Kelly will need to find a way to maintain the momentum generated during the last three weeks, with one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks helped by an improving defense.
"It's good to get a win before a bye, that's for sure," Foles said. "It's later in the season, for sure. I think it's at a good time as long as we approach it the right way and take care of our bodies and get ready for the last games."