Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Reasons They Will Win the NFC East in 2012
One more win. That's all it would have taken.
One measly fourth-quarter defensive stop against a sloppier-than-Britney Spears Atlanta team, or a more overwhelmed-than-Andy Reid-at-a-breakfast-buffet San Francisco team or a Billy Joe Hobert-led, er excuse me, John Skelton-led Arizona team.
That's all it would have taken to get the underachieving yet mortally dangerous 2011 Eagles into the postseason tournament. That's all it would have taken to have kept the Super Bowl champion Giants on their toxic waste-dump couches in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
While no one can deny New York's crowning achievement, it still wasn't enough to convince the Vegas oddsmakers that the Giants should be favored to repeat as champions in 2012. By "repeat as champions," I'm obviously referring to the NFC East.
Yup that's right. At 15 to one, the G-men finished a noticeable second in the early Super Bowl XLVII odds race to their brotherly rivals from Philadelphia, who came in at 13 to one the day after New York's climactic victory over New England.
Obviously, the final scores aren't decided in a sportsbook. But if there's a prevailing ideology here, it's that Tom Coughlin's team capitalized big time on a historically disappointing season by their more talented rivals.
With DeSean Jackson locked up at least temporarily, it doesn't look like any of the Eagles' talent is going anywhere anytime soon. All they have to do is put it together for a full, 16-game schedule. Or maybe just make a defensive stop every once in a while in the fourth quarter.
So while the Giants are the better team at this very moment, here are 10 reasons why the Eagles should be favored to win the NFC East in 2012.
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Take whatever stock you want out of the Eagles' seemingly meaningless four-game winning streak to end the 2011 season. But one thing was obvious: The players and coaches finally realized what they had been screwing up since Week 1.
The situation is very analogous to the 2006 Green Bay Packers, a young and talented squad that also stumbled to a 4-8 start before closing the season on a refreshing four-game winning streak.
In 2007, Green Bay raced to a 4-0 start on its way to a 13-3 season.
With potential Pro Bowlers at almost every position, the Eagles are far more talented than that Packers squad, who featured just six players to ever suit up in Hawaii.
9. Head-to-Head Supremacy over Division Rivals
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Five of Philly's eight wins in 2011 came against their NFC East rivals. In a normal season, a 5-1 divisional record would probably produce a playoff bye or at least a home playoff game.
If these trends continue into next season, it will be difficult for the Giants and Cowboys to overcome an Eagles team that doesn't pull weekly James Bond recon destructions in the fourth quarter. Before New York's 3-3 divisional mark in 2011, the previous seven NFC East champions all had a divisional record of at least 4-2.
As bad as the Eagles were in 2011, the Giants were only one game better at 9-7.
8. Andy Reid's Last Supper (No Pun Intended)
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Say what you want about Andy Reid. But his players absolutely love him.
DeSean Jackson openly apologized for his behavior this season because he wants to keep playing for Reid.
Heck, LeSean McCoy even playfully cold-cocked his coach in the stomach after scoring a touchdown against the Redskins back in October.
With the unmitigated disaster that was the Eagles' 2011 season and just three playoff wins since 2004, it's painstakingly obvious that this may be Big Red's final chance to bring a Super Bowl to his domineering, on-again, off-again civic mistress (Philadelphia).
7. The Redskins Are Still the Redskins
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From the perpetual mediocrity of Jason Campbell to the miserable failure of Donovan McNabb to the "Rex being Rex" trials of Rex Grossman, it should be painfully obvious to Daniel Snyder at this point that like drugs to a teenager, stopgaps at quarterback are not the answer for a professional football franchise.
With the exception of a fluky first-place finish in 1999, the 'Skins haven't been a bona fide NFC East contender since the original Joe Gibbs skipped town in 1992.
Even if they finally draft a franchise quarterback, Mike Shanahan and company would still have a Mount Everest climb ahead of them if they want to catch up to their trio of perennially superior rivals.
6. The Cowboys Can Never Put It Together
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If you thought last year was bad Eagles fans, imagine those wasted expectations on an almost annual occurrence. Welcome to Jerryland in the Tony Romo era, where talent is compiled but chemistry could barely emerge from a periodic table.
Think about it. Dallas has as many, if not more, offensive weapons than any team in the NFC (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, etc...), a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the best pass rusher in the NFL.
The 'Boys have also had the majority of this talented nucleus for six full seasons, dating back to 2006. Yet they have just one playoff victory and two hollow NFC East titles to show for it.
It's easy to forget, but at 7-4, Jason Garrett's team was in the NFC East driver's seat 11 weeks into the 2011 season.
But they'll enter 2012 questionable with a bruised psyche after getting embarrassed by the Giants 31-14 in a winner-take-all divisional showdown to end the season.
5. The Giants Are Bipolar
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As impressive as their tenure has been since it began back in 2004, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have still never led the Giants to back-to-back division titles.
As a matter of fact, no team in the NFL has more of a tendency to look like world-beaters for one stretch and then doormats about a minute later.
After a Super Bowl run in 2007 and a 12-4 season in 2008, the G-Men missed the playoffs with virtually the same nucleus in 2009 and 2010. The see-sawing tendency is barely limited to a yearly basis. In 2006, the G-Men raced to a 6-2 start before finishing 8-8. In 2009, they did that one better by starting 5-0 and still finishing 8-8.
Heck, even in a Super Bowl season in 2011 New York came just a mouse hair away of blowing another 6-2 start with a 3-5 finish (9-7 final record).
If history holds true, Big Blue is headed for a disappointing Super Bowl hangover.
4. Offensive Speed
Only the Jamaican National Team has more burners than the Eagles at their skill positions, and even that may be a stretch.
When Marty Mornhinweg's offense is at its blazing best, the Eagles are virtually impossible to slow down. Case in point: Two seasons ago (2010), the Birds hung an eye-popping 45 first-half points on the Redskins en route to a 59-28 blowout victory on Monday Night Football.
While the offense came close to that machine-like explosiveness at times in 2011, it was invariably hampered by Vick's rib injury and resulting inconsistent production (just 18 passing touchdowns to 13 picks).
Even with Vick's inconsistency and down years from both DeSean Jackson (58 catches, 961 yards, four touchdowns) and Jeremy Maclin (63 catches, 859 yards, five touchdowns), the Eagles offense still ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense.
That's a scary thought for the trio of suspect NFC East defenses (all gave up at least 21 points per game) they'll be facing at full strength and motivation next fall.
3. Return of the "D"
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Over the final four games last season, the Eagles defense forced eight turnovers and gave up an average of just over 11 points per game.
While it's hard to overlook five blown leads in the fourth quarter, Juan Castillo's eighth-ranked unit made some encouraging signs of progress in the wake of two of the most subpar defensive seasons in team history (ranked 22nd and 25th in team defense in 2009 and 2010).
Their 25 interceptions were tied for a league high and their 12 fumble recoveries were tied for seventh. Jason Babin also racked up 18 sacks, the most by an Eagles' defensive player since Clyde Simmons' 19 in 1992.
With a few tweaks up the middle, the Birds may even be able to restore some of their Jim Johnson-era luster.
2. Michael Vick
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There's no question at this point that Eli Manning is the best quarterback in the NFC East. Heck, with two Super Bowl titles, he has even surpassed Donovan McNabb as the division's best quarterback in the new millennium.
But Vick is still the most spectacular player in football when he's at his best, as evidenced by his Comeback Player-of-the-Year season during a healthy and re-focused 2010.
If he can stay relatively healthy like he did two seasons ago, Vick's new-found, prioritized mindset and desire to master the playbook will put him on equal quarterback footing with his New York rival.
The Eagles and Giants are so evenly matched that their games typically come down to quarterback play. Believe it or not, Vince Young (258 yards, two touchdowns, 84-yard, game-winning drive) actually outplayed Manning (264 yards, one touchdown, one pick) in Philly's 17-10 November victory over the G-Men.
In 2010, when the Eagles won the division, there's no question Vick was the superior player. This gives Philly fans no reason to believe he can't re-attain that status and put his team back atop the standings in the process.
1. A Full Offseason of Continuity
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Before you curse me out, Eagles fans, understand that this is not an excuse for last season's failures. Jim Harbaugh went 13-3 in San Francisco with a team he couldn't even introduce himself to until a few months before the regular season started.
But the fact of the matter is, with a new defensive coordinator, new schemes on both the offensive and defensive lines and seven new starters combined on both sides of the ball, no team underwent more of an extreme makeover than the Eagles.
With a full season under their belts and a full offseason to work out the kinks, there's no reason to believe Reid won't make happy music with the most talented roster he has ever compiled.
If you need any additional evidence of how prolific Big Red can be with maximum preparation, look no further than his incredible 13-0 record in the regular season following a bye week.
Reid should only get one more chance, but it's a chance Eagles fans should feel confident in taking.