During the course of almost any season, there will be games like the one the Birds suffered through on Sunday, moments when coaches, players and fans alike are demoralized by what transpires. Look no further than last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens.
Last December, the Broncos raced out to a 31-3 lead after three quarters against Baltimore, coasting to an easy 34-17 final from there. Four weeks later, the Ravens upended Denver, 38-35, in the divisional round of the playoffs, and shortly thereafter, they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
That’s not to say the Eagles are contenders or anything, but there is still a ton of meaningful football left. I, for one, am still intrigued by head coach Chip Kelly and want to see if he has the answers to get this team back on track—or at least make them competitive and fun to watch again.
Keep in mind, this is a rebuilding year after all—although one in which the postseason is within reach, thanks to a weak division. Now that we mention it, Philadelphia’s Week 5 clash with the New York Giants could actually be of some importance in the standings.
NFC East Standings
Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Despite a 1-3 record, Philadelphia is only a game back of first place, and Dallas has lost to two common opponents, thus far—San Diego and Kansas City. Let’s see how the Cowboys fare against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 5.
Point is, if the Eagles can get over the demoralizing loss to Denver, they don’t have to make up much ground at all. The Cowboys have done little to distinguish themselves from the rest of the sorry NFC East.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Is the worst over for the Birds? Through four weeks, their opponents' winning percentage was .688 (11-5). The current winning percentage of all remaining opponents is .334 (16-32). Three of Philly’s next four opponents alone (Tampa Bay, Giants x2) have yet to win one game.
In the NFL, everything is always subject to change, but for right now, it looks like there are several winnable games on the horizon for the Eagles. The season’s not over.
Washington Redskins (1-3)
Washington toppled the Oakland Raiders, 24-14, in Week 4, so the Hogs haven’t sunk to that level anyway.
Still concerning for the Burgundy and Gold is Matt Flynn might’ve been one pick-six away from making things interesting. In fact, the Raiders backup quarterback posted a nearly identical line (21-of-32, 227 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 3 RUSH ATT, 4 YDS) to that of face of the franchise Robert Griffin III (18-of-31, 227 YDS, 1 TD, 0 INT; 3 ATT, 10 YDS).
New York Giants (0-4)
Combined final score of the Giants’ last two games: Opponents 69, New York 7. They managed just 21 first downs total in those back-to-back losses—12 NFL teams are averaging at least that many. Can anything get their offense back on track?
Hold that thought.
Week 5 Opponent: New York Giants
A get-right opponent if I’ve ever seen one. Or, a loss that shakes a fanbase to the core. The only question is which club is playing each role?
As abysmal as New York has been these past couple weeks, the Eagles might be just the thing to cure what’s ailing Eli Manning. Philadelphia enters Week 5 ranked 31st in points allowed (34.5 PPG) and dead last in total defense (446.8 YPG). Opposing quarterbacks are also posting a 107.2 passer rating (27th).
On the other hand, the Giants haven’t been able to protect Manning, who is tied for third with 14 sacks. That’s been a big reason why they are averaging an outrageous 4.0 turnovers per game—a full giveaway more than the next closest team.
Neither squad has executed particularly well, but the Birds have kept turnovers to a minimum in all but one loss. Plus, Philly’s defense has actually shown some ability to limit struggling offenses, holding Washington and Kansas City to three touchdowns between them. On the surface, it would seem they’ll have a chance to get right this Sunday.
The only significant injury we are aware of is to safety Patrick Chung, who was inactive on Sunday with a shoulder contusion. He was considered a game-time decision, however, so perhaps with another seven days, the five-year veteran will be ready.
It’s nothing that would keep him from playing, but Jason Peters’ dislocated finger might be a situation to monitor. The four-time All-Pro left tackle was added to the injury report last week and has looked closer to ordinary recently. You have to wonder a little whether he’s having issues engaging pass-rushers.
Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson each went out for a few snaps in Denver, but both finished the game and seem to be OK.
The New York Giants have a litany of injuries along their offensive line, which should help explain why their offense has been practically incapable of moving the football. Center David Baas, tackle David Diehl and guard Chris Snee were all out for the club’s Week 4 loss to Kansas City.
Baas and Snee were missing from practice last week—no update on either of their conditions. Diehl returned on a limited basis, and it appears he could be active for the first time this season on Sunday.
The "G-men" also sustained several key injuries on defense as well. Cornerback Corey Webster did not suit up the past two games with a hip injury, while middle linebacker Mark Herzlich (foot), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (knee, Achilles) and cornerback Aaron Ross (back) all departed Kansas City with injuries, according to The Sports Xchange (via Yahoo! Sports).
Of the group, only Ross’ status for the game with the Eagles was addressed. It is anticipated the seven-year veteran will be available.
What Must Improve (Everything Edition)
Anytime a team loses, 52-20, there is no specific area or areas that need addressing. There is room for literally everything, and everyone inside the Eagles locker room to improve after Sunday’s drubbing. Here is one thing in particular each unit needs to work on to have a chance to get back in the win column in Week 5.
Offense: Red-Zone Efficiency
Philadelphia may have the NFL’s second-ranked offense in terms of yards, but they’re far from the most efficient. Despite racking up 458.8 yards per game, the Eagles are only 11th in scoring.
The biggest problem is too many drives are stalling inside the red zone, which has been all too common for this offense through the years. Per TeamRankings.com, the Eagles have converted trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line in touchdowns just 41.67 percent of the time—tied for 26th in the league.
That’s worse than last season, when Philadelphia finished 28th with a conversion rate of 44 percent.
How Kelly can improve upon this is unclear. Part of the issue with the Birds offense is two of its key playmakers—Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson—lack ideal size, which becomes an invaluable weapon when the field of play is compressed.
Regardless of how it gets fixed, the Eagles are going to have trouble putting opponents away when they’re settling for three points more frequently than taking seven.
Defense: Defending the Slot Receiver
Again, it’s not entirely clear how the Eagles should go about stopping slot receivers. All we know is, regardless of who is covering them or what scheme defensive coordinator Bill Davis dials up, the unit is getting torched.
In Week 2, it was Eddie Royal hauling in three touchdown passes for San Diego. In Week 3, Kansas City’s Donnie Avery converted third downs of 15 yards or longer en route to a 146-yard receiving night. And just this past Sunday, in Denver, Wes Welker posted seven receptions for 76 yards and two scores.
In spite of the Giants’ feeble offense, Victor Cruz still managed to catch 10 passes for 164 yards in a 31-7 loss in Week 4. He is also credited with New York’s lone touchdown of the game, a 69-yarder over the top of the Kansas City secondary.
So unless the Eagles defense is going to take this game over in the trenches and make it impossible for Manning to throw the football, Davis better draw something up to contain Cruz. A big play or two is all it takes to swing the momentum.
Special Teams: Kick Coverage
A lot of what happens in the kicking game is out of the coaches’ control. If Alex Henery is intent on missing field goals, then he’s going to miss them until he’s eventually replaced.
The Eagles have to get these long kick returns under wraps, because they are giving opposing offenses short fields and are demoralizing to boot. San Diego and Kansas City both had huge gains in the return game against Philadelphia, and the issues culminated in Week 4 with Trindon Holliday’s 105-yard touchdown for Denver.
Neither the Philadelphia offense or its defense are good enough to compensate for a special teams unit that gives away field position on a weekly basis—not to mention points. The Broncos special teams actually outscored the Eagles’ first-string offense, 14-13.
Oh, for the love of… that can’t happen. Absolutely...Cannot...Happen.