The NFC East is completely up for grabs.
In a division so frequently characterized by inconsistency, flashes of brilliance, stages of incompetence and eventual equality throughout the four teams, the yearly struggle for one squad to emerge out of the NFC East is upon us again.
But this season, it isn't the defending divisional champs that will emerge. It isn't one of the league's most talented rosters or a recent NFL champion that will prevail.
The team that is emerging is the Philadelphia Eagles. And they are flying high.
Following a disappointing 1-3 start to the season, it looked as though Chip Kelly's debut year in the NFL would end as the Eagles' two previous seasons did: unfortunate and disappointing.
However, with the emergence of a high-flying offense, a weak remaining schedule and a stingy defensive unit, the team looks poised to win the NFC East championship. They also play in the NFL's most mediocre division.
The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. And on this occasion, it looks promising enough to continue into the home stretch of the season.
The Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East. Here is an in-depth look as to why.
Kelly's high-octane spread offense was inconsistent through the team's first eight games. The Michael Vick-LeSean McCoy combination at times looked lethal, but at others seemed lost.
Enter: Nick Foles.
Since taking over as the starting quarterback two weeks ago, Foles has accumulated 634 passing yards with a staggering 10 touchdowns. And most importantly, he led the team to two decisive victories.
It's safe to say he has won the permanent starting job.
Riley Cooper's production has seemingly coincided with Foles' worldly numbers. Cooper's five touchdowns in the last two weeks lead all NFL receivers. He is averaging 120 receiving yards per game through that span and now provides another formidable outside threat to the offense.
Additionally, DeSean Jackson has continued his electric play. The former California Golden Bear has now eclipsed 900 yards through ten games, along with seven touchdowns. He is third in the NFL in receiving yards.
For the last two games, the passing game has been clicking. But it's the running attack led by LeSean McCoy that has remained consistent all season.
McCoy comfortably leads the NFL in rushing yards with 934. The speedy back has benefited from the newly implemented read option. But in Week 10, McCoy saw more conventional runs than he has in any previous game this season, producing 155 rush yards. Regardless of the formation, McCoy has remained as the consistently explosive and shifty back that he was hoped to be.
The Eagles boast a top five offense with a copious supply of threats. With the emergence of Foles and Cooper, they are now a complete, dangerous unit.
Emergence of the Defense
For the last six games, the defense has been the team’s most consistent unit. The Eagles haven’t given up more than 21 points in a single game through that span.
However, their clear weakness throughout the season has been defending the pass. Several quarterbacks have gashed their secondary this season, but in the matchup with the Packers this past Sunday, they continued making clutch plays.
The turning point of the game seemed to be when cornerback Brandon Boykin intercepted Scott Tolzien on the goal line and returned it for 76 yards to maintain the momentum.
Obviously, Tolzien is not Aaron Rodgers. But the past couple performances by the secondary and linebacking core in pass coverage are encouraging, having picked off four passes in the last two games.
The run defense, on the other hand, has remained staunch for the majority of the season. They continued that play on Sunday.
Entering the game, Packers running back Eddie Lacy was dominating opposing defenses. In the five games prior to the Eagles matchup, the bruiser was averaging 109 rush yards per game. And with Rodgers spectating on the sideline, Lacy would be heavily leaned on as the primary source of production.
But the Eagles shut him down. Lacy struggled to find running room all game, gaining only 73 yards on 24 carries.
Philadelphia's front four is steadily emerging as one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. Devoid of any prolific pass rushers, they are a big, run-stopping group.
The linebacking core, led by DeMeco Ryans, has also played exceptionally well lately. Ryans recorded 13 tackles with an interception and was largely responsible for Lacy’s miserable day.
With a top five offense, the defense just needs to play solidly for the Birds to reach the playoffs. They are certainly doing so.
Weak Remaining Schedule
The Eagles have four remaining home games and two away contests. The cumulative record of those opposing teams is 26-29.
Additionally, their future home opponents have struggled on the road. Those four teams' combined record on the road is 7-10, with the Chicago Bears standing as the only winning road team.
Conversely, the Eagles have played extremely well in opposing environments this season. After three straight home contests, the Birds will face the lowly Vikings in Minnesota. And the grand finale, which will likely decide which team wins the division, will be a slugfest against the Cowboys in Dallas.
The Birds will square off against the Redskins this week to enter their three-game homestand. That will be pivotal in determining the standings.
The Eagles are handed a manageable schedule down the stretch. Record-wise, the Bears, Cardinals and Lions will present the toughest tests. Luckily, all of those games will be played at Lincoln Financial Field.
If the Eagles can prevail in two of those three contests, then they will have a realistic chance to win at least nine games.
Given the collectively unimpressive and sporadic play of the NFC East, nine victories will win the division.
Mediocrity of the Divisional Rivals
The NFC East is indubitably the league's most competitive, nail-biting division year in and year out.
But that hasn't translated to a high level of play, as the two leaders of the division are currently both .500.
Last year's winner, the Washington Redskins, looks lost and finds itself at a disappointing 3-6. The disconnect between Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III is turning into a longstanding issue. And just when you thought they were on track, they lose to the (then) one-win Minnesota Vikings.
Washington is 1.5 games back, and they have remaining games against the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, among tough divisional games. Even if the 'Skins earn a 5-2 finishing record through the last seven games, they will still finish with eight losses.
Eight wins won't win this division.
And all of a sudden the New York Giants have strung together three straight wins after a dismal 0-6 start to the season. But is that deficit too insurmountable to overcome?
The other leader of the division, the Cowboys, has remained the epitome of mediocrity. This ultra-talented team seems to find a way to choke away opportunities down the stretch nearly every season.
Since 1997, Dallas' record is 132-133. They haven't surpassed eight wins in the last three years. And after allowing a NFL record 40 first downs in their blowout loss against the Saints, the 'Boys look destined for another disappointing finish. Their defense looks soft and their offense looks uninspired.
The twists and turns that come with playing in the NFC East are inevitable. Things will shaken up, multiple teams will threaten for the title and it will likely come down to the final week.
But this is the Philadelphia Eagles' division to lose.
Their offense is the division's best, the defense has given up just under 11 points per game for the last four weeks and the remaining teams on the schedule are less than stellar.
Additionally, it seems as though Kelly has won over the fans in Philadelphia. Known as some of the toughest fans in sports, they have seemingly bought into Kelly and his revolutionary offensive system.
Eagles are gonna win the division. Gonna make it with home wins with Nick Foles . #Eagles Nation— EaglesNationForLife (@noballn4u) November 11, 2013
The fans are believing, and the team is believing.
Given their recent surge and current situation, the Philadelphia Eagles will prevail in the NFC East.