For the majority of my lifetime—or at least the years I can remember—my Philadelphia Eagles have had the misfortune of playing in one of the toughest divisions in all of football.
The NFC East is always a dogfight to the end, normally sending one or both of the wild card teams to the playoffs, along with the division winner.
Last year, the NFC East sent two teams to the playoffs. The Giants captured the division with a 12-4 record, while the Eagles outdueled the Cowboys in a Week 17 drumming to take the last wild card spot.
Both the Cowboys and the Redskins—the two teams from the division who failed to qualify for the playoffs—still finished with a record of .500 or above. It was one of just two divisions in all of the NFL to feature no teams with a losing record.
Since 2006, the NFC East has been responsible for five of the six wild card teams from its conference. And it is the only of the eight divisions that has sent a team to the playoffs as a wild card in every year since '05.
Every team in this division is a legit contender for the playoffs every year. There is no doubt this division will be tough in 2009, but here are seven reasons why I believe the Philadelphia Eagles appear to be the class of the NFC East.
Since the turn of the century, the Eagles have qualified for the playoffs seven times in nine seasons, tied for the second most among any team in football.
Eli Manning and the Giants may have that prized Super Bowl ring, but McNabb is the only one of the four quarterbacks in the East to have won a playoff game in two different postseasons.
In fact, McNabb has won a playoff game all six times in which he has reached the playoffs. Eli, Romo, and Campbell have won playoff games in just one season combined.
Say what you want about McNabb and his sometimes subpar performances in the postseason, but he is 6-0 in his first playoff game.
Time is running out for Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid.
McNabb will turn 33 during the '09 season. His potential successor at QB (Kevin Kolb) is entering his third year on the bench, where he will learn from one of the game's finest.
I personally feel McNabb has five or six productive seasons ahead of him, but the Eagles' front office may feel differently.
As for Reid, he is one of the game's top head coaches, and has been over his entire tenure.
Football Outsiders did an interesting study on head coaches, concluding the demise and downfall of a head coach begins after his tenth season in the league.
Reid is entering his 11th season as the team's head coach.
If these two want to be remembered as two of the game's all-time greats, they are going to need a Super Bowl win.
3) No Weaknesses
The 2008 Philadelphia Eagles were several glaring weaknesses away from a Super Bowl championship.
Those holes have since been filled, and every position on the team is now a strength.
There are no weaknesses.
The team has added a fullback, and not a converted defensive lineman, but rather a legit Pro Bowl caliber fullback who can block, catch passes out of the backfield, and run with the football.
Jeremy Maclin was drafted in the first round of this past season's draft to help bolster the receiving corps. The offensive line was upgraded with the acquisitions of All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, arguably the finest at his position in the NFL, and solid starter Stacy Andrews from the Bengals, the brother of Eagles' Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews.
The defense is talented and exciting, and the Eagles now feature more legit return man than the team has had in all of Reid's career combined.
Simply put, the talent is there.
Has any roster in history ever had speed like this upcoming year's Eagles?
Jackson, Curtis, and Maclin all run a sub-4.3 40 yard dash. Teams will have to employ a dime formation at all times just to keep up with these playmakers.
But don't forget the rotation of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy out of the backfield, two players who will give defensive coordinators nightmares before each matchup.
And don't forget about Super 5.
McNabb is a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback and one of the most dangerous weapons in the league. He is a threat both to throw and run the ball. With that powerful offensive line, the Eagles could lead the NFL in points scored when it's all said and done.
5) The Trenches
Football games are won and lost in the trenches.
Everyone knows that.
And the Eagles have probably the best offensive and defensive lines out of the four teams in the NFC.
The offensive line is HUGE. And talented.
Shawn Andrews is a two-time Pro Bowler and expected to bounce back from his hip surgery last year. His brother, Stacy, is a solid starter who helps to give the Eagles one of the best right sides of the line in all of football.
Jason Peters, acquired from the Bills, is an All-Pro and arguably the top left tackle in the NFL. He was one of the most underrated moves of the whole offseason and should be a major boost to the Eagles' running game.
Left guard Todd Herremans and center Jamaal Jackson are more than capable starters, and both Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole could start if needed.
As for the defensive lines, everyone knows the Giants are good up front. Very good.
The defensive line was the MVP of the team's Super Bowl victory over the undefeated New England Patriots in the '07 season.
But I'll still take the Eagles.
The Eagles played the Giants three times in 2008, including once in the playoffs? The Eagles didn't give up one sack to the G-Men. Not ONE.
The Eagles' D-line finished third in the NFL in sacks (48) last season, trailing just the Dallas Cowboys (59) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (51). The only difference?
The Cowboys had a linebacker (DeMarcus Ware) collect 20 sacks. The Steelers had a linebacker (James Harrison) collect 16 and another linebacker (LaMarr Woodley) collect 11.5 sacks.
The Eagles' top blitzing linebacker?
Omar Gaither, with 2.5 sacks.
That means the defensive line was THAT good. In fact, the linemen combined for 34.5 sacks.
The ability to put pressure on the quarterback that consistently is an enormous part of winning football games, especially in a division with three rival quarterbacks who are all above average passers.
Every team needs an X-factor.
For the Eagles, it used to be Brian Westbrook. The electrifying game changer had the ability to make plays as a runner, receiver, and return specialist.
However, Westbrook eventually became the team's feature back and thus was too valuable to simply be an X-factor.
Last year's X-factor was wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a rookie who filled in as the team's leading receiver and dynamic punt returner.
And the X-factor for next year?
It could be anyone. TE Cornelius Ingram is expected to push for the starting job as a rookie. RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin should see significant action in their first year in the league.
Simply put, neither the Giants, Cowboys, or Redskins can match the potential X-factors the Eagles have to offer.
7) It's Time
There are no facts or statistics to support this point. But the Eagles are due. This is a team that has been so close to the edge for so many years.
The pieces have been filled. The talent is evident, and the time is right.
The Cowboys are too inexperienced. The Redskins just aren't good enough. And I can't see the Giants winning another title so quickly.
This is our year.
It's the year of the 2009 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
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