With six wins and five games remaining, the Philadelphia Eagles are playing with house money the rest of the way. That’s two more wins than they had all last season, not to mention as many as most “experts” forecasted they would finish with in 2013. They’ve already met expectations.
This is Chip Kelly’s first year as head coach no less—a so-called rebuilding year—yet the Eagles find themselves in sole possession of first place in the NFC East heading into their Week 12 bye. The road to the playoffs has gone from looking like an old, dusty trail to being lit like a tarmac at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Kelly maintained that his team isn’t thinking that far ahead during his postgame press conference transcribed by PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
There's still a lot of football left. I know it's a cliché, but it's true. We got five games in December. We put ourselves in a situation where those five games in December are meaningful. We'll do the same thing we do all the time. I said it again in the locker room. We're going to pick our heads up on December 29th to figure out where we are.
That’s fine for the locker room, but outside those walls, observers are speculating—and people are getting used to the idea of postseason football returning to South Philly.
The Eagles are on a three-game winning streak, and everything seems to be coming together at precisely the right time. They have enjoyed unexpectedly elite quarterback play from Nick Foles, and a defense that’s held seven consecutive opponents to 21 points or less. With every passing week, they look more and more like a complete team.
It’s almost time to stop wondering whether this is a potential playoff also-ran, and start asking whether or not Philadelphia is a Super Bowl contender.
Almost. Like Chip says, we’ll see where the Eagles stand once the dust settles and every team in the NFL has played 16 games. No matter how you slice it though, it’s an exciting time to be a Birds fan—right now and for the foreseeable future.
NFC East Standings
|Philadelphia Eagles||6-5||3-2||24-16 W vs. WAS||Bye|
|Dallas Cowboys||5-5||3-0||Bye||@ NYG|
|New York Giants||4-6||1-2||27-13 W vs. GB||vs. DAL|
|Washington Redskins||3-7||0-3||24-16 L @ PHI||vs. SF|
Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
Describing the Birds as being in sole possession of first place, while factually accurate, is perhaps a bit disingenuous. They’ve played one more game than the Cowboys, who by the way still own tiebreakers for head-to-head and division records.
Philadelphia will only truly own sole possession of first when it has a full-game lead in the standings, or when they've beaten Dallas.
Remaining Opponents: bye, ARI, DET, @ MIN, CHI, @ DAL
Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
The Cowboys are an impossible team to get a read on, but this is shaping up to be like every other year in recent memory—they do just enough to stay in the hunt until Week 17, when they either miss the playoffs or move on to a swift first-round exit.
The pressure is on, and it’s coming from both directions. If they worry too much about the Eagles taking the lead, they may lose sight of the fact that the Giants are suddenly hot on their heels.
Remaining Opponents: @ NYG, OAK, @ CHI, GB, @ WAS, PHI
New York Giants (4-6)
Maybe we left New York for dead a little too soon? The Giants are riding a four-game winning streak, and should they go on to beat Dallas on Sunday, you almost have to start taking them seriously again.
Then again, the G-Men still have yet to defeat an opponent that had so much as a respectable quarterback under center. Consider this What You Need To Know column firmly in the “selling” category when it comes to their legitimacy.
Remaining Opponents: DAL, @ WAS, @ SD, SEA, @ DET, WAS
Washington Redskins (3-7)
On the other hand, is it safe to call Washington’s season? The Skins’ quarterback looks lousy, they probably can’t afford to lose another game and their schedule doesn’t exactly set up for a big run.
At the very least, Washington would have to finish with a better record than Philadelphia since the Birds swept the season series. Not looking good.
Remaining Opponents: SF, NYG, KC, @ ATL, DAL, @ NYG
|S Colt Anderson||Ankle||Left Game Week 11|
|CB Bradley Fletcher||Pectoral||Inactive Week 11|
|LB Mychal Kendricks||Knee||Inactive Week 11|
|LB Jake Knott||Hamstring||Inactive Week 11|
|QB Michael Vick||Hamstring||Inactive Week 11|
|S Earl Wolff||Knee||Inactive Week 11|
All things considered, the Eagles should be in great shape coming out of the bye. Bradley Fletcher and Mychal Kendricks were listed as questionable leading up to Sunday’s win at Green Bay, so it stands to reason two defensive starters have a chance of returning to action within the next 12 days.
Earl Wolff sounded a bit further away than his counterparts. Then again, the Eagles are not very forthcoming with injuries this year, so “week-to-week” as reported by Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is about the best that we’ve got.
Somewhat surprisingly, Michael Vick is the one player Chip Kelly was willing to reveal will return in time for the Birds’ next game. He wouldn’t go so far as to give Vick his job back as starting quarterback, but did sound optimistic the four-time Pro Bowler would be available going forward at the head coach’s day-after press conference on Monday.
I think Mike could have played if we needed him on Sunday. But we weren't going to keep three quarterbacks active. ... We're hoping when we come back off the bye with this week off when we get back to next week, that Mike will be up and ready to go. We'll see. I know he's progressing.
Compared to a lot of teams, the Eagles are relatively healthy for 11 weeks into the season. Unlike a lot of teams, they have a Week 12 bye to get the rest of these players healed for a stretch run. We’ll find out whether it works to the Birds’ advantage when we pick back up next week.