Much like a midseason replacement television show, the Philadelphia Eagles have 13 weeks to secure their spot in the “2010 lineup,” aka the playoffs.
And like any aforementioned show, the first few weeks of that journey will be perhaps the most integral.
Even though the combined current record of their next two opponents is a whopping 1-7—with that one victory being Oakland’s win over the 0-4 Chiefs—a let down on either of the next two Sundays could be the difference between making the playoffs and watching them from the couch.
And not in an accidental good way, like last season’s tie with the Bengals.
First up is the Bucs, whose Week-Four tagline was “new quarterback, same bad offense.”
They managed 13 points behind new signal-caller Josh Johnson, but the defense, which is usually the team’s strong point and the pedigree of rookie head coach Raheem Morris, disappeared for the entire third quarter and allowed 16 points to the Redskins.
The same Redskins who had scored 23 points in the previous 10 quarters, eight of which were played against defensive juggernauts St. Louis and Detroit.
Yes, that’s sarcasm.
The Redskins aren’t good, and the Bucs blew a 10-point halftime lead and the game against them. But that’s just seemingly par for the course for a team that’s been shut out by the Giants, blown out by an anemic Bills offense (which, by chance, scored 33 against them and has 34 total in their three losses) and manhandled by the Cowboys.
The Bucs have now lost eight straight games spanning two seasons, a pair of head coaches and four starting quarterbacks. With this being a conference tilt, it could be a huge blow later in the season if the Eagles let them break that streak.
Then there are the Raiders. Through four games, the starting offense has more top 10 overall draft picks (four) than touchdowns (three), and hasn’t seen one of the latter since the fourth quarter of the Week-Two victory in Kansas City.
It’s almost as if their narrow Week-One loss to San Diego took away their soul. They’ve only scored 22 points in the past three weeks, JaMarcus Russell’s completion percentage would barely win an MLB batting title and, either much to Michael Crabtree’s delight or chagrin (depending on how you look at it), top draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey has two receptions.
They are as bad as advertised, and a Week-Five matchup with the Giants probably won’t be much of a relief. So what’s the pitfall here? The Eagles have to fly to California to face them, and despite their 2-0 record on the West Coast last season, cross-country road trips are traditionally death traps for East Coast teams.
And that’s the easy part of the schedule.
Starting in Week Seven, the Eagles’ final 11 games include all six NFC East contests, trips to San Diego, Chicago, and Atlanta and battles against San Francisco and Denver. Oh yeah, and by the way, through four weeks, that last group of teams is 14-5, and Denver has the added motivation of being both undefeated and the current home of former Birds Brian Dawkins and Correll Buckhalter.
Even the staunchest Eagles fan will tell you that the Birds have just as good of a chance of going 3-8 in that stretch as they do 8-3—which means that they have to take care of business in the “easy” games against Tampa Bay and Oakland.
The Giants are just as good as their weak schedule has let them show, the Cowboys haven’t yet been beaten soundly and there are four or five other teams who should be in the Wild Card hunt in two months.
If the Eagles want to be one of them, now is the time to show it.