Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Reasons Why Philly Is Guaranteed to Make the NFL Playoffs
The morale of the Eagles fan base has never been lower than it is right now. Sure, they have seen much worse teams but never has a team played so poorly with such high expectations. They have blown three straight fourth quarter leads, being outscored in the final frame 36-0 in that span. Eagles fans are ready for some major changes and some new faces.
Will Jeffrey Lurie pull the trigger on Andy Reid anytime soon? No.
The offense is too good, the defense is too talented and Andy Reid is too good of a coach to let this slow start derail an entire Super Bowl bid. Changes will be made, of course, but not coaching changes. Expect some schematic changes and adjustments in the red zone to counter some of the major issues that have plagued the Eagles early on in the 2011 season.
Have faith Eagles fans, this team will fight back and return to the playoffs for the 10th time in 13 seasons.
Andy Reid Is Too Good of a Coach to Lose This Team
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Andy Reid has his faults as an NFL head coach. His clock management is questionable and his teams in Philly have been embarrassing in the red zone the last few seasons. Some fans in Philly are already calling for his job after just four games.
Reid will make adjustments and overcome this slow start. He has been to the playoffs nine out of his 12 seasons in Philadelphia, including the last three seasons. He isn't the type of coach to just stay the course in a situation like this. He won't clear house on the defensive coaching staff, but he will make sure they change their schemes to improve their chances against both the run and the pass.
He will also get smarter in the red zone. We have already seen two gadget plays at the goal line turn into game changing turnovers. Enough is enough and Reid knows it. Look for Dion Lewis and Ronnie Brown to get more carries inside the 5-yard line and maybe he will elect to use Vince Young on quarterback sneaks in goal-to-goal situations. Through the first four games, it doens't appear that Reid is comfortable with Michael Vick taking shots in quarterback sneak plays.
Reid has made some baffling coaching decisions this season already. He and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo decided to move an obvious middle linebacker, Jamar Chaney, to the strong side and elected to start an undersized and slower Casey Matthews at middle linebacker. Give him credit for realizing his mistake and moving Chaney back to the middle and benching Matthews for a faster and stronger outside linebacker in Brian Rolle.
Andy Reid will realize his mistakes in the red zone and find ways of finishing drives instead of relying on a rookie kicker.
This Team Hasn't Been Bad, Just Unlucky
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
No team received more hype in the offseason than the Philadelphia Eagles and no team has been more unlucky this season than the Philadelphia Eagles. It's easy to criticize the defense or the coaching, but people forget how close this team was to winning all of their games so far.
In a Week 2 match-up against the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick went down late in the third quarter on a freak collision with right tackle Todd Herremans that turned out to be a mild concussion. The Eagles took a 31-21 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the defense couldn't get the Falcons off the field and Jeremy Maclin dropped what was an easy first down reception on a critical fourth quarter play deep in Falcons territory. The score was 31-35 at the time and the Eagles looked poised to score the game winning touchdown, led by backup quarterback Mike Kafka.
It was a game where everything had to go right for the Falcons to win. The Eagles fumbled a hand-off in the red zone and the Falcons scored a touchdown on all five red zone possessions.
Week 3 saw the Eagles blow their six-game winning streak against the New York Giants along with another early exit for Michael Vick. Vick was hurt on a questionable hit from Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty that bruised his right hand, although team trainers thought it might have been broken.
The Eagles took a 16-14 lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored 15-0 by the Giants in the final quarter. The Giants scored a touchdown on their only red zone possession while the Eagles failed to get six points on four of their five red zone chances.
Last week saw the Eagles blow another lead, this time they took two quarters to collapse. The Eagles took a 23-3 lead early in the third quarter but failed to score any points the rest of the game while allowing the San Francisco 49ers to score the needed three touchdowns to upset the Eagles at home. The Eagles were driving late against the 49ers, but again, Jeremy Maclin came up short. This time, Maclin fumbled the ball on what was already a first down reception.
Again, it was a horrendous red zone effort by the Eagles. They scored touchdowns twice in seven trips inside the 20. That makes it three touchdowns in 12 trips the last two games.
Some of it has been bad red zone play calling, some of it has been on kicker Alex Henery and his two missed red zone field goals and some of it has just been dumb luck. The thing about luck is eventually it will turn around. The Eagles will stop turning the ball over in the red zone and start making clutch plays when needed.
The Offense Is Even Better Than Last Year
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Say what you want about the Eagles defense or coaching, the offense is absolutely on fire. Sure they have turned the ball over in the red zone four times and failed to score in the fourth quarter in three straight games when they really needed to. This offense has suffered from a couple poor coaching decisions and some bad luck, but they are on pace to be even better than they were last season.
The 2011 Eagles offense has more points, passing yards and rushing yards through four games than they did through the first four last season. The offense has also given up just seven sacks and has converted nearly 50 percent of their third downs.
Do you really think this is the offense of a 6-10 team?
The offense will keep getting better as it learns how to better utilize new faces like Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith along with some younger players with great potential like Riley Cooper, Clay Harbor and Dion Lewis.
The offensive line is also getting better as well. With four of the five starting linemen either new to the Eagles or new to their position, we knew going in that it would be a work in progress. By the time we get to the second half of the season, the line should be in top form and able to better protect Vick and support an top notch running game.
It may not matter if the defense is going to give up 30 points a game. If the offense can take care of the ball and convert in the red zone, they should score 35 to 40 points each game.
The Defense Has Nowhere to Go but Up
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
The defense can't get any worse can they? The answer is "no" after they let one of the league's worst offenses put up monster numbers. Through the first quarter of the season, the defense has given up 101 points, 558 rushing yards, 871 passing yards while forcing only four turnovers including just two from their vaunted secondary.
The defense should improve with the decision to start Nate Allen over Kurt Coleman at free safety and Brian Rolle over Casey Matthews at outside linebacker. The defense could also improve with a few obvious adjustments that Juan Castillo will be forced to make this week.
Nnamdi Asomugha was a great press man cornerback. Zone coverage and playing snaps at safety haven't worked out so far and the Eagles just need to stick him at right cornerback and let him lock down his man like he did for the Raiders. His greatest strengths are his ability to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage and stay with them down the field. Those strengths aren't fully utilized in zone coverage.
The run defense will never be great this season in the wide nine scheme playing in front of three mediocre linebackers. They will get better and they will make adjustments, but it won't be great.
The defense doesn't need to start shutting people down, they just need to make a few more stops and find a way to contain the run game a little bit.
The NFC East Is Wide Open
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
The NFC North is clearly a two team race with two undefeated teams, while the AFC East appears to be the Patriots' to lose. Lucky for the Eagles, they don't play in either of those divisions. They play in a division that is wide open.
The New York Giants have fought hard to overcome a great deal of injuries on both sides of the ball, but eventually, the talent of the depth chart will take over and they will struggle against better teams. The Dallas Cowboys have already choked away two games this season and the pressure will start to mount for a quarterback in Tony Romo that hasn't handled it well in the past. The Washington Redskins are a well coached team with a great edge rusher duo in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Having said that, do we really expect the NFC East to be won by a team led by Rex Grossman? Anything is possible but I don't buy it just yet.
This division will take all kinds of twists and turns this season. All four teams can get hot at any time and all four teams can collapse at any time. It's a long season and no one looks like a clear front runner or a cellar dweller.
The Eagles playoffs chances may look bleak right now, but with a big win at Buffalo on Sunday, things can turn around in a hurry. Momentum is funny that way. One week you look great, the next terrible. The Eagles should come in to Buffalo with a more business like approach and also with a bit of an attitude. Don't be surprised if the Eagles lay a beating on the Bills on Sunday.