X

Eagles Leaving Their Doubters with Little Ammo After Dominant Victory over Giants

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2022

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles carries the ball during the first half of the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

It wasn't a stretch entering Week 14 to call the Philadelphia Eagles the best team in the NFC East. Or the best team in the NFC. Or the best team in the NFL. After all, the Eagles opened the season with eight straight wins—the best start in franchise history. At 11-1 heading into this week's matchup with the New York Giants, the Eagles were in the driver's seat for the top seed in the NFC.

However, in recent weeks, whispers of doubt started to creep around the Eagles. There was the double-digit loss to Washington in Week 10. A listless comeback win over a bad Colts team the following the week. A win over the Packers the week after that in which Philly allowed 33 points. Maybe the Eagles were mortal, after all.

Then again, maybe not.

Sunday's blowout victory over the G-Men marked the second successive week in which the Eagles trounced a team with a winning record. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense did whatever they pleased. The Philadelphia defense shut the Giants down until the game was out of hand.

And as the Eagles head into the final month of the regular season, the NFC is their conference. Everyone else is just living in it.

Earlier this week, Bleacher Report's own Brad Gagnon wrote that these next few weeks are critical for the Eagles. It is a chance to make a statement that the NFC East belongs to them—or squander their lead in the division.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball for a touchdown during the third quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

"Philly was outplayed in back-to-back ugly performances against the Washington Commanders and Indianapolis Colts in November," Gagnon wrote. "It has rebounded in the win column but is about to launch a three-game road trip that includes matchups with the tough New York Giants and tougher Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles could blow their two-game lead in the NFC East, especially if they lose in Dallas on Christmas Eve."

Maybe the Eagles read Gagnon's column, because they spent most of Sunday's game demonstrating quite clearly how not wide open their division is.

The engine that has been driving the Eagles all season long is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is one of the leading candidates to be named the NFL's MVP. As Zach Berman wrote for The Athletic, after coaching Hurts collegiately at Alabama, Giants head coach Brian Daboll said he fully expected to have his hands full with the third-year signal-caller.

"I think one word that defines Jalen is 'consistency,'" Daboll said. "He's always hungry. He's one of the best leaders I've ever been around, and he was young at that particular time. But he had leadership. He had toughness. He was all day football. He knew how to relate to everyone in his unit. I would just say the mental toughness that he has—and his ability just to focus on the next thing, not worry about what happened last game, the last play—comes from a football family. And he really means a lot to me."

Hurts didn't disappoint.

As has been the case so many times this season, Hurts did just about whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. On the ground, he picked up 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Through the air, he threw for 217 yards and two scores on 21-of-31 passing with a passer rating of 109.2.

Not bad for a quarterback who supposedly can't throw the ball. And after another stellar effort, Hurts told reporters he hasn't forgotten the skeptics who doubted his viability as a passer.

"I carry my scars everywhere I go. I don't forget," Hurts said.

It's a continuation of a tear that Hurts has been on dating back to the game against Green Bay.

Brenden Deeg @BrendenDeeg_

Jalen Hurts in the last three games:<br><br>1007 total yards<br>9 TDs, 0 turnovers <a href="https://t.co/EWUunroDrG">pic.twitter.com/EWUunroDrG</a>

As great as Hurts has been, he has benefited from all the talent around him. Leading into Sunday's game, Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale admitted to reporters that his team would be hard-pressed to slow down wide receiver A.J. Brown, who has been outstanding since joining the Eagles in a trade during the 2022 draft.

"He is a…it's like they got T.O. [Terrell Owens] back there playing again," Martindale said. "He is a problem. We went against him when he was with Tennessee. He is a big, physical receiver, that you have to fight every play. I told [Giants defensive backs coach] Jerome Henderson if he was a defensive player, he'd be an outside 'backer. That's how physical he plays at wide receiver."

Sure enough, Brown caught four passes for 70 yards and a score, becoming the first Eagles wideout since Jeremy Maclin in 2014 to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. DeVonta Smith added five receptions for 64 yards and a score. Running back Miles Sanders exploded for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, becoming the first Eagles running back since that same 2014 season to surpass 1,000 yards.

It's not just a matter of an offense full of firepower and an MVP-caliber quarterback. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranks the Eagles' offensive line as the best in the NFL. The Eagles defense is allowing less than 300 yards per game and just 19.1 points per contest. The team leads the league in takeaways, sacks and turnover differential, too.

The Eagles are loaded. There are no glaring weaknesses—something that cannot be said about many of the NFC's other contenders.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 11: A.J. Brown #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after a touchdown during the second quarter of the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are essentially "Eagles Lite." Dallas is a good team (Sunday's ugly win over the hapless Texans notwithstanding), but its offense isn't as explosive nor its defense as stifling as Philly's. After losing to the Lions in Detroit, the Minnesota Vikings (who the Eagles pummeled in Week 2) have allowed 400-plus yards in five straight games. The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Buccaneers on Sunday, but the Niners are still on their third-string quarterback and lost top wideout Deebo Samuel on Sunday.

The Seahawks, Giants and Commanders are all nice stories, but the odds of any of those teams going into Philly and winning a playoff game are slim to none.

Does this mean Eagles fans should start pricing airfare to Arizona in February? No, that's not how the NFL works. All it takes is one bad game, one injury to a key player to derail a season.

But what it does mean is that 14 weeks into the 2022 NFL season, the Eagles are head and shoulders better than any other team in the NFC. Maybe in the NFL. We can try all day to poke holes in their seemingly impenetrable armor, but after watching them steamroll the Giants, a compelling case can be made that the only team with a real shot of preventing the Eagles from representing the NFC in Super Bowl LVII is the Eagles.