It is a measure of both the Eagles’ overriding popularity in this area and the desolate landscape of Philadelphia professional sports that despite the team’s 5-5 record, last-place status in the NFC East and 2-5 record after its fast start that fans (and oddsmakers) looked at Monday’s game against Green Bay as an opportunity to take a bold step back into the playoff race. Instead of providing hope and making the coming games meaningful, the 27-13 loss started the clock on the off-season and demonstrated clearly that this is neither a viable post-season candidate nor a team on the cusp of contention.
Thanks to the NFL’s desire to have every team finish 8-8, there are mechanisms built into the league’s annual operations that allow just about every team to have mathematical chances at playoff qualification—except for Cleveland. Nobody could possibly come up with a way to make the Clowns look good. That’s why the .500 Birds remained optimistic as the final six games of the season dawned. Even El Hombre fell for it, picking the Eagles to defeat Green Bay during the 97.5 The Fanatic Pre-Game Show.
Still, there is a chance the Eagles could reach the championship tournament. If they win their final five games and finish 10-5, a wildcard berth is almost certainly theirs. But let’s be honest—for the first time this season. This team lacks so many components of a winning outfit that the idea of a five-game winning streak is laughable. Worse, it’s not as if we can spend the final part of the season enjoying the development of a collection of young prospects which could be the nucleus of a winner down the road. The Eagles are short on talent across the lineup, so looking at 2016 as a precursor to big things down the line is unwise. There are precious few members of this roster who will be key parts of the team in a few years, and that means GM Howie Roseman must build a winner from a relatively weak starting position, something he has no experience doing. Judging by the big money he bestowed a defensive line that didn’t sack Packers QB Aaron Rodgers at all and only hit him once—in 39 passing attempts—it’s hard to have a lot of faith in Roseman. The only positive thing fans can say is that he’s better than Maximum Leader, which is hardly a ringing endorsement.
It’s easy to look at Monday’s loss and blame an offense that delivered few big plays against a team that had surrendered 153 points in its previous four games, all losses, and continues to lack playmakers, even if Nelson Agholor played and Jordan Matthews didn’t get hurt. But as Roseman looks at the future, he had better spend a lot of time—and money—on a defense that was shredded by one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. The Eagles’ cornerbacks are the football equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. The defensive front, in which Roseman invested heavily during the off-season, couldn’t get close to Rodgers. (By the way, when is personal foul machine, Fletcher Cox, going to justify his $103 million contract?)
Yes, the Birds need a lot of help at wide receiver, and the O line could use an upgrade, but teams that win big in the NFL do so with defense, and that’s an area of huge concern right now. The Eagles have trouble rushing the passer, and the men charged with providing primary coverage are clearly not high quality performers. It’s time to start figuring out how the team can improve for the coming years, not what its playoff chances are.
Unless the Eagles wins Sunday in Cincinnati. Then, it’s time to get out the slide rules and start the calculations.
Just like the NFL hopes you will.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Although most Villanova basketball fans are focusing on Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart this season—for good reason—it would be wise to direct some attention toward 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman forward Mikal Bridges, the Great Valley High School product. Bridges is averaging 11.0 ppg and 5.3 rpg, while shooting 62 percent from the field and playing his customary strong defense. He will continue to be a complementary player this season, but he has big potential moving forward.