Philadelphia Eagles: 9 wins – 8 losses, NFC seventh
11 months ago, Philadelphia had no coach, no starting quarterback, and more than a quarter of the salary cap dedicated to retired players. Almost a year later, the Eagles are in the playoffs, Nick Sirianni is indisputable and Jalen Hurts has offered himself the right to have one more season to prove. It’s the great story of the season in NFC, and maybe the start of a new era.
How did they get there?
By beating the weak. Philadelphia lost its matches against the “big” teams, but did a near perfect on teams with a negative record. Taking advantage of an affordable schedule, they gained momentum at the end of the season to clinch an almost unexpected qualifying place after a complicated start with 5 defeats in 7 matches.
If Philadelphia is therefore not a “good” team, it has succeeded in the essential: winning matches. Qualifying for the playoffs is a surprise, and more of a bonus than anything else.
The key player: Jalen Hurts (QB)
Having become the starter by default following the departure of Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts seized the opportunity to win against the Eagles. The overall performance exceeds the simple statistical contribution (3,144 yards, 16 TD, 9 INT, 784 yards on the ground, 10 TD on the ground), as Hurts seemed to instill a mentality of “winner” in this team.
Whether the Eagles are down 3 or 14 points, the former Oklahoma quarterback will give 110% with every action. The playoffs are an opportunity for him to show that he is more than a beautiful story this season, but a lasting solution.
Why are they going to go to the end?
The Eagles have an identity, and that’s not trivial in the NFL. The Philadelphia force is on the ground, relying on ever-efficient trenches. With 2,715 yards, the Eagles are first in the league, relying on a committee more than an individual runner.
This team is resilient, and has a large number of veterans who already have a ring (Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson…) to keep the entire group under pressure. This contribution of experience will be decisive in the playoff.
Why won’t they go?
Let’s face it, even though Philadelphia has guns they’re very unlikely to go far in the playoff. The first problem is the defense, which has cracked every time they face a good team. This group is voluntary, but lacks talent in the second and third curtains, which is prohibitive against a good quarterback.
Offensively, the attack lives and dies on the ground. Even though Hurts has proven himself against Washington that he can throw the ball, the lack of targets outside of Dallas Goedert / Devonta Smith makes it unlikely that this squad will win an arms race against big cylinders.
There are injured starters in the Eagles, but his absences are nothing new and Philadelphia has learned to live without. Brandon Brooks (L), Brandon Graham (EDGE) and Isaac Seumalo (L) are the three big names, but the lines have been effective despite the absences.
Miles Sanders broke his hand in Week 16, and he is the main uncertainty ahead of the playoffs. The committee remains good without him, but his contribution is not negligible.
A victory would already be a divine surprise for this team. the trip to Tampa Bay promises to be difficult, even though the Buccaneers are accumulating injuries and do not appear to be at the same level of confidence as last season.
The Floridians have a good defense against the run and sufficient weapons in attack. The key for the Eagles will be to not lose the ball, and to hope that the defense outperforms in a game.