Philadelphia Eagles: 14 wins – 3 losses, NFC East champions, first in NFC
After a surprise playoff qualification last season, the Eagles aimed to reclaim the division title and develop Jalen Hurts. With an ambitious recruiting including AJ Brown, Haason Reddick and James Bradberry, there was little room for error.
Nick Sirianni has managed to live up to expectations, and the new standard for fans seems to have become a Super Bowl run. Before grilling the stages, Philadelphia will have to regain the confidence that has inhabited the team throughout the first part of the season.
How did they get there?
Taking advantage of an affordable schedule, Philadelphia got off to a dream start, with thirteen wins out of the first fourteen matches. Spinning offensively and defensively, Philadelphia walked on water from September to November.
The end of the season was much more difficult, with Jalen Hurts’ injury disrupting the team which resulted in two losses to the Cowboys and Saints. However, thanks to the accumulated lead at the start of the season, the Eagles managed to win the conference.
The key player: Jalen Hurts (QB)
Unavoidable. Still in its infancy in 2021 and mainly dangerous in the running game, the former Oklahoma quarterback took on another dimension in 2022. Author of 3,701 yards in the air and 760 yards on the ground, Hurts had 35 touchdowns for 6 interceptions and became the driving force behind the attack.
Helped by the recruitment of AJ Brown and the development of Devonta Smith, and a still dominant offensive line, Hurts has come of age and found a coordinator who knows how to best use him. Injured at the end of the season, it will take a 100% return for the team to hope to go far in the playoffs.
The last game of the season, where Hurts was instructed not to run, showed that his legs are essential, especially in the red zone. He is the leader, and must answer the call. Nick Sirianni said he was lucky he got two weeks to rest, not sure if that was a good sign.
Why are they going to go all the way?
The Eagles are one of two teams with offense and defense in the top 6 in terms of DVOA (the other is San Francisco). Talent is everywhere in this team, and every squad has the opportunity to make the team win.
Offense is the Eagles’ main weapon, with 3 players who scored in the regular season (apart from Jalen Hurts, see above): AJ Brown (1,496 yards, 11 TDs), Miles Sanders (1,347 , 11) and Devonta Smith (1,196.7), plus a valuable Dallas Goedert, author of 702 yards in 12 games. Icing on the cake, the offensive line is the best in the league. Danger comes from everywhere, on the ground and in the air, and from multiple players. When trusted, this attack is unstoppable.
The defense is also a reference. The line first managed 70 sacks, 15 more than the Chiefs yet second in the standings. Four players have reached 11 or more sacks: Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat. If we add a metamorphosed last defensive curtain, we obtain a good group which can win the match if the attack does not succeed.
Why won’t they go?
If the attack and the defense are efficient, this is not the case for the special teams. Catastrophic in kick return, the Eagles will also face a problem in punting following the injury of Arryn Siposs. Every mistake counts in the playoffs, and special teams can ruin the efforts of other squads.
The other downside is the dynamics. Injuries messed up a well-oiled machine, and losses to the Cowboys and Saints were the consequences. The confidence is no longer the same, and the Eagles must not lose the thread with the rest week. Especially if you have to face the 49ers in the future with full confidence.
To continue the previous paragraph, the main obstacle between the Eagles and the title is injuries. Jalen Hurts is diminished, as is Lane Johnson, one of the centerpieces of the attack. Without him the pressure on Hurts could be much greater, as it was on Minshew against the Saints with Cameron Jordan. If he has announced that he wants to try to play, the possibility that he cannot is strong.
The defense also lost strength with the absence of Avante Maddox, never really replaced qualitatively in the slot. Fortunately for Philadelphia, other players are back, like Josh Sweat and CJ Gardner-Johnson.
If we compare the overall talent of the workforce in addition to the home field advantage, the Eagles must beat the Giants in the divisional, but it will be very far from easy against a team full of confidence. A defeat at this stage would obviously be a disappointment. If qualified, the conference final will be against the Niners or the Cowboys. San Francisco is the bogeyman of the NFC, and winning won’t be easy. In the best-case scenario a Super Bowl looms against an AFC juggernaut, that last step seems the highest, and maybe that’s the Eagles’ limit.