The NFC East is arguably the best division in football. All four teams are above .500, including two seven-win teams and a team with the best record in the NFL. All four teams have proven they can beat some of the NFL’s top talent, but some significant flaws are holding them back.
This NFC East team has the best record in football and has broken franchise records along the way. They seemed unstoppable in September and October, but have their recent struggles caught up to them? Could the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles be the biggest pretender in the NFC East? First, let’s take a look at some of the most popular criticisms of the Eagles and see how valid they are.
Are The Eagles Playing An Easy Schedule?
The Philadelphia Eagles came into the 2022 season with the NFL’s third weakest strength of schedule. Their opponents had a combined 133-154-2 (.464) record last year. However, the Washington Commanders and Dallas Cowboys had an even “easier” schedule, with their opponents having a combined .462-win percentage in 2021. So if one was going to criticize the Eagles for an easy strength of schedule, the entire NFC East is with them too.
Another metric to look at is the strength of schedule played. Philadelphia’s nine wins were mostly over sub-.500 teams. They did beat the Vikings and the Commanders and Cowboys once each in 2022. However, Philadelphia’s strength of schedule played through 10 games is third to last. Two other NFC contenders, the 49ers and Seahawks, are behind them.
Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles have played an easy schedule, but winning nine out of ten is impressive. Of course, no win is easy in the NFL, and most of the Eagles’ wins were by at least two possessions. Philadelphia has a few difficult matchups on their schedule, including both Giants’ games, the Titans, and the Cowboys one more time. The Eagles’ performance in these games should clearly indicate whether they are a contender or pretender. These games are also critical in the NFC East race.
Is Jalen Hurts An Elite Enough Quarterback?
One of the most crucial question marks for the Eagles coming into the year was what they had in Jalen Hurts at the quarterback position. After the first month, he was suddenly an MVP candidate and a significant factor in why the Eagles won games. Jalen Hurts had more than 300 yards combined of total offense (passing plus rushing) in each of the first three games. However, he has not combined for more than 300 yards since then. Hurts has gotten close, but his total production slowed as the year went on, much like in 2021.
Though Hurts’ production is slowing down, he is still playing at a higher level than last year. He is completing 68.3 percent of passes and has 15 touchdown passes on the year compared to three interceptions. Hurts is on pace to set career-highs throwing the ball. He also has 440 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on the year.
The Eagles’ last game showed why Jalen Hurts is special. The Colts defense had the Eagles’ top receivers covered all day long, and Hurts did not have his best tight end, Dallas Goedert, due to injury. Hurts did not put up big numbers, but he used his legs a lot, especially in the fourth quarter as the Eagles overcame a 10-point deficit. The Colts could not defend the run-pass option attack the Eagles used in their game-winning drive.
Jalen Hurts is still up and coming. It is only his third year in the league, but so far, his best season. He has plenty of talent around him to make him better. This includes an elite offensive line, Miles Sanders at running back, and A.J. Brown at wide receiver. There is no doubt that Jalen Hurts has exemplary leadership and playing abilities for a playoff run.
Can The Eagles Defend The Run
The Eagles beat the Texans by double digits in Week Eight, but the Texans showed an area of weakness in the Eagles’ run defense. Rookie Dameon Pierce ran the ball 27 times for 139 yards. He helped his Texans to make the game competitive in the first half before Philadelphia pulled away in the second half.
One week later, the Washington Commanders tried the same thing and had even more success. As a team, Washington rushed 49 times for 152 yards. Their effective running game wore down Philadelphia’s defense and helped them convert numerous third downs in the upset.
Philadelphia recovered nicely in last week’s game against the Colts. After allowing the Colts’ offense to rush for 45 yards during the first drive alone, they held their opponent to 54 rushing yards the rest of the way. So if the Eagles can scheme against the run and their biggest playmakers show up, they should be ok.
The Eagles recently added three former Pro-Bowlers to their defensive line. The names include Robert Quinn, Linval Joseph, and Ndamukong Suh. These veteran leaders know the league well and have plenty of playoff experience. So expect the Eagles’ run defense concerns to die down with the big-name pieces being added.
Overall, in 2022, the Eagles do not have a bad defense. They have allowed 1,222 rushing yards through 10 games which is 17th in the league. In addition, their 4.6 yards per carry allowed is 23rd in the NFL. These numbers could be better but not the worst. In comparison, Philadelphia’s pass defense is very effective. The 1,784 passing yards allowed is second best in the league.
The Philadelphia Eagles, like any team, have some weaknesses. With that said, their 9-1 record is the best in the NFL. Winning 90% of games in any league is very difficult, but the Eagles have something special. They have a quarterback that is having his best year yet, their offseason additions have been spectacular, and they have one of the league’s best defensive backfields.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ recent struggles and close games must be fixed. They have a more challenging schedule ahead, and no playoff game is ever easy. The other NFC East teams, such as the Cowboys and Giants, are right behind them, proving this division race will come down to the end. However, until the Eagles lose multiple games in a row, they are still very much a contender.
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