Rothman’s First Look
by Spike Eskin
WC – 1/4/14 – vs. New Orleans Saints
First Look At The Eagles: Not even the most optimistic prognosticator would have come up with what the Eagles have done under the first season of Chip Kelly’s tenure has head coach.
With the Cowboys win, the Eagles finish 10-6, NFC East Champions, winners of seven of their last eight games. They set a franchise record for touchdowns in a season, second in the NFL in yards per game, first in the NFL in rushing yards, fourth in the NFL in total points (just three points away from second), the top rated passer in the league, as well as the league’s leading rusher.
That’s not all.
The Eagles season saw rejuvenated campaigns from players who looked like they were heading their career finish lines. Brent Celek and Trent Cole looked like new men, and appeared stronger in the second half of the season than they did in the first.
All of this with a defense that will not be confused with the 1985 Bears, but has shown solid improvement, and a propensity for takeaways at the most opportune times.
No matter what happens for the Eagles in the playoffs, this season has been a success.
First Look At The Saints: The Saints made a statement in the last week of the season. With a 42-17 win over the Bucs, New Orleans made it clear that they’re ready for the playoffs.
The Saints went into the finale having lost three of their previous four games, with a dynamic offense that hadn’t looked so dynamic, with 17 points against the Panthers, 16 against the Rams, and just 7 against the Seahawks.
Drew Brees and the Saints offense was a given coming into the year, but it’s the defense that has really been the reason they’ve turned it around. The 2012 Saints defense was statistically one of the worst in NFL history, and in 2013, they’re 4th in the NFL in yards allowed, and fourth in the NFL in points allowed.
First Look At The Game: Most Eagles fans will try to take comfort in the fact that the Saints have not won a playoff game on the road with Drew Brees as their quarterback.
They will try to take comfort in the fact that a dome team, on the road, in January, is typically a bad spot, especially in cold weather.
Then they will remember the Tampa loss and the Carolina loss in the playoffs, and that comfort will go by the wayside.
The biggest challenge for the Eagles will be stopping Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham. While the Eagles did some of their “bend but don’t break” defensively against the Cowboys, they were shredded by Kyle Orton and Jason Witten. Suffice to say Brees and Graham is a more dynamic duo.
If the Eagles are able to once again, win the turnover battle, they will have a shot at winning the game. But don’t be surprised if either team winds up on the winning end of what seems like it will be a shootout.
Week 17 – 12/29/13 – @ Dallas Cowboys
First Look At The Eagles: The Eagles rebounded from the loss to the Vikings in just about the most impressive way possible. If the game was essentially meaningless for the Birds, no one told them.
Sunday night’s game meant an NFC North championship for the Bears with a win, and with the Dallas win earlier in the day, only meant potential seeding for the Eagles. That did not seem to matter. If the stats themselves don’t convince you, the Eagles passed the eye test in every way, looking fresher, faster and more focused than the Bears did.
Nick Foles, even though he’s had more impressive games statistically, has never looked better. For all the talk of how precise he’s been, his accuracy on Sunday night was unbelievable, throwing incompletions only when he needed to throw the ball away.
LeSean McCoy, after getting only eight carries against Minnesota, was back on his game as well, rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Eagles performance was the defense. They shut down a Bears offense that was averaging over thirty points per game over the last three, and was second in the NFL in scoring offense coming into the game.
First Look At The Cowboys: We all knew it had to come down to this game.
There’s good news and there’s bad news about the Cowboys win against Washington.
The good news is that Tony Romo did what many said he could not. He won a big game, in comeback fashion, in December. Romo was battling a back injury, and led Dallas on a 90 yard touchdown drive to win the game in the closing minutes. In what looked like a setup for a classic Romo failure when DeMarco Murray was pushed back ten yards on a third and goal from the one, Romo stepped up and threw a touchdown pass to win the game.
The bad news is that the Cowboys did not look very good against one of the NFL’s worst teams. The defense looks like it will have trouble stopping just about anyone. The offense doesn’t look like it has much rhythm to it, and to call it unimaginative would be an understatement.
First Look At The Game: There are some conflicting stats going into this game.
We all know about the Cowboys’ record in December with Romo as the quarterback, and we all know how the last two week 17 win and in games have gone for Dallas (they’ve lost).
That said, the Cowboys are 6-1 against the Eagles in games that Tony Romo has started and finished.
With clutch narratives and “win or you get fired” situations for Jason Garret aside, the Eagles look like the better team in this case. The defense still isn’t a sure thing, but it is for sure better than Dallas. The Eagles offense is humming along while the Cowboys’ offense is just getting by.
The Eagles look like they’re going to end up with an NFC East title and a 10-6 record iun Chip Kelly’s first season. Not bad… not bad at all.
Week 16 – 12/22/13 – vs. Chicago Bears
First Look At The Eagles: Eagles fans across the Delaware Valley believed that with the departure of Andy Reid, the team would no longer fall victim to the clunker, look-ahead, trap game against a bad opponent. Eagles fans across the Delaware Valley were wrong.
The defense that had not allowed a team to score more than 21 points in two months, allowed the Vikings, missing Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, to drop 48 points behind a career best performance from Matt Cassel. The same Matt Cassel who didn’t get starts earlier this season over Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman.
The defense didn’t get pressure, and couldn’t cover, a bad combination.
The offense, though it put up 30 points, did not have the same success running the ball as they have in previous weeks, with LeSean McCoy rushing the ball only eight times, and finishing with fewer yards on the ground than Nick Foles. Foles, who did finish with an impressive line, was nowhere near as precise as he has been in previous weeks.
First Look At The Bears: If Chip Kelly has been story number one in the NFL as far as “offensive system” goes, Bears head coach Mark Trestman has been story 1a.
Trestman decided to go with Jay Cutler at quarterback this week, and although he wasn’t quite as perfect has Josh McCown has been, he was good enough to put up 38 points on the Browns for a win in Cleveland. Cutler did throw two interceptions, giving detractors enough ammunition for their cause, but also threw three touchdown passes, to give his backers some ammunition as well.
While the Bears have been scoring points at an impressive clip, the defense has been terrible. Ranking dead last at Pro Football Focus in overall defense, as well as dead last in run defense.
First Look At The Game: It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which this game does not result in a lot of points on both sides.
The Eagles defense, though improved, showed in Minnesota it is far from a finished product. The Bears pass offense is ranked fourth overall at Pro Football Focus, so you have to imagine they’ll be able to move the ball.
While the Eagles secondary matches up unfavorably to the Bears excellent passing offense, the Bears rush defense matches up poorly with the Eagles top ranked rushing attack.
As usual, this one will come down to turnovers. Based on what we know now, Jay Cutler is far more likely to throw a couple of interceptions than Nick Foles is. If recent history holds true, the Eagles, especially at home, should be able to come away with a win this week.
Week 15 – 12/15/13 – @ Minnesota Vikings
First Look At The Eagles: The Eagles have won five straight, and are looking like they could be one of those teams “nobody wants to face in the playoffs.”
After a disastrous first half, in disastrous, snowy conditions against the Lions, the Eagles exploded in the second half thanks to LeSean McCoy’s team record 217 yards and two touchdowns, blowing the game open with 28 fourth quarter points.
Though McCoy was the catalyst, quarterback Nick Foles bounced back from a less than stellar first half by completing seven of his final nine passes with a touchdown, and would have had two if Brent Celek had decided to score instead of downing the ball to kill the click.
The ever-improving Eagles defense took another step toward respectability by allowing the Lions only one offensive touchdown. Sure, the conditions were a problem, but they were a problem for both offenses. It also didn’t hurt that Reggie Bush aggravated a calf injury prior to the game and did not play.
First Look At The Vikings: While the Eagles won a crazy game in the snow on Sunday, the Vikings lost one.
The Vikings dropped to 3-9-1 after a 29-26 loss to the Ravens, which featured a final two minutes that you’re likely to never see matched. A bigger loss than the game itself, is the potential loss of Adrian Peterson. Peterson went down with a foot injury, and will have an MRI on Monday.
If Peterson is out, the Vikings go from a one-weapon team to, well, less of a challenge.
Though they’ve got the second worst point differential in the NFC, the Vikings have played better of late, losing the close one to the Ravens, tying the Packers, and winning in overtime over the Bears in their last three.
First Look At The Game: This should be easy for the Eagles, as long as they don’t go into the game thinking it will be easy.
With the NFC East title in their sights, and the Vikings one of the worst teams in the Conference, you’d hope that Chip Kelly will keep the Eagles focused on this game alone. Everything that Kelly has said about the NFL being a “week to week league” holds true this week.
Though there is no reason on paper, for the Eagles to lose this game, it will take focus, and that all starts with Kelly.
Week 14 – 12/8/13 – vs Detroit Lions
First Look At The Eagles: If the Eagles ever figure out how to keep up the pace they’re setting in the first halves of games, the rest of the league might be in trouble.
Like they did against Washington in their previous game, the Eagles got out to a big lead against Arizona, and then held on at the end to win. The Eagles went up 24-7 on the Cardinals early in the third quarter on Nick Foles’ third touchdown pass of the day. Those points were the last they’d score, as they’d punt away the next five possessions.
The defense came up with a big stop at the end of the game, after the Cardinals had pulled to within 24-21, and the Eagles stayed tied atop the NFC East with the Cowboys.
As scary as it got at the end, a win is a win, and the Eagles have taken four in a row. Nick Foles went another game without an interception, and his three touchdown passes put his season total at 19. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in the last eight games, and the front seven had its most dominant game of the season against Arizona, sacking Carson Palmer five times.
First Look At The Lions: When the Lions are clicking on both offense and defense, they can be a scary team. That was exactly the case on Thanksgiving, when they put a serious beat down on the Packers, winning 40-10 and upping their record to 7-5.
The dynamic offense is led by the best wide receiver in football, Calvin Johnson, one of the best all-around running backs in the game, Reggie Bush, and a quarterback who year after year puts up impressive numbers, Matt Stafford. If the offense has a weakness, it’s turnovers, they’re second worst in the league with 25 of them (14 interceptions, 11 fumbles), and a not-so-hot -8 differential on the year.
The defense looked downright scary against Green Bay, their front seven all over Matt Flynn, creating pressure every time he dropped back. While the defense is ranked 26th in the league against the pass, they’ve given up only 82 yards per game against the rush, good for third in the league.
First Look At The Game: Once again, the Eagles will be in a game that features two of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
The Eagles have one of the most dominant running games in the NFL, and a quarterback who seems to set a new league record every week. The Lions have one of the most spectacular wide receivers the league has ever seen, and a quarterback who will likely finish with close to 5,000 yards again.
If this one comes down to turnovers, like the Cardinals game did, the Eagles will be in good shape. Nick Foles has not thrown an interception this year, and has fumbled only once. Matt Stafford has thrown 14 interceptions, and has fumbled seven times.
Week 13 – 12/1/13 – vs Arizona Cardinals
First Look At The Eagles: A Dallas win over the Giants on Sunday means that the Eagles are back in a tie atop the NFC East.
With an identical 6-5 record as the Cowboys, and one game against them (the final week of the season), it means the Eagles control their own path to the playoffs this year.
They come into the Arizona game riding high on both sides of the ball. Nick Foles has been mistake free, and aside from one hiccup against Dallas, has led an offense that has been close to the top of the league in yards and points per game. The defense has slowly become respectable, with the front seven finding their way in Billy Davis’ 3-4 hybrid.
First Look At The Cardinals: The Cardinals have won four in a row, and are quickly becoming one of those teams that “no one wants to face” if they end up making the playoffs.
Their fourth straight win was an impressive 40-11 destruction of the Colts, with a dominant defensive effort against Andrew Luck. While the defense has been good all year, it was the turnover-free performance from Carson Palmer that put the nail in the Colts’ coffin on Sunday. Palmer had arguably his best game of the season, throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns. During the Cardinals’ four game win streak, Palmer has thrown eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
The Cardinals defense is ranked seventh in the NFL in yards allowed, eighth in points per game allowed, and rank 9th overall in team defense at Pro Football Focus.
First Look At The Game: The game against the Cardinals could be the toughest remaining on the Eagles schedule. It will certainly be the toughest defense they’ll face.
The Eagles have two advantages heading into this game. First, they’re coming off the bye week. It could be argued that the roll the team was on could have its momentum disrupted by the week off, the chance to heal major and minor injuries will help. Second, the Cardinals will be in the dreaded “west coast team coming east for a 1pm game,” which is usually a situation that gives an advantage to the home team.
This game will likely be decided by how many times each quarterback turns the ball over. Given both Nick Foles and Carson Palmer’s performances this year, Eagles fans should be optimistic.
Week 12 – 11/24/13 – Bye
First Look – Eagles At The Bye: The Philadelphia Eagles enter their bye week all alone in first place of the NFC East. That’s not a sentence many would have expected to read after consecutive home losses to the Giants and Cowboys left them 3-5, offense sputtering, and searching for answers.
The Eagles are on a roll, winners of three in a row, with momentum building with both the offense and defense.
The offense is clicking thanks to excellent play calling from Chip Kelly, and excellent execution and consistency from quarterback Nick Foles. Foles has yet to throw an interception, and has three consecutive games with a quarterback rating of over 100. After a mid-season slump, LeSean McCoy has returned to form, and topped 1,000 rushing yards before any other running back in the league, and quicker than he ever has in his career. The biggest surprise on offense may be wide receiver Riley Cooper, whose play may be indicative of the team finding that “big wide receiver” fans have been clamoring for since Terrell Owens.
The defense, though a little shaky toward the end of the Washington game, has continued its steady improvement that has taken it from an early season disaster, to a mid-season strength. Linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin have been the most steady players on the unit, and the rest of the front seven is starting to fall in place around them. The team pressured the quarterback more than they had all year against Washington, with Trent Cole doing his part with two sacks.
Andy Reid may still be the favorite for coach of the year in the NFL, but the turnaround that Chip Kelly has engineered has been no less impressive.
Week 11 – 11/17/13 – vs Washington Redskins
First Look At The Eagles: Now, if they can just figure out how to win at home?
The Eagles are now 5-1 on the road after their win at historic Lambeau Field on Sunday over the Packers. Though it wasn’t against the Packers third string quarterback, winning in Green Bay is never an easy task. They did it behind an efficient, if not spectacular performance from Nick Foles, another strong game from Riley Cooper, and a big day from LeSean McCoy.
Though the offense put 27 points up on the board on the road, which is impressive, the most notable performance came from the Eagles defense. They lost Earl Wolff due to an injury, and came into the game without Bradley Fletcher, and still managed to give up only 13 points. They had some luck along the way, but it was still their sixth straight game holding an opponent under 21 points.
First Look At Washington: Washington is a better team than they were when the Eagles dominated them in the first game of the season. They’re still not very good.
There has been a noted improvement from the offense, and it’s no coincidence it’s come with the improved health of Robert Griffin III. Between RG3’s knee getting right, him getting back into the rhythm of the game, and great years from Alfred Morris, rookie tight end Jordan Reed, and Pierre Garcon they’ve been able to move the ball and score some points.
The problem for Washington has been a terrible defense for the second consecutive year. They’re 27th in the NFL in yards allowed, and 31st in the NFL in points allowed per game. That’s not a good combination. If you can call the Eagles defense “bend but don’t break” over the last several games, Washington’s is “both bend and break.”
First Look At The Game: This should be a game the Eagles win.
The only thing that stands in the way is a home field that hasn’t been an advantage in what seems like forever.
The Eagles should score plenty of points on the Washington defense. And although it’s unlikely the Eagles defense will be as successful against Washington as they were in the opener, you’d have to imagine they have the ability to be “good enough.”
The Eagles have lost ten consecutive games at home. If they do what they should on Sunday, and play as they have played over the last two weeks, that streak should end on Sunday. The keyword there being, “should.”
Week 10 – 11/10/13 – @ Green Bay Packers
First Look At The Eagles: The Eagles made up for lost time in Oakland.
After not scoring an offensive touchdown in the last two games, the Nick Foles led Eagles scored seven touchdowns against the Raiders, all through the air. The seven touchdown passes from Foles were notable for two reasons. First, it tied an NFL record, putting Foles in the same sentence with Peyton Manning as the only two active NFL quarterbacks who have done such a thing. Second, it put the faith of the coach, the team, and the city back in Foles, who had a disastrous performance in his last start against the Cowboys.
It wasn’t just an impressive effort on offense from the Eagles, the defense continued its ascent to respectability. After getting torched in its first four games, they have allowed just 18.6 points in the last five. Though they allowed over 500 yards to the Raiders, it was a “bend but don’t break effort,” which saw the Raiders only get to 20 points with a last minute, meaningless touchdown.
First Look At The Packers: After four straight wins, there could be some trouble in Green Bay.
Not only did the Packers lose their Monday Night Football division battle with the Bears, but they lost their most important player. Aaron Rodgers left the game with an injury and did not return. There is no diagnosis for Rodgers’ injury yet, but if the rumors of a broken collarbone are true, it’s unlikely Rodgers will take the field against the Eagles on Sunday.
It’s just another killer injury for a Packers team who has been no stranger to them this season. They’ve already lost receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb for significant stretches, as well as tight end Jermichael Finley. It’s one thing to make up for personnel losses like Jones, Cobb and Finley when you have a weapon like Rodgers behind center, but without him is a much bleaker outlook.
First Look At The Game: With Rodgers, the Eagles would come into this game near double-digit underdogs, and just looking to keep things close. Without him, it’s a whole different story.
The Eagles defense has improved, but its weakness is still in its defensive secondary, and covering tight ends over the middle. Without Rodgers and Finley, the Packers lose their two best weapons to exploit the weakness of the Eagles.
It will be interesting to see if the Packers play the Foles-led Eagles differently than the Raiders and Bucs did. Both teams came out and played zone, and seemed to blitz very little. It allowed Foles the time to pick apart the holes in the zone, with receivers who may not be able to be as successful in man-coverage. With Vick behind center, playing zone is a necessity to account for Vick’s running ability – not so much with Foles.
Still, even with a good defensive game plan from the Packers, without Rodgers, it looks like a chance for the Eagles to steal one on the road.
Week 9 – 11/3/13 – @ Oakland Raiders
First Look At The Eagles: There is good news and bad news in the land of the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, it seems like there is more bad news than good.
Let’s start with the bad news, and it’s not where we expected to see the bad news after game eight of the Chip Kelly era; the Eagles can’t score, and can’t seem to move the ball. They’ve scored a total of zero offensive touchdowns in the last two weeks. To make matters worse, it’s not like they’ve faced the 1985 Bears the last two weeks, they’ve failed to score against two defenses who are mediocre at very best, the Cowboys and the Lions.
The problem seems to start at quarterback, with Nick Foles’ performance last week, Michael Vick’s brief appearance this week, and the turnover prone (at least so far) performances of Matt Barkley. One can’t imagine that any coach would succeed playing three quarterbacks in eight games involuntarily, but when the offensive mastermind can’t score any points, it doesn’t leave you with much hope.
The good news is that the Eagles defense continues to progress. Again, it’s not like they’re facing the Broncos every week, but they held the Giants without a touchdown a week after holding the high-powered Cowboys offense to just 17 points.
First Look At The Raiders: There aren’t many times when an organization should be thrilled with a 3-4 record, but it’s hard to imagine anyone in Oakland is complaining about what the Raiders have done this year.
Initially projected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams, the Raiders have not been anywhere close to that. Considering they’ve got that 3-4 record in one of the league’s best divisions, the NFC West, is even more impressive.
Perhaps the best part of what the Raiders have done so far is that they seem to have found a quarterback that may last for more than a season or two. Terrelle Pryor set an NFL record with a 93 yard touchdown run in the Raiders victory over the Steelers, and has been a revelation for them so far this year. He’s thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5), but has shown flashes of brilliance, and has been more than just a runner.
First Look At The Game: When you looked at this game before the season started, or even as recently as a few weeks ago, this looked like one that you could chalk up as a probable win for the Eagles. Quite clearly, that is no longer the case.
All three Raiders wins this year have come in Oakland, and though the early line shows the Eagles as a 2.5 point favorite, it doesn’t seem like this is one you’d mark down in permanent marker as a win.
The biggest question, as it has been for several weeks for the Eagles, is who will start at quarterback. It seems likely that it will be Matt Barkley, who despite the turnover looked pretty decent against the Giants. One would expect that a week’s of first team reps will give him a better chance to look even better.
Week 8 – 10/27/13 – vs New York Giants
First Look At The Eagles: Things look a lot different for the Eagles than they did a week ago.
Last week, the Eagles were flying high, after a brilliant performance from Nick Foles, and debating whether the issue of the team’s future quarterback may be solved. Michael Vick was on his way back to being healthy, and the best kind of quarterback controversy was thriving. There were two good QBs, and both would soon be healthy.
This week, Nick Foles is recovering from a concussion, and Michael Vick isn’t recovering from a hamstring strain quite as quickly as it seemed like he originally was. To make matters worse, Foles’ performance against Dallas was not just bad, it was historically bad.
The upside is that the defense, while not a top NFL defense by any means, is definitely improving. The Eagles held a dynamic Cowboys offense to 17 points, and intercepted Tony Romo twice. Cedric Thornton continues to play well, the safety play was much improved, and Fletcher Cox seems to be coming into his own.
First Look At The Giants: The Giants are rolling. Well, not quite, but they do have a win under their belts.
The Giants avoided 0-7 with a Monday Night Football win over the struggling Vikings. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a win, and it could be just enough to give New York a little life.
The Giants offense didn’t exactly look like Denver, but it did look better, with Eli Manning in a bit more of a rhythm than he has been. And the Giants defense, though it was facing a rusty Josh Freeman, were able to limit Adrian Peterson, and keep the Vikings from scoring an offensive touchdown.
First Look At The Game: There are two things that will likely determine the outcome of this game.
First, who the Eagles start at quarterback. If it’s Matt Barkley, though he may at some point have a bright future, his limited reps with the first (or second) team will limit whatever success he can have. As troublesome, if Barkley was to get hurt, there will likely be someone backing him up who hasn’t taken a snap for the team this year (perhaps GJ Kinne, who was signed to the practice squad). If it’s Michael Vick, the Eagles are in much better shape. Even if Vick is 85%, at this point, that’s a hefty step up from a 100% Matt Barkley.
Second, do the Giants have any life pumped into their lungs after their Monday night win? Sure, they’re 1-6, but they’re in arguably the worst division in football, and a history of late season runs to make the playoffs. You have to wonder whether the Giants look at that, and think if they can get to 8-8, they can win the division and make some noise in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. Not too many stranger things, but at least a few.
Week 7 – 10/20/13 – vs Dallas Cowboys
First Look at the Eagles: Well, the quarterback controversy is now in full overdrive in Philadelphia after Nick Foles’ incredible performance against the Tampa Bay Bucs. With questions about whether Chip Kelly’s offense could be effective with a less than mobile quarterback behind center, Foles led the team to a victory, going 22-31 with 296 yards and three touchdowns. Foles even threw in a rushing touchdown for good measure.
Equally impressive was LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 116 yards on 25 carries after a mostly ineffective second half against the Giants.
If there’s something to be concerned about with the Eagles (still), it’s the defense, which allowed 20 points to a Bucs team with a rookie quarterback who had been averaging 11 points per game. The Eagles got little pressure on Mike Glennon, who had a pretty impressive game for a rookie with all of one start under his belt.
First Look at the Cowboys: The Cowboys came back after a crushing last-second home loss to the Broncos by beating Washington pretty soundly, to stay atop of the division with the Eagles.
Though they scored 31 points against Washington, the impressive Cowboys offense was less than impressive. Tony Romo had a below average day, DeMarco Murray rushed for only 29 yards, and Dez Bryant had only 36 yards receiving.
The Cowboys come into the game against the Eagles second in the NFL in scoring, at 30.5 points per game.
First Look at the matchup: No matter who the quarterback is for the Eagles on Sunday, he is going to have to generate a ton of offense against the Cowboys.
Dallas’ second ranked offense probably won’t have too much trouble scoring against an Eagles defense that is giving up 29.8 points per game (4th worst) and given up the most yards per game in the NFL at 420.2.
All signs point to a shootout in this game, with the winner most likely being the team who turns the ball over less, and makes the most of its red zone opportunities.
Winner is all alone in first place atop the NFC East.
Week 6 – 10/13/13 – @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First look at the Eagles: There is a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Finally, it really feels like Eagles season.
After Michael Vick left Sunday’s Eagles victory in the second quarter with a hamstring strain, backup Nick Foles came into the game and performed admirably, leading the team to victory after losing what was a 19-7 lead. Though Foles did have what appeared to be some communication problems with his receivers, he threw two touchdown passes and didn’t turn the ball over.
Foles isn’t alone in deserving credit for Sunday’s win. The defense, which did have moments of shakiness, and failed to get pressure on Eli Manning for much of the game, did come up with three interceptions, sealing the win.
Alex Henery, who was on anything but solid ground coming in to the game, hit five field goals and appears back to his old self.
First look at the Bucs: For a team that seems like it’s a real mess, crumbling underneath a coach (Greg Schiano) that doesn’t seem to have a ton of support, the Bucs have been in every game so far this season, despite losing all of them. They’re 0-4, but have lost three of those games by a total of six points.
The Bucs were able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory last week, blowing a late lead to the Arizona Cardinals in rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s first start.
The Eagles do have a bit of a favorable matchup in the Bucs, whose passing offense is ranked dead last in the NFL. After two straight weeks of Mannings, it will be nice to face a Glennon.
First look at the matchup: Though this is definitely a winnable game for the Eagles, they should not take the Bucs lightly.
The Tampa defense has been better than average, holding the Cardinals to ten points, and the Saints to 16 points. And though running back Doug Martin hasn’t had the sort of season many expected, he’s still a top five running back in the league.
Though the Eagles were able to intercept Eli Manning three times, they still had trouble getting pressure on him for much of the game. That will be the key to this one. If the Eagles can get decent pressure on Glennon, this is a game they should win.
Week 5 – 10/6/13 – @ New York Giants
First look at the Eagles: If you took the bird’s eye view of the Eagles game against Denver, it looked like trouble. The Broncos had the most prolific passing attack in the NFL, and the Eagles were one of the worst teams in the NFL against the pass.
As it turns out, it was trouble.
The game went about as poorly as possible, and what looked like a game that may be competitive in the first half, fell apart in the second half when the Eagles failed to score (save for a late, oh-by-the-way touchdown pass from Nick Foles) and the Broncos and Peyton Manning did just about whatever they wanted.
To make matters worse, the special teams looked mediocre again, highlighted by an Alex Henery miss that was wide-right by about 20 yards.
If there’s a positive, it’s that the offense was able to rack up significant yardage, if not points.
First look at the Giants: If people are waiting for the Giants to finally wake up and turn it on, like they do every time Tom Coughlin seems to be on the hot seat, they may be waiting an awfully long time.
It’s true, in previous years the Giants have looked bad early in the season, only to eventually turn it around, saving Coughlin’s job and winning two Super Bowls. It seems like that narrative will be a tough putt this year. The Giants can’t run the ball, they can’t block for Eli Manning, and they’re having trouble stopping anyone. While Peyton Manning is setting records for his good performance, Eli Manning has turned the ball over more than any player in the league so far.
First look at the game: If you want to now just how bad the NFC East has been this year, you need look no further than this game. The Eagles at 1-3, and the Giants at 0-4, are still within spitting distance of the Dallas Cowboys and the division lead.
While Eagles fans may be thinking that the tougher part of their schedule is over, and the Giants game is an opportunity to turn things around, it’s quite possible that the Giants are thinking the same thing about the Eagles.
The Redskins, Giants and Eagles all have looked like the worst team in the division this year at times. This game may be the ugly tie-breaker for the title of “worst of the worst.”
Week 4 – 9/29/13 – @ Denver Broncos
First look at the Eagles: After three games in eleven days to start the season, the first time a team has had to endure that many games in that number of days in NFL history, the few extra days off to prepare for the Denver Broncos had to be a welcome sight for coaches and players alike.
After a thrilling first half of football against Washington to start the season, the Eagles have had problems on both sides of the ball.
The defense, most notably the secondary, was exploited by both Philip Rivers and the Chargers, and then to a lesser extent, Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles are 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and opposing quarterbacks have a QB rating of 96.9.
The offense has slowed down, and become less efficient. Michael Vick had his first bad game of the season, showing the decision making that made people question whether he’d be an effective quarterback for Chip Kelly’s system, which requires good decision making.
And special teams, the third “side of the ball,” looks shaky after a couple of missed field goals from Alex Henery.
First look at the Broncos: The Broncos are clicking on all cylinders, and Peyton Manning appears to be getting better with age.
After a Monday night whipping of the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos are 3-0 and the clear class of the AFC so far.
Manning has been unbelievable, with an NFL best quarterback rating of 134.7, 1,143 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions, while averaging 9.37 yards per attempt, which is best in the NFL (interesting to note that Vick is second with 9.14). Wes Welker has brought his act to Denver, catching 19 passes so far, and four of them for touchdowns.
The defense hasn’t been quite as dominant, ranking 19th in the NFL in total defense. The reasons for that could be two-fold though. They’re missing their best player, Von Miller, who is serving a six-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. But second, the Broncos have scored so many points, and been ahead by so much, it gives the other team more possessions and time to amass yards while trying to play catch-up.
First look at the game: This one has all the makings of something ugly for the Eagles.
The best passing offense in the league, led by one of the best quarterbacks of all time, who is playing better than he ever has, against arguably the worst secondary and pass defense in the NFL. And, oh by the way, it’s in Denver. There is some thought that Chip Kelly might want to slow his offense down, in an attempt to keep the Broncos and Manning’s offense off the field, but Kelly doesn’t seem like the type to make that move.
If there is a positive here for the Eagles, it’s that they are on ten days rest, while the Broncos will be on short rest after playing Monday night.
This is a tough putt for the Eagles, and seems like a difficult way to have to try and avoid a 1-3 start.
Week 3 – 9/19/13 – vs Kansas City Chiefs
First Look At The Eagles: Before the season started, the general feeling about the Eagles was that they would be exciting on offense, but because of a weak secondary and some players possibly out of position in the front seven, they’d have trouble stopping just about anyone.
It seems like “they are who we thought they were,” seems particularly apt after the Eagles’ 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Chip Kelly’s home debut featured a career day from Michael Vick, which is a good sign. A revival of Vick’s career was one of the things we all figured might be possible under Kelly. The bad sign is that the opposing quarterback, Philip Rivers, also had a career day, and feasted on a secondary that may start a revival of his career as well.
First Look At The Chiefs: The Chiefs, after week two in the NFL, have won as many games as they won all of last season. There was never a question about talent on defense for Kansas City, and they’ve been better than good on that side of the ball so far this year.
Where the Chiefs did have questions, at head coach and quarterback, have at least been solved in the respect that neither Andy Reid nor Alex Smith are egregiously bad enough to ruin a great defensive performance.
About a decade and a half ago, Andy Reid turned around the Philadelphia Eagles franchise. It appears as if he’s doing the same thing in Kansas City.
First Look At Eagles Vs. Chiefs: During the more lean years of Eagles football, ones without championship aspirations, there were only two games on the schedule that mattered; the two against the Dallas Cowboys.
This year, while even the most optimistic views of the Eagles do not end with a Super Bowl, this game against Reid and the Chiefs would seem to be the one that matters most.
It will pit an outstanding Chiefs defense against as so-far-impressive Eagles offense. It will pit a “good enough to get the job done” Chiefs offense against a “what the heck is going on here?” Eagles defense. If the Eagles have something to look forward to here for defensively, it’s that Alex Smith is not particularly adept at throwing the ball down field. They will have one of the top running backs in the NFL to try to stop in Jamaal Charles.
It’s Andy Reid Bowl on Thursday night in Philadelphia, and there can only be one winner.
Week 2 – 9/15/13 – vs San Diego Chargers
First Look At The Eagles: The Eagles debut under Chip Kelly on Monday night can be described with three phrases.
The offense started off at a breakneck pace, and didn’t seem to let up until halftime, helping the Eagles build a big first half lead. The defense did something the Eagles defense hasn’t done in what seems like years, create turnovers. It was the dawn of a new, exciting era, until… they got tired.
The team looked gassed after halftime, on both offense and defense. They still managed a couple of important stops and first downs, and did enough to hang on and get the win.
First Look At The Chargers: The Chargers debut under Mike McCoy on Monday night can be described with three phrases as well.
“Ugh, not again.”
The Chargers jumped out to a 28-7 lead on the Texans, behind four touchdown passes from Philip Rivers. And then, in what seems to be a tradition for the Chargers, they collapsed. Rivers completed only one of seven passes for eight yards in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers lost on a last second field goal.
First Look At The Matchup: The energy and excitement from Eagles fans at Lincoln Financial Field for the Eagles first home game under Kelly should be at a very high level. Michael Vick said the Eagles only unveiled about 60% of Kelly’s offense against Washington, and if that’s the case, there is probably cause for concern for the Chargers. San Diego, meanwhile, given the quarterback and the recent history, may be in the opening stages of “save the season” mode.
Week 1 – 9/9/13 – @ Washington Redskin
First look at the Eagles: This is more than a first look of this game, or this season for the Eagles; it’s a first look at an era, and perhaps a coach who could change the way NFL football is played. Chip Kelly makes his NFL debut on the biggest stage there is, Monday night football against a division rival.
It’s the first we’ll see of Kelly’s offense without anything held back. The preseason schedule gave us a taste of what the Eagles might do with the ball, but it’s widely assumed that it was just that, a taste. Most of the pressure will be on Michael Vick to make the right read before the snap, something that’s never been a strength for him. A rebuilt and healthy offensive line, and a coach who loves to run the ball, will also mean that we’ll get a look at a rejuvinated LeSean McCoy.
The scariest part of the Eagles, and we mean that in a bad way, is how they handle a lack of talent and depth in the defensive secondary, that’s also been hit hard by injuries.
First look at Washington: The Washington offense featured two of the best rookies in the league last year in quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. Griffin’s season ended with a big injury (a torn ACL) and a lot of controversy about whether he should have even been playing. The off-season has been riddled with questions about Griffin’s health, and comments from coach Mike Shannahan about some concerns Dr. James Andrews has about Griffin’s surgically repaired knee have fueled that fire.
All that said, Griffin will play, and as long as he’s able to stay on the field, will be one of the most dominant, dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, and even without a top of the line receiving corps, will lead an offense that should have no trouble scoring points.
The defense will also see the return of Brian Orakpo, whose injury last year contributed to a defense that had trouble stopping much of anyone for the first half of the season.
First look at the matchup: It’s not rocket science to suggest that there will be a lot of points scored in this one. The key to this game will be, as it almost always is, turnovers. If the Eagles can avoid giving the Redskins extra chances to score by turning it over, they’ll have a shot to win on the road in Kelly’s debut.