Last week Sports Illustrated and the MMQB crew put together their NFL power rankings, and one of the most controversial rankings seems to be the Eagles landing in the top 5.
After supposed backlash, Albert Breer offered this justification for the group ranking:
“I know Philly fans have spent the balance of the offseason freaking out over the Eagles’ receiver situation, and the corner situation, and are acting as if we weren’t calling this the most talented roster in football nine months ago. The truth? The truth is Philly spend a first-rounder to address the former (Jalen Raegor), picks, cash and cap space to address the latter (Darius Slay), and is still sturdy along the offensive and defensive lines, which is a much better indicator of an NFL team’s success than the flashier spots. Bottom line, this is still a very well-conceived team with very good talent. If—and I understand that this is a big if—Carson Wentz is healthy and himself again, this is 100% a top five team.”
There you have it. Breer makes three excellent points.
1) I’ve been whining about the secondary problems for years, and the front office finally stepped up to the plate with Slay and a handful of additions (Parks, Robey-Coleman, Wallace) to add top-end talent and depth. The same is true for receiver—every single Eagles fan was pounding the table for a wideout, and drafting Reagor obviously satisfies that. Throw in the picks of Hightower, Watkins and a trade for Goodwin and it’s clear Howie followed through on both directives, and improved two clear weaknesses.
2) The next, and best point Breer makes is that the team is still loaded on the offensive and defensive lines. That’s absolutely the case, and we know this is where football games are decided. The only thing I’ll push back on a little is that they could use another presence on the edge—with that said; Hargrave, Cox, Graham, and Barnett will be a top-three front in terms of stopping the run.
3) The third and most obvious point Breer makes is Wentz. He offers the caveat of Carson’s health, *eye roll*, but he points out that if he’s “himself” then Wentz is an elite QB in his prime on a “very well-conceived team with very good talent.”
Between addressing the team’s biggest weaknesses, preserving a dominant group along on the offensive/defensive lines, and the presence of a healthy Wentz, the Eagles are “100% a top 5 team,” according to Breer.
I have to agree with all of those points, and when you really look at the other teams you could put ahead of the Eagles, the case becomes all the more clear.
The locks: Chiefs, 49ers, Saints
These are indisputable. The defending Super Bowl champion, the reigning NFC champs, and the team with arguably the most complete roster in football.
The “kinda” lock: Ravens
SI has Baltimore ranked #2, but I think they’re the most disputable of the top four. Lamar is great but I’ll take a healthy Wentz over him any day—hands down. Beyond Lamar they don’t have the offensive weapons that the Birds do, and while they have an elite defense for sure, the argument could be made that Eagles defense really closed a gap this offseason.
It’s not all that clear who fans/analysts think could be ranked five over the Eagles. SI has Seattle at 6, Green Bay & Tennessee tied at 7, followed by Buffalo and Dallas at 9 & 10.
Debatables: Seahawks, Titans
Not-so-debatables: Cowboys, Bills, Packers
Obviously Buffalo and Dallas aren’t in this conversation, and the idea that Green Bay should be any higher than 7 is equally laughable given the disgrace of an offseason that they’ve had. Which leaves Seattle and Tennessee as the two teams we’re measuring the Eagles against.
Seattle is a little more interesting, but I’ll make the case for why they aren’t quite there. Sure, the addition of Quinton Dunbar is a step in the right direction, but they didn’t really upgrade the pass rush (unless they retain Clowney) and they still have holes along the offensive line. They’ll definitely address some of those problems before the season starts—and you can never be down on a team led by Russel Wilson and a strong running game—but Seattle is still a notch behind the rest in the NFC, and Wilson masks a lot of real problems for them, whereas Wentz should be working with a far more complete roster in 2020.
Tennessee is sort of the inverse of Seattle. They have an equally as, if not more complete roster than the Eagles, but they lack an elite QB or star player on offense that would make the case for top-5 more simple. Assuming the Eagles stay relatively healthy this upcoming season, the presence of Wentz and his weapons on the outside gives them a slight edge over Tennessee in my book. Though if you believe the Birds’ pass rush and secondary is still underwhelming, then you have a good case—the Titans certainly don’t have those problems.
With all that being said, the Eagles are easily a top-seven team in football, with a strong case to be made for cracking that top-five. There’s no sense in splitting hairs over these meaningless rankings in May, let alone during the season, but it serves as a reminder that a healthy Eagles in 2020 is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.