I hate projecting. Just three weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel and call it a season. Three weeks later, the Eagles are 2-1 in their last three and are fresh off their most decisive victory of the season. I was dead wrong to write off this team, and I’m really glad that I was.
We shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves. There are still seven games remaining and if this NFL season has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. But, there are legitimate reasons to believe the Eagles can reach the postseason.
Not only because that final NFC wildcard spot will likely be occupied by a 8-9 win team, either. The Eagles have bright spots in house that can carry them to the second season.
Here are four reasons to have faith in the Eagles reaching the playoffs.
Young players beginning to find their way
One of the biggest X-factors heading into this year was the maturation process of the young corps of players throughout the roster. Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Landon Dickerson, and Davion Taylor are all first or second year players, and all of them have played a huge role in the team’s recent success.
Hurts is finally coming into his own and learning how to play within Nick Sirianni’s system. Smith is a legitimate WR1 and is continuing to prove it week in and week out. Dickerson has posted a 67.6 run blocking grade this season, 24th among all qualifying guards per Pro Football Focus. Watkins’ impact hasn’t been as huge as the aforementioned youngsters, but he’s finding ways to get involved every week.
Taylor may be the most overlooked of the group, but the Eagles defense has really improved during the time he’s been in there as the starter, especially in run defense. Through the first seven weeks, Philly allowed 133 rushing yards per game. Since then, they’ve only surrendered 80.6 yards on the ground per game.
If the past few weeks are any sort of indicator, these young players are only going to get better from here.
Newfound offensive identity
Much like the defense has improved against the run over the past three weeks, Sirianni’s offense has completely committed to the run game and it’s paid off in a big way.
They’re currently second in the league in rushing, just behind Baltimore. Over the past three weeks, the Eagles lead the league in EPA (expected points added) per drive.
During that same span, the team also leads the league in points per drive (3.23), touchdowns per drive (34.6%), and they’re second in points per game (28.0). They’ve played some stout defenses during that time as well, so it’s not just a product of a poor schedule — although I will relent the Detroit game. Denver was a top-5 defensive unit heading into Week 10.
Sirianni’s newfound offensive identity has been the key to this three-game run. Last week, we saw the best iteration of his offense to date. In the first half, he called a near perfect game. 20 runs, 20 passes, 20 points on the board.
The offense is efficient and they displayed some big play ability against Denver. If Sirianni’s group keeps trending in this direction, there’s no reason to think they can’t compete with any team they take the field with.
Whenever you’re fight for a playoff spot, tiebreakers always come into play. And the Eagles have two tiebreakers — with the opportunity to grab another one this week against New Orleans — over teams in the NFC playoff race.
The Panthers currently occupy the seventh and final wildcard spot in the NFC. The Eagles defeated them in Week 5. Atlanta is currently one spot ahead of the Eagles in the standings, and the Eagles dominated them in Week 1.
A win this week over New Orleans would go a long way in deciding the team’s fate. The Saints sit in the sixth seed right now. Having three tiebreakers with teams in the hunt will give the Eagles an edge down the stretch when it comes down to deciding who makes the dance.
Easy remaining schedule
With the exception of the Saints and Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles won’t face another team with a winning record over their remaining seven contests. They currently have the third-easiest remaining schedule in the league, with their remaining opponents posting a combined winning percentage of 0.413.
The Eagles took their lumps at the beginning of the season and they’ve made it out alive. In a sense, those tough matchups have paid off for this team. Often times, losses force a team to change their ways in order to get back on track. Philly has certainly taken those lessons and made the most out of them in recent weeks.
Typically, having all divisional games scheduled at the end of the year can be a slog. But as we all know, the NFC East isn’t exactly tough competition. Having four games against Washington and New York in the final weeks of the season could actually help the Eagles pile up wins en route to the postseason.