Oct 12, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight endZach Ertz
(86) celebrates his 15-yard touchdown catch with wide receiverRiley Cooper
(14) and guardMatt Tobin
(64) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Great conversation on the Philadelphia Eagles and their Super Bowl hopes on Thursday morning with 94 WIP’s Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis. It’s worth a listen for the complete story, but it boils down to whether this team, the 2014 Eagles, can win a Super Bowl this season.
Prior to the season I wrote that I didn’t think they could do it this year, that they weren’t ready, that they needed some more postseason experience, etc. But with the benefit of seven weeks of watching the NFL, I’m changing my mind.
Who is the most dominant team in the NFL, I ask you? Is there such a thing? The team that looks the best right now is the Denver Broncos, but we’ve all seen what happens to them in championship games. The only team that defeated them this year, the Seattle Seahawks, checked out after taking care of business in their rematch a few weeks ago. Maybe they check back in at some point, but they’re flawed.
Who else do you have? Don’t get me started on the Dallas Cowboys. I’m not buying them. The Green Bay Packers? The Indianapolis Colts? The New England Patriots? The Arizona Cardinals?
Is there anyone out there who looks unbeatable? Is there any team, as Gargano and Ellis deduced, that the Eagles line up against and you say, “They can’t win.”
I believe 100 percent that today’s NFL is set up like a Bell curve. On one side you have the few teams who are below average, who really don’t stand a chance at contending. On the other side are a few who are “sure things” to be playing in January. Most of the teams, though, are in the middle. They’re average. Something pushes them to the right or the left, into or out of the playoffs, but the lines separating all are slim. For proof, look at the Oakland Raiders, widely considered to be the worst team in the league, but with losses by five points (New York Jets), seven (Patriots), three (San Diego Chargers) and 11 (Cardinals). Look at the Eagles, considered to be one of the best, with three wins by six points or less.
Yes, for their first six games the Philadelphia Eagles have largely played like an average football team, but their record – 5-1 – is well above that, into the “sure thing” range. The difference is coaching, as it so often is in this sport. What the coach does Monday through Saturday and then how he manages things Sunday is often the difference, more than their counterparts in baseball, hockey or basketball. NFL teams do not win in spite of their coaching. They win because of their coaching.
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Think about it. Back when Andy Reid coached the Eagles, there was no questioning their preparation. They were into the “sure thing” category. They fell short, in my opinion, because as good as Reid was during the week, he was as bad on Sunday. How many times did the Eagles lose because Reid, for all his greatness, was a terrible game manager?
This version of the Eagles is probably somewhere near the line between “sure thing” and average. They’ve been playing like an average team, but Kelly has made the right moves on Sundays to propel them to victories. Now, combine that with a team that is getting healthier and should in turn have its players playing better, and there is really no reason the Philadelphia Eagles can’t win the Super Bowl this year.
I’m not saying they will, but my point is the race to the Lombardi Trophy is wide open and Philly has a better chance than many of getting their hands on it.
We have a long time to go until then, though. For now, let’s focus on the Arizona Cardinals and this week’s “Opposition Research.”
Oct 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Andre Ellington is the focal point of the Arizona Cardinals’ offense. As detailed in this report, his workload more than doubled during the second half of the 2013 season and first few weeks of 2014, something to which many attribute the team’s overall success.
How important is this guy? Check out this quote from Arizona head coach Bruce Arians:
“Asked on Wednesday how much of the offense is based on Ellington’s skills, coach Bruce Arians replied: ‘It’s about 70 percent, but then you have to watch overloading in case Stepf (Stepfan Taylor) or somebody else is in there asking them to do things they can’t do. You want to tailor in case Andre goes down, you have plenty of stuff to go around.’”
Basing 70 percent of your offense around the skills of one guys sounds like an almost collegiate approach to things, but whatever. It’s clear this is the guy who makes Arizona go and my guess is the Eagles will do everything in their power to make someone else beat them on Sunday.
“Yeah, I’m there right now,” he said in the report. “I’m actually able to lift with my upper body, which I wasn’t able to lift for five weeks or whatever it was. I definitely had a lot of atrophy, so I’m starting to get some strength back and put a little extra weight up top, which is good.”
This probably stems from spending most of his career in the AFC with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, but Sunday will mark just second time Palmer has faced the Eagles. The last time? Last season, when the Eagles hung on for a victory at Lincoln Financial Field. Palmer threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
From the same report, it would seem Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who ticked off many fans with his comments about the Eagles last season, still has a soft spot in his heart for the city of Philadelphia.
Arians coached at Temple in the 1980s and much like Dick Vermeil, he overworked himself to the point of “constant migraines” and spent a lot of time in the hospital.
That would make me hate a place with a passion, but that’s not the case with Arians. From the report:
“Oh God, I love Philadelphia,” Arians said. “I was 30, thought I knew everything. About five years later, I finally got out of the hospital and said, ‘I don’t know (expletive). But it was a great time. I gained about 30 pounds eating pretzels and drinking beer.”
Remember last season when Chip Kelly’s staff was holding up photos of the Phanatic and Rocky Balboa? I’m thinking this week the Birds just keep throwing up photos of soft pretzels and Yeungling. Distraction can be the key to victory.