It’s time for Philadelphia Eagles fans to start saying three elusive words
By Matt Giraldi
The Philadelphia Eagles are officially Super Bowl contenders.
It has been 12 years, 8 months and 9 days since the Philadelphia Eagles last played in the Super Bowl. After six regular season games, it’s time for them to be taken seriously. While head coach Doug Pederson wants to temper expectations during the long week ahead, it’s tough to not be excited. This team is legitimately good.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one reason why the Eagles have been successful this season. Is it the rapid development of quarterback Carson Wentz? Perhaps it is the team’s effectiveness on third downs. The secondary has exceeded expectations. Actually, that’s perhaps the biggest understatement of the century.
Above all else however, the Eagles have handled adversity unbelievably well. The Eagles are 4-0 in the NFC. They were a Hail Mary tip away from forcing overtime against the only undefeated team in the NFL. All of this has come with injuries at key positions.
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A laundry list of injuries normally brings a team down. Ronald Darby dislocated his ankle Week One. Darren Sproles tore his ACL and broke his arm Week Three. Safety Rodney McLeod missed time due to a hamstring injury. Fletcher Cox missed two consecutive games with a calf injury. Lane Johnson missed Thursday’s game against the Carolina Panthers due to a head injury. All the while, the team continues to win.
“Next man up.” “Cowboy up.” Whatever the phrase, the Eagles are the embodiment. The players on the field are making plays at key junctures of the game. Of course, Wentz is far and away making the biggest plays at the biggest times. Perhaps you’ve heard about his success on third downs. Wentz is 37-of-52 for 574 yards with six touchdowns and one interception on third downs this season.
What you might not have heard is how successful the defense has been on third downs. Thus far this season, opponents have converted 24-of-73 (33%) third downs. That mark is fourth best in the NFL. Last season, the Eagles allowed 82-of-205 (40%) third downs to be converted. The defense could owe the offense a big thanks.
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According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles are averaging 6.61 offensive plays per drive, third best in the NFL. The Eagles are also averaging three minutes and 16 seconds per drive, tops in the league. Long gone are the Chip Kelly days.
Of course, Pederson and company haven’t won anything quite yet. The regular season is still only 37.5% completed. The Eagles also have four more divisional games remaining, including a Monday night game against the Washington Redskins next Monday. There’s also two games late in the season against the Dallas Cowboys. Whether Ezekiel Elliott will play in either is still up in the air though.
The team will likely deflect any talk about being contenders right now. For the time being however, it’s perfectly acceptable for fans to acknowledge that this team has the look of a Super Bowl contender. The likelihood they make the playoffs is currently hovering above 85%. Even Las Vegas has taken notice. Following the Eagles’ win against the Carolina Panthers, the team is now sitting at 8-to-1 odds to make the big game. They opened at 50-to-1. Fly Eagles fly.