Plus, an updated game-by-game notebook and a chance to partner with Chris Long’s pledge
Do you realize that if the Philadelphia Eagles capitalize on their 10-day break and beat the Washington Redskins under the Monday night lights in Week Seven that they will be 6-1 overall, 5-0 in the conference and 3-0 in the NFC East?
If you’ve looked at the standings, you should. But the wins have also been stacking up so quickly that it’s hard to grasp just how good of a position this team is in right now. It’s almost harder to grasp that, a month ago, there were rumblings — misguided ones, but rumblings nonetheless — that second-year coach Doug Pederson was already an overlooked man as the leader of this franchise.
Barring a collapse of epic proportions, no one’s getting overlooked any longer. Before we take our weekly look at the game-by-game notebook, a reminder of how the Eagles got to this enviable point, here’s a glance at the second half of the Birds’ 2017 schedule:
Week 7 vs. Redskins — The biggest game of the next four weeks. Save for this year’s opener, Kirk Cousins has traditionally played well vs. the Eagles, but Philly snapped Washington’s win streak in Week One. The Redskins are feistier than we give them credit for and should make this close, but this one will also be at home with the Eagles supremely rested. The Birds should win.
Week 8 vs. 49ers — This has the potential to be an Arizona-type blowout. Maybe the Niners have something in C.J. Beathard, but this has 35 to 40 points written all over it. Trap game? Maybe. But the Eagles defense has been too active to write off for the sake of simply trying to find an “L” on the schedule.
Week 9 vs. Broncos — Here’s one that could be tougher than anticipated, if only because Trevor Siemian isn’t the scariest threat on the block. If Denver’s defense is on, this could very well be something like a 17-14 grinder. Then again, the decimated Giants found life vs. the Broncos, so who’s to say the Eagles won’t be handily favored?
Week 10 (Bye Week) — If Ronald Darby isn’t back by this point, he should be after another week of rest. Pretty good time for a break after three straight home games and an upcoming three-game road trip.
Week 11 @ Cowboys — Who knows where Dallas will be by Week 11, but this could be the biggest matchup of the year depending on Washington’s trajectory after this week’s Monday night game. Complacency cost the Eagles a road win against the ‘Boys in 2016, and this one should be a nail-biter regardless of the teams’ records. Something says Dak Prescott will be shouldering a little too much in front of Jim Schwartz’s front seven.
Week 12 vs. Bears — Home-field advantage is back to being a real thing under Pederson, so this one could offer as much blowout potential as the Niners. And yet, for some reason, Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ running back duo seem like they’d also make for spoiler material. This feels like it could swing either way — a 42-14 rout or a 23-16 upset for Chicago on a rare off day for the Eagles.
Week 13 @ Seahawks — The Eagles have lost five of their last six to the Seahawks, and Seattle is always a tough place to play, as cliche as that sounds. This is also the time of the year when Pete Carroll’s group usually starts to turn it on, so if you’re looking for the toughest game remaining on the schedule, it’s probably this one. What a statement it’d be for Carson Wentz, though, to avenge his 2016 loss to Russell Wilson.
Week 14 @ Rams — Jared Goff and Co. are not to be overlooked, which is still a little odd to say but increasingly true. Even if the Eagles escape Seattle with a win, a trip to Los Angeles immediately afterward could be problematic.
Week 15 @ Giants — New York will have a grand opportunity to play spoiler, and the roles have been reversed many times over the years. It’s easy to chalk up a “W” with the Giants still just 1-5, but the Eagles also needed a last-second field goal to beat Eli Manning the first time. Like every other divisional game, this should be close.
Week 16 vs. Raiders — What once was primed to be maybe the most anticipated showdown of the year has quickly transformed into a good matchup for Philly. Derek Carr is bound to pick it up in Oakland, but will he have help? This Christmas showdown should still warrant attention, but it’s not nearly as daunting as it once seemed.
Week 17 vs. Cowboys — If Dallas inexplicably turns things around and even beats the Eagles at its own home, this becomes ultra-important. For now, the expectation is it’ll look much like 2016’s finale, except with Philadelphia preparing for a playoff run and the Cowboys looking for an offseason confidence boost.
In case you missed it, Eagles defensive end Chris Long is donating his entire season’s worth of game checks to fund education for lower-income youth. He’s seeking $10,000 in additional pledged donations and said he plans to donate an extra $50,000 to one of the three cities in which he’s played for an NFL team.
In an effort to support Long’s investment in education and less privileged communities, we’d like to challenge you to chip in. I’ve donated to the “Philadelphia Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” fund on behalf of Bleeding Green Nation, but I’ll also ship a free copy of “The Eagles Notebook” to a random reader who does the same and donates either $10 or $25 to one of Long’s fundraisers (click here). Just screenshot your donation and share it here, with me @CodyJBenjamin or at [email protected]
Week One: Eagles 30, Redskins 17: Year Two of the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson regime started with the Birds ending a five-game losing streak to the Redskins at FedEx Field, where Jim Schwartz’s front-four rotation led the way. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan combined for four sacks and two forced fumbles, the second of which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Cox, sealing a two-score, fourth-quarter lead. After fellow cornerback Ronald Darby was carted off with an injury, Jalen Mills also aided an Eagles “D” that gave up just 64 rushing yards and three third-down conversions, intercepting Kirk Cousins on a red-zone pass when the ‘Skins trailed by two. With uneven protection and a non-existent running game, Wentz (26-39, 307 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INTs) was the victim of a Ryan Kerrigan pick six but channeled his inner Donovan McNabb on an opening-drive scramble and 58-yard TD heave to Nelson Agholor, then extended plays with tight end Zach Ertz (8 receptions, 93 yards) to set up three Caleb Sturgis field goals and a Gatorade bath for Pederson.
Week Two: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20: Late-game grit and a stout start for Jim Schwartz’s defense weren’t enough for Doug Pederson to best ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs used a 53-yard touchdown run from rookie Kareem Hunt, back-to-back fourth-quarter scores and six sacks of an overburdened Carson Wentz to decide a close one. Big stands from a banged-up Eagles secondary offset a rare Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return inside Birds territory, holding Kansas City to a 6-3 halftime lead, but heavy pressure on the Eagles QB led to a tipped interception and more red-zone chances for Reid’s unit. Still, Wentz (25-46, 333 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) started efficiently (7-of-9), spread 19 first-down throws to Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Zach Ertz and scrambled his way to a team-high 55 rushing yards on another dismal day for the backfield. Down two scores with :14 left, his 9-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor preceded a perfect onside kick from fill-inJake Elliott, who made up for an earlier 30-yard field goal miss and set up a game-ending Hail Mary try.
Week Three: Eagles 27, Giants 24: They were without four injured starters on defense, gave up 366 passing yards to Eli Manning and lost a 14-0 lead after 21 unanswered Giants points, but Doug Pederson found — and stuck with — a rushing attack, not to mention a clutch kicker, as the Eagles sent New York to 0-3. LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement battered their way to a combined 160 yards on the ground, the former putting Philadelphia up 7-0 in the first. Clement tied the contest at 21 on a 15-yard fourth-quarter run after back-to-back-to-back TDs from the Giants — two acrobatic grabs by Odell Beckham Jr. and a 77-yarder by Sterling Shepard. But rookie kicker Jake Elliott, in his second game replacing an ailing Caleb Sturgis, was the real Eagles hero, booting a team-record 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Carson Wentz (21-31, 176 yards, 1 TD) again found tight end Zach Ertz for a score, while the Eagles “D” had a goal-line stand and stout play from young cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, the latter of whom had a pick along with Patrick Robinson.
Week Four: Eagles 26, Chargers 24: With Eagles fans turning Los Angeles’ StubHub Center into an unofficial home game, Doug Pederson kept the pedal to the metal, pushing Philadelphia atop the NFC East with a run-first approach sans an injured Darren Sproles. LeGarrette Blount (16 carries, 136 yards) led the way with a 68-yard Marshawn Lynch-esque gallop on a fourth-quarter drive that prefaced a diving Wendell Smallwood (79 total yards) touchdown and helped the Eagles dominate time of possession. Corey Clement also got five third-down carries for an offense that didn’t turn the ball over and set up four field goals, including a 53-yarder, from Jake Elliott. The Chargers kept it close as Philip Rivers (347 yards) extended drives with Keenan Allen, found Tyrell Williams for a 75-yard score and pulled L.A. within two with 6:48 to go shortly after a 35-yard TD run by an untouched Austin Ekeler. But the Eagles defense set the tone with an opening-series takeaway, a Chris Long strip sack, and helped establish an early 7-0 lead on a throw from Carson Wentz (17-31, 242 yards, 1 TD) to Alshon Jeffery.
Week Five: Eagles 34, Cardinals 7: A career day for Carson Wentz (21-30, 304 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) and a suffocating start for Jim Schwartz’s defense all but put the Cardinals away after one quarter, when the Eagles led 21-0 after consecutive Doug Pederson-scripted marches down the field. A 15-yard lob from Wentz to tight end Trey Burton started the scoring, and a 76-yard punt return from recently reacquired Kenjon Barner (133 total yards) preceded TD passes to Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith, the latter of whom went 59 yards. Arizona’s Carson Palmer found John Brown for a second-quarter TD, but otherwise, the contest was all Eagles — the D-line got in Palmer’s face, the Cards got just 31 rushing yards and Philly’s Patrick Robinson broke up pass after pass, also blocking a field goal try. Barner and LeGarrette Blount also found lanes vs. a typically feisty Arizona “D,” and receiver Nelson Agholor’s 72-yard third-quarter bomb, with a juke and backward fall into the end zone a la DeSean Jackson, was the icing on the cake. Safety Rodney McLeod forced a fumble to stop a potential last-minute Cards TD.
Week Six: Eagles 28, Panthers 23: On the road with three days of rest, the Eagles overcame 10 penalties -- to Carolina's one -- and a scrappy Panthers defense that capitalized on injured tackle Lane Johnson's absence to pressure Carson Wentz and force an opening-drive fumble. Quarterback Cam Newton kept Carolina close with a 16-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10, plus a late throw to rookie Christian McCaffrey that kept his team within one score. But Philly also engulfed his ground support via linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham (25 combined tackles), and cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas all intercepted him -- Douglas after Fletcher Cox pressure, Robinson off a juggled dump-off and Mills on a wayward deep ball that headlined back-to-back defensive stands with about three minutes left. Two of the turnovers came deep in Panthers territory, where Wentz (16-30, 222 yards, 3 TDs) found Ertz for two TDs and, later, slot receiver Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard catch-and-run. A two-point try and two Jake Elliott field goals at one point had the Eagles up 28-16.
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