How The Eagles Can Still Win The NFC East

Sunday’s matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys is the latest example of why numbers can be deceiving.  In a 49-38 loss to the Browns, Dak Prescott threw for 502 yards on 58 attempts and threw for four touchdowns. Amari Cooper had 12 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, and first rounder CeeDee Lamb caught his first two NFL touchdowns.

Photo: (Cowboys Receiver Ceedee Lamb catching a touchdown pass in their 49-38 loss to Browns on Sunday. Fort Worth Star Telegram)

The Cowboys offense hasn’t been the problem so far this season, in fact Dallas’ defense has allowed 36.5 points per game which is the worst in the NFL by a wide margin. It doesn’t seem like the hiring of Super Bowl winning coach Mike McCarthy has changed much for the team either. After giving up nearly 50 points and 307 rushing yards to a Browns offense that was missing Nick Chubb for a majority of the game, the Cowboys fell to 1-3 and third in the division.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Night Football, Carson Wentz was looking to win a primetime game against the 49ers, with Greg Ward as his WR1. Suddenly this Eagles team is exactly where they were towards the end of the year and playoffs last year. Somehow, Desean Jackson, Alshon Jefferey, and Jalen Reagor are all injured and are slated to miss more games. There is no denying Carson Wentz hasn’t been good to start the season. In fact, he wasn’t even particularly great in this game. But the Eagles defense stood strong, and gave the offense some much needed help. The Eagles currently lead the NFL in sacks with 17, and this will be a huge factor for the team going forward. The Eagles defense sacked 49ers QBs five times in this game, and had two interceptions, including a game sealing pick 6 by linebacker Alex Singleton. After going up 25-14 the Eagles were able to hold on and win 25-20. With this win, The Eagles move to 1-2-1 and miraculously take sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Photo: (The Eagles’ defense celebrates after a turnover in Sunday night’s win over the 49ers. Bleeding Green Nation)

 Reason 1: Weakness of Division

The NFC East has a collective record of 3-12-1 so far this season. No other division in the NFL has less than 7 wins overall. The NFC East has become a punchline for people that talk about the NFL, but for good reason. Starting from the bottom, we have the winless New York Giants who lost again to the Los Angeles Rams 17-9 on Sunday. Daniel Jones hasn’t thrown a touchdown since the first game of the season, and the Giants have scored 9 points in back to back games. Losing star running back Saquon Barkley early in the season has pretty much eliminated any chance of the Giants competing for the NFC East. 

Next, the Washington Football Team who has lost 3 straight after their Week 1 upset win over the Eagles. After sacking Carson Wentz 8 times in their opener, their defensive front has come back to Earth, and have totaled 6 sacks since that game. Second year quarterback Dwayne Haskins doesn’t look ready to lead this team, and when he’s not throwing to Terry McLaurin, this offense looks way below average. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson has scored a touchdown in 3 straight games, and seems to be one of the few bright spots for Washington on offense.

With this defense, it will be interesting to see how long Washington sticks it out with Dwayne Haskins,  because this team is a quarterback and another receiver away from being a good team. Even with their current situation, they are above the Cowboys and are sitting in second place at 1-3.

Once again, we revisit the Cowboys who have managed to be more disappointing than an Eagles team who has lost to Washington, and tied with the Bengals. Some may even argue that America’s team should be 0-4 which seems way more daunting than 1-3. Their only win of the season came in their improbable 15 point 4th quarter comeback against the Falcons. The Cowboys needed to recover an onside kick in order to have a chance at winning that game. They did end up recovering, and winning that game, but their last 2 games have told the story. Dak Prescott leads the league in passing yards with 1,690 through 4 games. It just seems like those yards never result in wins. Dallas’ defense is historically bad and has also developed a turnover problem which has snowballed into more problems for the defense. To say the least, the Cowboys are beatable, and are not the guaranteed commodity everyone was making them out to be. 

Photo: (Every Cowboys player PFF Rating on Defense. PFF)

Reason 2: The Hope That Miles Sanders Can Be The Best Player On The Offense

If the Eagles have any chance of winning the NFC East, they need Miles Sanders to be THE guy on offense. With the injuries to the offensive line, his job has become increasingly difficult this season. After missing the first game of the year, Sanders has eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards in 2 of the 3 games he’s played. Interestingly enough, his worst game was Sunday, in the Eagles first win of the season. He only managed 46 yards on 13 carries, and added another 30 through the air.

 From what I’ve seen the Eagles are at their best when Miles Sanders is getting loose, and gaining yards early and often. With lackluster receiver talent, a solid running game will be the key for the Eagles on offense. Opposing teams will most likely begin to stack the box if the Eagles continue to have struggles passing the ball. The only way for play action to be effective, is if the running game is working. I think the running game is the most important aspect of the Eagles offense. Running efficiently will only open up the field for guys like Zach Ertz and Greg Ward on play action. The Eagles should be a run first offense, and so far it doesn’t seem like Doug Pederson plans on being that kind of team. 

Photo: (Miles Sanders running for a first down in a 2019 game. NJ.com)

Reason 3: Carson Wentz’s Track Record With Below Average Weapons

Stop me if this sounds ridiculous. The Eagles suffer a boatload of injuries to offensive linemen and pass catchers on offense. The team is forced to call up practice squad receivers, and ask Carson Wentz to take all of that on the chin and go out and win them the division. Oh wait, isn’t that pretty much exactly what happened last year? Wentz and the Eagles won 4 straight games to close out last year, and get into the playoffs. In those 4 games, the Eagles were in a very similar position, with Greg Ward, Zach Ertz as the only real pass catching options. At least then, Dallas Goedert was playing, but without him for at least another few weeks, Wentz is working with one of the worst skill position groups in the league.

Photo: (Carson Wentz avoiding a sack in Sunday night’s 25-20 win over the 49ers. PennLive.com)

My point with all of this, is that Carson Wentz has already shown everyone he doesn’t need star receivers to win games. If Wentz can contain his interception problem, and become more efficient, there’s no reason why the Eagles can’t go on a run at some point and sneak out 1st place in the NFC East. The Eagles will need to keep playing above average on defense, and continue to get to the quarterback if they have any chance of beating good teams. With the way things are looking, 8-8 could be the record that ends up winning this division, and that seems realistic for the Eagles.

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