For all my whining an complaining about this year’s Eagles, I really do enjoy watching them play. Yeah, LeSean McCoy looks like he’s running inside an alternate universe. Sure, the secondary is a backbreaking mistake waiting to happen. Okay, Mark Sanchez is the quarterback. Alright, Zach Ertz has been a major disappointment.
All of that matters, but somehow it doesn’t. Ya see, for the first time in years, I actually believe this team can beat anyone. Every time they take the field, no matter who’s under center or which key player is injured, I genuinely think they have a shot of winning. And that includes this week’s matchup: at Aaron Rodgers’ Packers.
Hardly any of the national pundits are giving the Birds much of a chance. Vegas has set the line anywhere between 6-7.5 in favor of the Packers. Rodgers has been lights out all season, especially at home. The dynamic duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have combined for 18 scores. The opportunistic secondary has picked off 12 passes. Clay Matthews is beginning to heat up.
I get it. If I was gambling on the game (I’m not), I would back the Pack, because that’s what smart money dictates one should do. Even though the Eagles haven’t lost by double-digits since Week 15 of last year, I would have a hard time laying money on them in this one. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think they can spring the upset.
Maybe that’s what Chip Kelly meant when he was caught on camera telling a practice squad player that “culture beats scheme every time.” Those words have now become a mantra inside and outside of Philly. Hell, they even have shirts:
Lest we forget, the 2014 Eagles have lost twice by a total of 9 points with the ball in their hands inside the red zone with less than two minutes on the clock. Despite a ravaged offensive line and inside linebacking corps, an underwhelming season from Shady, suspect cornerbacks, Riley Cooper, and the Foles/Sanchez combo, they are 7-2 with the NFC’s best point differential.
Maybe I feel good about this team because Connor Barwin is beasting every single week. And Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks are meeting lofty expectations. And Jeremy Maclin is making people forget about DeSean Jackson. And Brandon Graham is emerging. And Jordan Matthews looks like the real deal. And Darren Sproles is turning into the steal of the century. And Cody Parkey is money. And Chip Kelly is never satisfied.
Even if Green Bay blows them off the field on Sunday, my confidence in this year’s team won’t be rattled. Not one bit.
Sanchez not turning the ball over was the most impressive thing about his Monday night performance. He still makes his share of WTF throws and will continue to do so (brace yourself for impending horrific interceptions). But he stepped up in the pocket, eluded pressure, and fired with velocity. His rapport with Matthews is a boon for an offense in desperate need of another downfield threat besides Maclin.
Sproles continues to be A) awesome, and B) underutilized. He needs and deserves more touches. I still can’t figure out McCoy. He just isn’t making guys miss like he did in 2013. Luke Kuechly was all over him on Monday. Then again, Kuechly is a stud, so it might be unfair to be overly critical. That said, the Shady Swerve appears to be hibernating.
Forget about the two meaningless touchdowns by Kelvin Benjamin in the fourth quarter. The Eagles thoroughly smashed the Panthers in every phase. Barwin, Cole, Cox, Logan, Graham, Thornton, Curry, and Kendricks were pests all game long. Bradley Fletcher played his best game as a pro, although I’m not convinced he will be anything close to that good against Jordy Nelson. Same for Cary Williams.
Casey Matthews once again did a solid job when called upon. He did get torched by Greg Olsen on a sweet throw from Can Newton, but Olsen is putting up numbers every week. Besides, Casey isn’t and never will be reliable in coverage. Emmanuel Acho looked okay, too. However, power rush attacks like Seattle and Dallas will prove to be much stiffer tests down the road.
A+. That is all.
For the first time in 2014, NO TURNOVERS! Hopefully that will become a trend rather than an outlier. 5 penalties for 50 yards. Hard to argue with that. A couple of procedural calls, which are always frustrating. Chalk those up to new quarterback and Evan Mathis’ first game since Week 1.
A trip to frigid Lambeau Field. Forecast calls for below freezing temps, which will have little to no impact on the outcome. Pressuring Rodgers will be critical for the front seven. If he has time to set up and pick his receiver, he will shred the secondary. Guaranteed. This Rodgers guy needs to be knocked down a peg or two. His life is too charmed: