and not just because they are the next game!
With a little help from DVOA over at Football Outsiders (note all rankings below refer to DAVE), I decided to examine the upcoming Washington game as a test of the rest of the season. Here are my thoughts.
We have faced one great team at home and lost what turned out to be a close game. GB is currently ranked #2. True, we did lose, but we didn’t have what turned out to be our starting QB on the field for half of the game. For all those who say the only reason Vick did well against GB is because they didn’t have time to prepare against him, I say balderdash! Vick didn’t have time to prepare, either. Kolb had almost 100% of the practice and preseason snaps with the first team, not Vick. It’s not every day that a backup can come into a game against one of the top defenses in the league and throw up a 102 QB ranking against them. Just ask Kevin Kolb, who didn’t do so well 2 years ago, even though Baltimore didn’t have time to prepare against him!
We have faced and beaten 2 bad teams on the road, one close and one a total domination. Why is Washington therefore so important? They are the first truly mediocre team we will have faced. This will be an important test, because we have so many mediocre teams remaining on our schedule this year. Yes, that schedule which looked sooo scary in preseason is looking a lot easier now. A fading Favre, an imploding NY and SF, and an aging Dallas suddenly don’t look so tough.
We will face only 2 more teams currently in the top 10, Indy and Atlanta, both at home. We face 3 teams ranked at #20 or below. The remaining 10 games are against teams which fall more or less right in the middle third of the league, pretty much where Washington is. So this is the most important game of the season in terms of finding out what kind of team we have.
If we lose to Washington, we’ll be sitting at 2-2, and likely will be looking at 3 sure wins, and maybe another 2 or 3 wins we can pick up along the way. Call it a 7-9 season with a loss. Win a close one, and we’ll be at 3-1, heading into 8-8 or 9-7 with a little luck.
But elite teams do not lose to mediocre teams, and they usually don’t play them close. Elite teams stomp mediocre teams into the ground, and don’t give them a fighters chance late in the game. Are we an elite team? Our performance against Washington is a good chance to find out. A dominating win, where Washington has no real shot going into the 4th quarter, will put my mind at ease with a resounding “Yes!” A dominating win, and the Eagles are looking at 10 wins, minimum. Depending on how things break, we’ll likely be looking at winning the NFC East and a first round bye, setting up a rematch in Green Bay for a chance to go to the Superbowl. Too soon for such talk? Not if the Birds can take it to the Redskins like I think they might.