The Philadelphia Eagles are now 5-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season after defeating the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 28 to 23 (recap here). Four wins in a row! Feels nice, huh? Here’s a look at everything we learned from this game.
1 - The Eagles are contenders
The Eagles are a good team, folks. This was a statement win.
No Lane Johnson. No Ronald Darby. No Darren Sproles. Jordan Hicks leaving the game early. Traveling on a short week. One-sided officiating from the refs.
The Eagles faced a lot of adversity on the road against a 4-1 Carolina team that had just beaten the Patriots in New England and the Lions in Detroit. And the Birds overcame it all to beat the Panthers.
At 5-1, the Eagles currently have the best record in the NFC. Even if the 4-1 Packers beat the Vikings in Minnesota this week, Philly will still be on top of the NFC due to conference record (the Eagles are 4-0 and the Packers are 3-1).
Now, there are still 10 games left to be played and a lot can happen in that span. But right now the Eagles are in good shape. At the very least, they’re looking like a playoff team. At their best, they could be the No. 1 seed in the conference and lock up home field advantage in the playoffs.
Who would’ve thought we’d be saying that at this point?
Once again, this team is good. The offense is balanced and efficient. The Eagles can pass. They can run. The defense can make big plays. The special teams unit is ranked No. 1 in the league by DVOA. It’s all happening for Philly.
Eagles have the most 20+ point performances (19) in the NFL since the start of the 2016 season. (Falcons and Patriots are at 18 right now.)— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 13, 2017
The Eagles have scored 20+ points in 10 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 13, 2017
2 - Carson Wentz continues to prove his doubters wrong
Take a lap, Draft Twitter.
Wentz didn’t play a perfect game on Thursday night by any means. He’s still dealing with those accuracy issues that need to go away. He also missed a WIDE OPEN Nelson Agholor on third down late in the game to seal the deal. Despite his struggles, and despite facing a lot of pressure early in the game, he still put up a very strong performance: 16/30 (53.3%), 222 yards (7.4 average), 3 TD, 0 INT, 110.7 passer rating.
Wentz proved to be money on third down yet again. He’s just so good in that area. He stood in the pocket and made a number of tough throws over the middle. He dropped some dimes along the sideline as well — such as his completions to Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Johnson.
Wentz is undoubtedly establishing himself as a franchise quarterback. He’s the whole package.
One of the things I loved most about Thursday’s game is this play.
Wentz didn’t score, and no one wants to see him get hurt doing something like this, but it’s hard not to admire his toughness. The dude is tough as nails and his will to win is strong.
The Eagles are in good shape with No. 11 under center. He’s one of the biggest reasons to feel about this team’s chances moving forward. He’s clearly the guy.
Wentz is legitimately in the MVP discussion at this point. And he’s only in the second year of his career.
Lol at these people.
Raise your hand if you bought into Carson Wentz after the best game of his career just for him to regress back to Carson Wentz in 4 days— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) October 13, 2017
3 - Doug Pederson is doing a great job
Are there even any major Doug Pederson critics left at this point? Who am I kidding, of course there are.
Well, guess what. It’s time to give the guy his due. Pederson has done a great job with Philadelphia’s offense. He’s overseen successful development from Wentz. He has his players playing hard and looking well-prepared.
I really loved Pederson’s call to go for the two-point conversion following the Panthers’ only penalty of the game. A lot of people are going to read this and think “no, it was dumb!” Relax. It wasn’t.
The Eagles had the chance to get an extra point from only one-yard away. Philadelphia employs one of the best short-yardage running backs in the league in LeGarrette Blount. Accept the penalty, get one yard, and make the game 18-10 instead of 17-10. It’s only one point, but it makes a big difference. It puts extra pressure on the Panthers and changes their game strategy.
Wentz and Pederson are a quarterback/head coach combo that Philly fans should love. They’re tough and aggressive. They play to win and that’s exactly what they’ve done so far this season. Pederson belongs in the Coach of the Year conversation.
For an example of how being too conservative can hurt your team, look no further than Ron Rivera opting NOT to go for a 58-yard field goal before the end of the first half.
4 - Philadelphia’s defense is playing at a high level
Where to begin with this unit? There’s so many performances to highlight.
The run defense seems like a good place to start. The Eagles have been very hard to run on this season. Philly only allowed Carolina running backs to gain ONE YARD on 13 carries. Cam Newton did rush for 71 yards and one score on 11 attempts, however.
The defense has done a great job of clogging up running lanes. They also defended Carolina’s passing attack well. The Eagles’ pass rush sacked Newton twiced and forced him into three interceptions. Patrick Robinson, who continues to be great, Jalen Mills, and Rasul Douglas all had one pick.
5 - Huge game for the linebackers
The Eagles’ linebackers deserve their own section because they really balled out on Thursday. Unfortunately, Jordan Hicks had to leave the game early and would not return.
But Nigel Bradham really stepped up. He finished the night with 10 tackles, two pass breakups, and one tackle for loss. The stat-line doesn’t do his performance justice. He made a few solo tackles on third downs that prevented conversions for first downs/touchdowns. He also broke up a third down pass early in the game after the Eagles’ first drive fumble. Bradham is a free agent after this season. The Eagles have to try to keep him around if he’s playing like this.
Mychal Kendricks also had a big game. I was suprised to see he had 17 tackles — 12 of which were solo. One for a tackle for loss when Newton took off running.
Huge games by NB and MK.
6 - The Eagles miss Lane Johnson but can win without him
The Eagles’ splits with and without Lane Johnson were obviously a big talking point heading into this week’s game. And for good reason. The Eagles are quite simply a much better team with Johnson in the lineup.
This truth was evident early in the game when Wentz got strip-sacked by Julius Peppers, who beat Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Wentz simply got banged around way too much on Thursday. He was hit eight times and sacked three times.
It’s good to see the Eagles could make it through a game with Big V and still win. But they seriously need Johnson back.
In other offensive line news, Jason Peters is still the GOAT.
Jason Peters put on a pass protection clinic tonight pic.twitter.com/QUHqaqsXw7— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 13, 2017
7 - Fletcher Cox is an animal
Fletcher Cox also deserves his own section because he’s a BEAST. The dude wasn’t even 100% but he gutted through his calf injury and caused problems for Carolina all night long. Cox had two tackles, 0.5 sacks, 0.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and one pass deflection. It was that deflection which caused Newton to be picked off by Douglas. Cox’s big play set the Eagles up in the red zone which led to seven points. He’s so clearly a very good player. It’s great news for Philly that he’s back on the field.
8 - Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor are finding the end zone more often than ever
Ertz only had two catches for 18 yards but both of them went for touchdowns. He’s now up to four scores on the season, which ties a career high with 10 games to play. Ertz has become such a reliable target for Wentz. They’ve really formed a lethal connection this season.
Nelson Agholor continues to stay hot as well. He had four catches for 55 yards and one touchdown working out of the slot. Nelly is up to four scores in six games this season. He only had three touchdowns in his first 28 games combined.
9 - Pete Morelli’s officiating crew is an absolute disgrace
I already detailed this topic in a separate article. [Click here to check it out.]
10 - The Eagles are in pretty good shape moving forward
The Eagles are 5-1. Let’s look at the updated NFC East standings.
1 - Eagles - 5-1
2 - Washington - 2-2
3 - Cowboys 2-3
4 - Giants - 0-5
Next up: 11 days to prepare for a home game against the Washington Redskins. As we know, the Birds already beat Washington in Week 1. Getting a sweep over them would be nice, especially after they’ve dominated the Eagles in recent seasons. Washington might be without top cornerback Josh Norman in that matchup. That would be a significant absence for them.
Now let’s look a little even further down the Eagles’ schedule.
Week 7 - vs. Washington Redskins (Oct. 23, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN) Monday Night Football
Week 8 - vs. San Francisco 49ers (Oct. 29, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)
Week 9 - vs. Denver Broncos (Nov. 5, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)
Week 10 - BYE
Week 11 - at Dallas Cowboys (Nov. 19, 8:30 PM ET, NBC) Sunday Night Football
Week 12 - vs. Chicago Bears (Nov. 26, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)
Four of the Eagles’ next five games are at home. Two of those games (49ers, Bears) look very winnable while the other two figure to be tougher on paper (Washington, Broncos). The Eagles will have an extra week of rest to prepare for their only road game: a big one against the Cowboys.
This stretch marks an opportunity for the Eagles to put home field advantage to good use and pad their record. Philly will have to play three road games in a row starting in Week 13: at the Seahawks, at the Rams, and at the Giants.
11 - Reinforcements are on the way
Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones were on the field during warmups prior to the Eagles-Panthers game. It’s unclear exactly when they’ll return but it seems like Darby could have a shot to play in Week 7 if his original recovery timeline holds true. As for Jones, he is now eligible to start practicing since the first six weeks of the season are over. That doesn’t necessarily mean Jones will start practicing yet; I’m just pointing out it’s actually possible now.
Darby and Jones aren’t the only players the Eagles could be getting back soon. One would think Lane Johnson will be ready by Monday night in Week 7. Hopefully Wendell Smallwood’s knee is OK by then. Depth players Destiny Vaeao and Jaylen Watkins might be ready to play by then as well.