The Philadelphia Eagles are now 9-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season schedule after defeating the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 37 to 9 (recap here). Eight wins in a row! Here’s a look at everything we learned from this game.
1 - The Eagles are virtually NFC East champions
The NFC East race is essentially over. Just look at the standings:
The Eagles’ magic number to win the division is down to three. That means it’ll only take three more combined Eagles wins OR Cowboys losses for Philly to officially clinch the division crown.
The earliest the Eagles can clinch is next Thursday, November 30. That situation would involve: the Cowboys losing to the Chargers on Thanksgiving, the Eagles beating the Bears this Sunday, and then Dallas losing again to Washington. Even if that doesn’t work out, it shouldn’t take much longer for the Eagles to officially clinch. The Cowboys still have to play four more games without Ezekiel Elliott.
With the division essentially wrapped up, it’s all about getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC now. The Eagles got a little help on Sunday (not that they need it) with the Rams losing, but the Vikings and Saint still won. Here’s an updated look at the NFC playoff picture.
Top six seeds
1 - Philadelphia Eagles: 9-1 overall, 7-0 conference
3 - New Orleans Saints: 8-2 overall, 6-1 conference
4 - Los Angeles Rams: 7-3 overall, 4-3 conference
5 - Carolina Panthers: 7-3 overall, 4-3 conference
6 - Seattle Seahawks: 6-3 overall, 4-2 conference
In the hunt
7 - Detroit Lions: 6-4 overall, 5-3 conference
8 - Atlanta Falcons: 5-4 overall, 4-1 conference
9 - Green Bay Packers: 5-5 overall, 4-4 conference (direct tie-breaker over Cowboys)
10 - Dallas Cowboys: 5-5 overall, 4-4 conference
Keep in mind the Seahawks and Falcons play tonight on Monday Night Football.
2 - The Eagles can still be dominant even when they don’t play all four quarters
We already saw this in the 49ers game, but it needs to be mentioned again. It’s kinda crazy how the Eagles can look out of rhythm for most of an entire half and then just crank out a blowout win anyway. It’s also crazy how the Eagles are getting contributions from so many efforts. It sounds cliche, but this is truly an entire team effort.
The Eagles are legitimately the best team in the NFL. They’re not just beating their opponents. They’re straight up demoralizing them. Philly’s dominance bodes well for the team moving forward.
Time to start booking your trip to Minneapolis, folks.
The Eagles lead the NFL with 320 points. The most through 10 games in franchise history.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
Eagles have scored 30+ points in 4 straight games, which is longest active streak in the NFL. Longest streak in Eagles history since 1953.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
3 - Carson Wentz > Dak Prescott
Again, I don’t want to hear “they’re both good.”
Prescott was very bad on Sunday night. He’s been very bad the past two weeks now, which is exactly what a lot of people expected to happen when Ezekiel Elliott got suspended.
Prescott’s last two games: 38/61, 321 yards, 5.3 average, 0 TD, 3 INT, 56.3 passer rating.
The measure of an elite quarterback in the NFL is a player who elevates his team in spite of less than ideal circumstances. It’s painfully clear that Rayne Dakota Prescott does not fit the definition.
Wentz, on the other hand, continued his MVP campaign on Sunday night. It was a shaky start, for sure, and the numbers don’t look sexy (14/27, 168 yards, 6.2 average, 2 TD, 0 INT, 95.9 passer rating) ... but I’d encourage you to not be a box score scouting fraud like some people on Twitter choose to be.
Wentz made some truly tremendous throws in key situations. His pass to Kenjon Barner along the sideline on the first drive was great. He did an unreal job of avoiding pressure to hit Alshon Jeffery for a conversion on third down. He fit the ball into tight coverage on multiple occassions in the red zone, including his touchdown passes to Jeffery (on 4th-and-5!) and Torrey Smith.
Wentz wasn’t perfect, but he WAS clutch. He’s a big driving force behind the team’s success.
Wentz is just the 4th QB since 1950 to throw 25+ TDs & no more than 5 INTs through 10 games. Others: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Y.A. Tittle.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
Carson Wentz leads the NFL with a career-high 25 passing TDs, which are the most ever by an Eagles QB through 10 games.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
Carson Wentz making it rain tuddies pic.twitter.com/5DUE6LGH1d— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
It’s laughable to suggest Prescott is better. It’s also silly to think they’re comparable. Wentz is clearly ahead of Dak.
Dak wasn’t under pressure on this throw; he had all the time in the world and threw a duck into double coverage. Can’t blame this on not having Zeke or Smith. https://t.co/DpuIcaRgDQ— Patrick (@PatrickMCausey) November 20, 2017
4 - Doug Pederson redeemed himself
Pederson had one of the worst games of his coaching career in Dallas last season. We all remember the play that took the Eagles out of field goal range. And then his poor decision to punt.
Pederson once again drew ire of Eagles fans after Philly got off to a slow start in this game. We’ve seen it a few times now where the Birds have taken some time to get going after long layoffs (Lions game after the bye last year, Washington game after Thursday Night Football this year).
But Pederson made some stellar half-time adjustments and sparked an offense that became stagnant in the first half. Kudos to Dougie P for coming out of the half running the ball.
I also just really loved some of creative play-calling. The way Pederson had three receivers and Corey Clement motion out to the right on a two-point conversion put the Eagles into a four vs. three situation. Philly easily scored. Also loved the play-action to Brent Celek on 3rd-and-inches. That provided a much-needed spark at the time.
Pederson has been having a hell of a year. There were some positive flashes of this last season, but now he’s really showing out with more talent to work with. Pederson is the Coach of the Year. And a legitimate one, at that.
Unlike the fraud who claps on the sideline, because that’s all he’s been given permission to do, down in Dallas.
5 - The Jay Train is off to an explosive start
Ajayi’s only been with the Eagles for two games. He already has 15 carries for 168 yards (11.2 average) and one touchdown. Plus one reception for 10 yards. Thanks from some help from an awesome Eagles offensive line, Ajayi’s already looking like a beast in this offense.
Jay Train isn’t the only Eagles rusher giving the team good production. LeGarrette Blount gained 57 yards on 13 carries for a respectable 4.4 average. Corey Clement, in shades of Chris Polk, scored another touchdown to go with his 50 rushing yards on six carries.
Even Kenjon Barner got in on the action! He only played two offensive snaps but he made the most of them with a 22-yard sideline reception and a 4-yard touchdown run.
6 - Alshon Jeffery is heating up down the stretch
Not unlike the Eagles in Sunday’s game, Jeffery got off to a slow start this season. But he’s started to heat up recently.
Against Dallas, Jeffery had four receptions for 67 yards and one touchdown. The one catch he made on 4th-and-5 for a touchdown was incredible. That’s a No. 1 wide receiver right there.
In his last three games, Jeffery has 12 receptions for 213 yards (17.8 average) and four touchdowns. He also has two 2-point conversions in that span, which brings him up to an NFL-leading three total conversions on the season. Jeffery’s presence in the red zone has really been helping in those situations.
After the game, Jeffery was SUPER fired up about the win. You can tell he truly loves Philadelphia and wants to be here for the long-term.
Alshon Jeffery put on a Brian Dawkins t-shirt and started dropping f-bombs after the Eagles beat the Cowboys https://t.co/uGjDAoH8gq— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 20, 2017
7 - Ronald Darby gives the defense a big boost
I can’t believe it took this long to get to Ronald Darby. Get it together, BLG.
The return of Darby clearly had a big positive impact on the Eagles’ defense. He finished with eight solo tackles, two passes defensed, and one interception.
Darby made a number of key plays in this game. He made a strong open field tackle on Dez Bryant to limit a potential catch-and-run. He broke up a fade pass for Bryant in the end zone. He had good coverage on the play where Rodney McLeod logged his interception. And then he had a pick of his own.
Darby wasn’t the only member of the Eagles’ secondary who played well. McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins also notched a pick for themselves. Jalen Mills looked good in coverage. Patrick Robinson continued his strong season.
It’s harder to pass on this Eagles team than it’s been for a long time. The combination of strong coverage and a disruptive pass rush is lethal.
And to think Sidney Jones hasn’t even played yet!
8 - Derek Barnett is a beast
Speaking of pass rush ...
I can’t get over how good Derek Barnett is already. The 21-year-old had two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, and one forced fumble on Sunday night. Oh, and he also forced Prescott into some bad throws, including an interception. This kid is the real deal.
Although the Eagles weren’t as dominant against the run as they’ve been for most of the season, the rest of the d-line contributed as well. Big Money Tim Jernigan had one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. Same for Brandon Graham.
9 - Kamu Grugier-Hill should be NFC Special Teams Player of the Week
Despite having extremely limited kicking experience, Grugier-Hill was called upon to fill in for Jake Elliott on kickoffs. Things weren’t looking great at first. One of his practice kicks into the net on the sideline went into the crowd.
But when it came to the real deal, KGH did a fantastic job of getting his kicks deep down the field. One even went for a touchback!
The NFL should recognize KGH’s efforts with a Special Teams Player of the Week award. In addition to his kicks, he also made a really nice tackle on punt coverage.
10 - The most two important words still ring true