Dave: Tyler, it's Thanksgiving week. You know what that means: lots of food, having to watch the Cowboys, and people writing "turkeys of the season" pieces. Thing is, you can't do that this season with the Eagles. There are no duds on this team through 10 games. Their only loss came down to the last play of the game against a team that started the season white hot. Every unit of the Eagles is playing at a high level, and the coaches and front office are having great years too. This season is nuts. You look at the 8 win teams around the league and there's criticism to be had.
The Saints defense was pathetic to start the season, and we may have seen it start to come back to Earth against the Redskins. The Vikings have a QB decision to eventually make and could choose poorly, and they don't run the ball well. Despite a string of good results, Patriots defense is still suspect, they’re 31st in DVOA and 30th in weighted DVOA, so they're not trending positively. The Steelers let teams hang around way too much. The Eagles though, are near flawless. I'm not sure we've properly appreciated how complete the team has been.
Tyler: Thanksgiving week and I think the real discomfort comes from watching the Giants and Redskins ruin our evenings. Just thinking about it, that’s enough to give me indigestion.
You’re right Dave, the Eagles have no duds. They beat the Chargers, Cardinals, Redskins and 49ers, in games that were all pre-determined as duds or trap games. The fact of the matter is not only have they avoided duds, they’ve taken care of business exactly how you’d expect the best team in the NFL to do so. Just watching New Orleans struggle it overcome a 15 point deficit at home to beat the Redskins in overtime just adds perspective on how good and reliable the Eagles have been this year.
The Eagles have won in every way possible. They’ve scored in bunches against Arizona, Washington, Denver and Dallas. Their defense held against Washington, San Francisco, Dallas and Carolina. They overcame a seven point fourth quarter deficit against the Giants and deployed a near seven minute drive to run the clock out against the Chargers.
The offense and defense have been as good as advertised and the coaching adjustments made by Doug Pederson and company have been remarkable. They’ve handled adversity and kicked it (with Grugier-Hill) in the balls.
Dave: I am looking forward to the Giants-Redskins game. There's no downside. Nothing in that game effects the Eagles in any direct way. A Giants win would be best, because at this point the only thing winning does is hurt them in the offseason. Every win takes them further away from drafting a QB. Every win makes it harder to fire Ben McAdoo. So I'm rooting for the Giants. But a meaningless Redskins win after two bad losses will be good for the takes. There is no bad outcome. You're guaranteed to see at least one of them not win. A tie would be hilarious.
As for the Eagles, as you say, they've been tested in nearly every way, and succeed. It's not just the lack of dud games. It's also the lack of dud players. Isaac Seumalo was a dud to start the season, but he's played 43 snaps since Week 2, all of them either in garbage time or in a jumbo package, it’s not like he’s slowing them down. Chance Warmack was lousy, but he's played even less since the LG rotation ended. And that's it. There have been a few disappointments, Torrey Smith and Wendell Smallwood could have contributed more, but they haven't been duds. On defense, there's nothing to criticize. At this point, if we were handing out a Least Valuable Player to the team, we couldn't, there isn't anyone worthy of it. The Papa John's promotions are the worst thing going for the Eagles this year.
Tyler: Well, those are all good points for the division slopfest.
You’re right, and as far as coaching there haven’t been any duds either. Perhaps the LG rotation, but the coaching staff wasn’t stubborn when Seumalo struggled against KC. They’ve identified their issues earlier and have avoided doubling down on them, which would provide a Griswold-esque turkey.
Too often we see coaches—and members of the media, but I digress—double down on bad decisions in an effort to be right. That’s not the case in Philadelphia.
Now looking at the defense, every move has paid off! Tim Jernigan is worth every bit of the extension he signed, Ronald Darby has looked terrific in limited action and Patrick Robinson...
No turkeys here, can you believe it?
Dave: And Chris Long, who's better on (in Schwartz's defense) and off the field than Connor Barwin. The former was a low bar to clear, but the latter was a high one. And let's not forget Corey Graham. Like an offensive lineman, he's been invisible in the good way, that was a solid pick up. Those two, and all the other veteran acquisitions, have been impressive because they've all been happy to be cogs in a bigger machine. Winning sure helps, as we saw with TO having no issues in 2004 and then getting kicked off the team in 2005. Of course no one has that level of baggage, but it's a reminder that we've seen winning put a huge shine on everything.
Going back a step, yeah, I wrote about this during the bye, Doug Pederson (and his staff) quickly realizing his/their mistakes and correcting them has been impressive this season. the LG situation got fixed relatively quickly. And want to feel old? Remember those bad screen passes? They're gone. Year 3 is generally the make or break season for a head coach, so I'm hesitant to make a definitive statement (at this point in 2014, Chip Kelly had the 2nd best record in the league, though there were red flags) but over halfway through Year 2 we've got a lot more evidence that Doug Pederson is a good coach than a bad one. He's a good game planner and play caller (possibly a great one), he's made far more good in-game decisions than bad ones, he's done a good job with clock management, he's connected well with his players, he's put together an incredible staff (in fairness, some were holdovers), and most of his young players have developed under his tenure. I don't know if there are any positive boxes left to check, and while no one is perfect, I don't think he checks any definitive bad coach boxes either. Maybe everything is breaking the right way this season and Carson Wentz is such a talent that he makes everyone around him look great (remember when people thought Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were good, or how Jim Caldwell nearly went undefeated and won a Super Bowl?), but I don't see any obvious warning signs. Pinch me, the Eagles might have a great QB/HC combo.
Tyler: We’re throwing out the great word now? I can’t lie, when I was rewatching the game, looking at the second half adjustments in Dallas, great popped into my mind. Obviously Pederson has more to accomplish before we can slap that tag on him, but to see a relatively young coach making these sort of changes, and the results showing a night and day difference, it’s encouraging from an X’s and O’s standpoint. I think the biggest turkey is thinking Pederson was the least qualified person to be an NFL coach over the last 25 years or so.
Dave: I thought he was solid as a playcaller last year. There's three general categories of play callers: those who are obviously bad, such as all the OCs Jeff Fisher had with the Rams, or defensively Rob Ryan; those who are obviously great, such as Sean Payton and I think Sean McVay, defensively Jim Schwartz is one; and everyone in between, replacement level play callers, which are most coaches. Pederson is at least a replacement level play caller. And maybe that's all he is. If so, fine, "good enough" is in fact, good enough.
Agreed, the biggest turkey is Michael Lombardi. It's one thing to critique a guy's credentials before taking a job/right after he was hired, but he did it after Pederson's first year. We're past the point of qualifications Mikey.
Speaking of big ol' turkeys, what have you got planned for Thanksgiving?
Tyler: Well Dave, I actually traveled and knocked Thanksgiving out earlier in the week, so I’ll sit back and watch the Lions and Chargers secure wins to help the Eagles and turn Rudolph or the Grinch (Not the awful Jim Carey one) on instead of watching 60 minutes of cheesy post-game catch phrases and Manning faces.
How about you?
Dave: You already celebrated? Are you Canadian?
My wife is making this prosciutto-herb-butter marinade/seasoning that she does, she rubs under the skin and it's incredible. (I don’t know the details, I usually do the cooking but on Thanksgiving I just get the hell out of the way.) It's turkey marinated with meat. I don't eat a lot of turkey, I don't really like it, but this is amazing. It's the best I've ever had. We're having BGN alum Adam Hermann over, and we'll get to watch some awful football with the rest of the division playing throughout the day.
Let's do some more completely dumb predictions:
Winner of whatever post-game Thanksgiving game award they give out in the Chargers-Cowboys game:
A) Joey Bosa
B) Austin Ekeler
C) Alfred Morris
Winner of whatever post-game Thanksgiving game award they give out in the Giants-Redskins game:
A) Kirk Cousins
B) Evan Engram
C) Redskins OL
Sideline shots of Teddy Bridgewater: 4.5
Matthew Stafford fumbles: 2.5
Flashbacks of Tony Romo Thanksgiving day games: 2.5
Sideline shots of Tyron Smith if he is not active, and of Sean Lee, who has been ruled out: 1.5 per
Eli Manning intentional groundings that don't get called: 2.5
Kirk Cousins not intentional groundings that do get called: 0.5
Tyler: Full blooded American! Well half Caucasian, half Indian, but that doesn’t influence my holiday!
That sounds fantastic and I may or may not be drooling thinking about it, make sure to include the cats as well in the festivities! There’s no better way to make fun of everyone else than with a pal!
I’m going to go with other. Melvin Gordon will likely have 30 carries for 45 yards and three touchdowns, appeasing the Fantasy Gods.
For the Redskins/Giants, I’ll go other and take Josh Doctson, who will put up a Randy Moss like effort, grabbing three 50 yards passes, which feeds into his boom or bust season.
Give me the over on Bridgewater shots (a healthy 5), the under on Stafford fumbles, the over on Romo tributes, the over on both Smith and Lee and I’ll even go as far as to say one after each 20-yard run and at least one every 2 sacks, the over on intentional groundings, and the under on the Cousins groundings, although I believe the refs were referring to the Redskins’ season being run into the ground on that play by an incompetent front office and ownership that smears a GM’s reputation.
Dave: As anyone who owns cats knows, they’ll be there. I’ll go under, over, under, over, over, under, under.
To close this out, I want to hear some good Thanksgiving horror stories in the comments.