The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles have no shortage of flaws.
The offense struggles to create big plays. The defense fails to stop them. The team blows big leads. The coaching could be better. The roster depth is challenged by injuries. And so on.
These issues explain why the Eagles have only won four of their eight games at the halfway point. These problems could easily linger in the second half of the season and ultimately prevent this team from repeating as Super Bowl champions.
But all hope is not lost.
There is one big reason to believe the Eagles can turn things around and make a playoff push.
Four words: Carson MF Wentz.
The Eagles’ franchise quarterback is off to a such a strong start in 2018. He’s completing 70.7% of his attempts for 1,788 yards (7.9 average), 13 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 109.6 passer rating.
Let’s put those numbers into historical context:
Wentz is the second QB in NFL history with at least 30 pass attempts and a passer rating of at least 115 in four consecutive games (Peyton Manning in 2012 with Denver).
Wentz has thrown 1+ TD with no more than 1 INT in 21 consecutive games, which is tied with Matt Ryan (12/20/15-9/17/17) for the longest streak in NFL history.
Wentz has also thrown for multiple TDs in each of his last 5 games, marking the 2nd-longest streak of his career (franchise-record-tying 7 games from 10/8/17-11/26/17).
Wentz has registered 275+ passing yards and 2+ TDs in 5 straight games, which is tied with Donovan McNabb (9/10/06-10/8/06) for the longest streak in Eagles history.
Wentz is the first QB in Eagles history to record a 115.0+ passer rating in 4 consecutive games (min. 20 attempts per game).
Wentz is the first Eagles QB to complete 70.0% of his passes in 3 straight games since Randall Cunningham from 9/6/92-9/20/92 (min. 20 attempts per game).
Project Wentz’s current stats over the rest of the season and he’s on pace to throw for 4,172 yards, 30 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Wentz’s numbers are strong regardless of circumstance. But when you consider the fact he’s coming off ACL injury, hasn’t had an ideal group of weapons to work with, and is playing behind an offensive line that ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate, well … it makes his production even more impressive.
So, to play devil’s advocate, why aren’t the Eagles winning more often if Wentz is playing so well? It’s a fair question. Part of the explanation is something that doesn’t show up in Wentz’s passing stats: his fumbles. The third-year quarterback has lost the ball seven times in six games this year. That’s obviously not good. He’s now up to 30 fumbles in 35 career games.
A closer review of those fumbles (click here) shows that they’re hardly all his fault. A number of them came from bad snaps or rookie mistakes back, as Bleeding Green Nation first noted back in 2016.
The fumbles that can more legitimately be pinned on Wentz are the ones when he’s trying to extend plays. But those turnovers are ultimately the cost of Wentz’s ability to make incredible things happen when he does hold on to ball.
And with Wentz, the good often outweighs the bad. Just take a look back at his highlights against the Jaguars in Week 8. That third down thrown to Jordan Matthews while he’s being tackled is just insane.
Highlights from @cj_wentz's three-touchdown performance in London! #PHIvsJAX #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/GkHyWZu6u3— NFL (@NFL) October 29, 2018
Another reminder that Wentz is special came when he managed to duck under Calais Campbell to avoid a sack. The thrown ended up being an incompletion, yeah, but it was an achievement for Wentz to even be able to get the ball off in this situation. Campbell admitted as much after the play.
This was a funny moment between Calais Campbell and Carson Wentz. pic.twitter.com/po3D6AWjgB— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) October 28, 2018
We already know that Wentz is capable of greatness. We nearly saw him win the league’s MVP award last year. Though he’s certainly not the odds-on favorite to take that honor this year, he at least belongs in the discussion.
Wentz can strengthen his case by continuing to shine in the second half of the year. He’s got a big test ahead of him with the Eagles playing five division games on top of road matchups against NFC juggernauts such as the Rams and Saints. Given the way he’s played thus far, there’s reason to believe Wentz can answer the call.
I know it might be tempting to look at the 4-4 Eagles and think they don’t have a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Or, heck, even make the playoffs. Again, there are legitimate reasons for worry.
But Wentz’s presence also provides legitimate reason for hope. If he can be as good as we know he’s capable of being, his success should make up for deficiencies in other areas. That’s just what franchise quarterbacks do. We often see it with Aaron Rodgers on the Packers.
Maybe the Eagles’ struggles continue and any optimism we have here at the bye will prove to be fruitless.
But maybe, just maybe, the Eagles catch fire with a red hot Wentz under center. The way they’re positioned right now, Philadelphia can’t just back their way into the playoffs. They have to go out and earn their spot. And if they do, they could be the “it” team no one wants to face in the playoffs.
Remember, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.
On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in Carson Wentz? (5 being the most confident.)
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