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Nine takeaways from NFL Week 9

An Eagles slant to Sunday’s action.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles were off Sunday since it was their bye. But even though it was a day of rest, the team was still impacted. Here’s an Eagles slant to NFL Week 9 action.

1 - The Eagles are still alive in the NFC East

Despite a disappointing start to the 2018 NFL season, the reigning Super Bowl champions are still very much alive in the NFC East.

The Eagles are now only one game back in the division thanks to Washington losing to the Falcons on Sunday.

1) Washington Redskins: 5-3 overall (2-0 in division games)
2) Philadelphia Eagles: 4-4 overall (1-0 in division games)
3) Dallas Cowboys: 3-4 overall (1-1 in division games)
4) New York Giants: 1-7 overall (0-3 in division games)

The Eagles still have five division games remaining on their schedule, including two matchups versus Washington. Philadelphia can carve their path to the playoffs by taking care of business against their rivals.

The bye week has the potential to get even better for the Eagles with the Cowboys playing the Titans tonight. Dallas is favored by five points at home and they’ll probably win since Tennessee isn’t that impressive (how did the Eagles lose to them again?!). But if the Cowboys DO lose, they’ll drop to 3-5 before heading to Philly on Sunday. The Eagles would then essentially be able to end their season by putting them down at 3-6. A nice thought to think about, especially with the Raiders owning the Cowboy’s 2019 first-round pick. That selection would currently be No. 14 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Regardless of what happens in tonight’s game, Eagles versus Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday is going to be a big one. Time for the Eagles to prove they’re ready to go on a second half run.

2 - Washington’s offensive line is seriously banged up

Washington didn’t just lose the game on Sunday. They also lost several starting offensive linemen.

Starting left tackle Trent Williams is reportedly expected to be out around a month with a thumb injury. There’s speculation that starting left guard Shawn Lauvao may have torn his ACL. Starting right guard Brandon Scherff might’ve suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. It reportedly looks like starting right tackle Morgan Moses might be dealing with an MCL sprain.

This is all very bad news for Washington moving forward. Their starting offensive line is one of the biggest strengths on the team. It’s not like a 33-year-old Adrian Peterson, who has 604 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season, has been opening holes for himself. And with Alex Smith prone to taking sacks, additional pressure is really not going to help this Washington offense.

Washington’s injury situation adds further credence to the idea the division is open for the taking.

3 - The Ravens are helping out the Eagles

The Ravens lost their third straight game on Sunday, dropping to 4-5 in the process. The loss to the Steelers puts a significant dent in Baltimore’s playoff hopes with Pittsburgh cementing their AFC North lead.

The Ravens’ misfortune is great news for the Eagles, who own Baltimore’s second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. If the season were to end today, the Eagles would have three picks in the top 49: No. 18, No. 48, and No. 49 from Baltimore. Still lots of time for things to change, of course. In the meantime, keep rooting for the Ravens to lose.

4 - The Eagles’ loss to the Panthers look a little less worse?

Don’t get me wrong, the Eagles blowing a 17-0 lead at home was pretty pathetic.

But it’s not like they got beat by some scrub team. The Panthers are legitimately good. They’re 6-2 and tied for the seventh best point differential in the league. Heading into this week, Carolina ranked No. 4 overall in DVOA. It’s such a shame the Eagles weren’t able to hold on in Week 7 because that would’ve been a real quality win.

An optimist can frame the Eagles’ last three games before the bye as two wins and one loss to a really good team. Maybe that bodes well for Philadelphia entering the second half of the season.

5 - The Saints are the most dangerous team in the NFC

In case you missed it over the weekend, I put together a record prediction for the second half of the Eagles’ 2018 schedule. One criticism I received is that I had the Eagles losing to the Saints twice: once in the regular season and once in a projected playoff game.

Well, now you might be able to see my skepticism regarding the Eagles’ ability to beat them, especially if the game is at the Superdome. The Saints just have so much firepower on offense and I think it’ll be tough for Philadelphia to match. Even the loaded Rams couldn’t match New Orleans’ scoring ability on Sunday.

Speaking of LA, they’re clearly an elite team in the NFC, but I do think they’re more beatable than the Saints. And I’m not just saying that because they lost on Sunday. My record prediction, which was released on Saturday, has the Eagles beating the Rams in Week 15.

6 - The NFL arms race helps to explain the Golden Tate trade

Just look at these point totals from Week 9 ...

New Orleans Saints: 45
Carolina Panthers: 42
Chicago Bears: 41
Atlanta Falcons: 38
Kansas City Chiefs: 37
Los Angeles Rams: 35

Is there any question why the Eagles, who are averaging 22 offensive points per game this season (tied for 19th), went out and traded a 2019 third-round pick for another offensive weapon in the form of Golden Tate? You have to score to keep up in today’s NFL.

While we’re on the subject on Tate, I can’t help but notice the Lions seemingly missed him on Sunday. Matthew Stafford had one of the worst games of his entire career in Week 9. Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky believes that’s not totally unrelated to Tate being gone.

When the Eagles acquired Tate, it was pointed out that his presence might better help to protect Carson Wentz because it allows Philadelphia’s quarterback to get the ball out quick to a play-maker who can generate yards after the catch. Detroit clearly missed that ability against the Vikings.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are already bonding with their new receiver.

7 - The Cardinals are admittedly stupid

I’m officially announcing that I’m banning the Arizona Cardinals from Bleeding Green Nation.

If they were going to be so reckless about making a quarterback acquisition this offseason — and they were — why couldn’t they have done it in a way that helped the Eagles? You know, maybe fork over Patrick Peterson or a couple draft picks for Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles?

But no. The Cardinals insisted on signing an injury-prone Sam Bradford to a one-year contract worth $20 MILLION with $15 million guaranteed. Everyone with a brain knew that was a horrible move that wasn’t going to work out. And hey, guess what? It didn’t work out! Bradford was rightfully benched after just three starts and now he’s a free agent again since Arizona cut him.

The hope here is that Bradford finds a way to return to the NFC East. Not to the Eagles, of course, but rather to a team that employs a man who has consistently been in Bradford’s corner throughout his career: Pat Shurmur. The early word is the Giants have no interest in adding him ... but maybe that changes after this season if/when New York moves on from Eli Manning and Sammy Sleeves becomes their new “bridge quarterback.”

One can only hope.

8 - Pass rush help might be available?

Bradford wasn’t the only notable player to get cut over the weekend. The Raiders released veteran pass rusher Bruce Irvin, who recently turned 31 years old.

Given Derek Barnett’s season-ending injury, the Eagles do have a need for more depth. Philadelphia currently only has Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, and Josh Sweat as defensive ends on their 53-man roster. Sweat’s lack of playing time in Week 8 suggests the coaching staff doesn’t really trust him, so it could make sense to bring in a veteran player like Irvin.

The problem is that Irvin still has to pass through waivers. I’d imagine teams aren’t rushing to claim his contract, which carries a $9.25 million cap number in 2019. But even if he does pass through unclaimed, there’s buzz that Irvin might prefer to sign with an obvious contender like the Patriots or a team where he has familiarity such as the Seahawks (former team) or Falcons (former Seahawks assistant Dan Quinn).

Assuming Irvin doesn’t have interest in joining the Eagles, people should perhaps be rooting for him to end up in Atlanta. That way the Falcons might cut Steven Means, who should be welcomed back to Philly with open arms.

9 - The Giants have competition for the No. 1 overall pick

If the season ended today, the Giants would be picking No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. They’d have their choice of any quarterback to replace Eli Manning.

That’s not ideal. The Eagles really need the Giants to pick up some meaningless wins here to ruin their draft positioning.

The good news is that the Giants are going to have competition for the No. 1 overall pick. The Oakland Raiders (1-7) and Buffalo Bills (2-7) look SO terrible right now. Both of those teams could feasibly lose out.

The Giants, meanwhile, are also pretty terrible. But I think they might be able to pick up one or two more wins in this final stretch: at 49ers, vs. Buccaneers, at Eagles, vs. Bears, at Washington, vs. Titans, at Colts, vs. Cowboys.

Let’s hope that’s enough to impede their ability to get No. 1 overall.

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