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Six takeaways from NFL Week 9

Bye week musings.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles had a chance to relax this weekend since they were on their bye. But even though the Birds didn’t play, they were still impacted by happenings elsewhere in the NFL. Here’s an Eagles slant to some Week 9 takeaways.

1 - Everyone should be fired if the Eagles don’t win the NFC East.

Now, look, the division actually didn’t look like a total joke on Sunday! The New York Giants picked up a win. The Dallas Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers much tougher than expected.

But this division clearly stinks and the Eagles have a 1.5-game lead with eight left to play. Philly can probably clinch the NFC East by getting to 6.5 wins (half game because of their tie) and maybe even just 5.5. It’ll be incredibly embarrassing if they don’t get it done.

For even more NFC East analysis, [CLICK HERE].

2 - The NFC playoff picture is open at the top.

There’s no one juggernaut team in the NFC.

The Seattle Seahawks gave up 44 points in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Seahawks’ defense is a real concern considering they are allowing the third most points per game at 30.4.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got blown out in Tom Brady’s most lopsided loss of his career. The Bucs also didn’t look great in their Week 8 win over the Giants.

The New Orleans Saints are certainly looking better after beating Tampa the way they just did. But they only narrowly beat the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers (overtime), Carolina Panthers, and Chicago Bears (overtime) before that.

The Green Bay Packers easily beat a San Francisco 49ers team depleted by injury and COVID-19 on Thursday night. But they lost to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8 and got blown out by the Bucs last month.

The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams both have three losses after getting beat by the Miami Dolphins. The Bears wouldn’t even make the playoffs if the season ended today.

All of this is to say that there’s real parity in the NFC. If the Eagles can get their stuff together ... maybe they can go on a run!?

Okay, I’m not actually close to being at that point. We still need to see the Eagles look A LOT better than they’re playing right now. But I’m also not going to say it’s impossible they can win a wild card game.

The Eagles play the Seahawks, Saints, Packers, and Cardinals in the second half of their schedule so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against those teams.

3 - So much for that Carson Wentz vs. Nick Foles matchup?

The Bears are eighth in the NFC playoff picture after losing three straight games. It’s really no lock that they make the postseason. Their upcoming schedule:

Week 10 — vs. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
Week 11 — BYE
Week 12 — at Green Bay Packers (6-2)
Week 13 — vs. Detroit Lions (3-5)
Week 14 — vs. Houston Texans (2-6)
Week 15 — vs. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
Week 16 — at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
Week 17 — vs. Green Bay Packers (6-2)

They should be able to pick up at least two wins from that bunch and maybe they get to four. That might not be good enough considering they lose on tiebreakers to the Rams and Saints. They do have a head-to-head over the Bucs, though.

Even if Chicago does make the playoffs, it’s looking like they won’t be good enough to qualify for that No. 5 seed that the Eagles will potentially host at Lincoln Financial Field. Still time for things to change, of course, but it’s not trending in that direction with Foles really struggling.

From our colleagues over at Windy City Gridiron:

Nick Foles may have had the most misleading 300-yard outing in recent NFL history this week.

A stat-line of 335 yards with a 69.2 completion percentage, two touchdowns and no interceptions sounds like a dream compared to the quarterback play the Bears have seen from both Foles and Mitchell Trubisky this year. Don’t be fooled by the production, though: Foles struggled mightily on Sunday.

Of his 36 completions, 17 of them were thrown just five yards beyond the line of scrimmage or fewer. He had as many completions beyond 10 yards as he did completions behind the line of scrimmage: six. Something along those lines is to expected from a West Coast-oriented offense, but the general lack of an intermediate passing game, let alone a vertical game, is concerning on Nagy’s end.

Foles made his fair share of questionable decisions under center. Trubisky was blasted for his tendency to throw off of his back foot, but Foles has struggled with the exact same issue since he took over the starting job. He also had issues under pressure, taking three sacks and also causing an intentional grounding that cost the Bears more yards than a sack would have. His decision-making, mechanics, and accuracy all struggled when he was rushed, and that resulted in numerous throws into tight coverage: seven of Foles’ passes were broken up.

We all know Foles is a great backup to have around but he just isn’t a real answer as a long-term starter.

4 - Some former Eagles wide receivers made some plays.

Nelson Agholor caught his fifth touchdown pass. He’s better when he’s not a primary option; he ranks fourth on Las Vegas in targets.

No real surprise that Agholor made this catch when he consistently did that for the Eagles last year.

In that vein, also not a shock to see Mack Hollins catch a touchdown pass considering he always aligns right and assigns right.

Honorable mention: Marcus Johnson only had two receptions for 14 yards this week but he tied for a team-high seven targets!

5 - Patrick Mahomes is unfair.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP certainly has a case to be this year’s regular season MVP.

Mahomes has completed 66.9% of his passes for 8.2 yards per attempt, 25 touchdowns, just ONE interception, and a 115.9 passer rating. Mahomes has also rushed for 165 yards and two scores.

Hard not to be jealous of the transcendent 25-year-old talent, especially with Wentz struggling the way that he is. The Eagles were obviously so much fun when he was playing like an elite quarterback! Comparatively speaking, it’s been a slog ever since.

Even more unfair that Mahomes and Andy Reid are paired together. The former Eagles head coach certainly isn’t lacking creativity:

Reid is up to 85-36 in the regular season since leaving Philly. The Chiefs’ win on Sunday clinched his eighth straight non-losing season. Pretty decent.

6 - COVID-19 concerns linger.

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t force any cancellations or delays in Week 9 but there were a number of positive tests around the league, including one by Eagles safety Marcus Epps.

COVID counts continue to climb in the United States with the CDC’s data showing a daily average of 112,791 new cases over the past four days.

Navigating through this situation will only be more complicated with the NFL schedule becoming less and less flexible. We’re getting to the point where teams are running out of bye weeks to move around.

We’re all rooting for the season to be safely completed on time but it’s not perfectly clear if that’ll be possible.