Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eagles may benefit from schedule in NFC East quest

By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)

The NFL has done a relatively good job of having the members of each division play similar opponents over the course of a season.  For example, in 2017, everybody in the NFC East plays each team in the NFC West and the AFC West.  And, of course, they play each other twice.  While we can and should criticize the NFL for making three of the four NFC East teams (Philadelphia, New York and Washington) fly across the country up to four times, the schedule is what the schedule is.


It’s the make-up of the extra two games that, in this writer’s opinion, might greatly help out the Eagles, who are already all alone in first place in the NFC East at 3-1.  Yes, the Eagles were 3-1 last year, but this is a different/better Eagles team in a division where Dallas isn’t nearly as good as last year and the Giants have already fallen off a cliff.  Let’s take a look at the two games that are individual to each NFC East team.


It says here that the Eagles, already a first-place team, have the easiest two-game opponents of any NFC East team.  While this is being written after Week 4 and before Week 5, we can certainly draw some conclusions about the opponents for each team.

The Eagles two opponents are Carolina, in week 6 and the Chicago Bears in week 12.  Carolina was awesome two years ago (15-1, Super Bowl birth) and terrible last year (6-10).  During the first three weeks of this season, there were grave questions about Cam Newton and his shoulder.  Indeed, he was pretty bad the first three weeks of the year.

But in week 4, Newton went 22-29 for 316 yards, throwing three TDs (and one pick) while also rushing for a TD against the pretty bad Patriots defense.  Newton looked better and no matter how bad the Patriots defense is, the Panthers beat the Patriots in Foxboro.

Newton’s comments to a female reporter aside (come on, Cam, it is 2017), he looked healthier and better than he has all year for the 3-1 Panthers.  While they are 3-1, they were hammered by the Saints in Carolina (34-13) and were all out to beat the surprising Bills (9-3), also in Carolina. It says here that, even with the game at Carolina, the Eagles have an edge, especially when looking at the schedules of the other teams in the NFC East (see below).

Philadelphia has more than an edge against the Chicago Bears, who are not a very good team.  Having said that, the Bears are making the change from Mike Glennon to Mitchell Trubisky this week, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.  The Bears are 1-3 this season, don’t appear (yet) to have a QB and will play the Eagles in Philadelphia.  Big advantage: Eagles.


Washington’s two different (from the other NFC East teams) opponents are the Vikings in week 10 and the Saints in week 11.

This still looks tougher than the Eagles two games, but the Vikings have now lost rookie sensation Dalvin Cook for the season (torn ACL) and there’s a question as to when Sam Bradford will be back.  Bradford has a bone bruise (no structural damage) in his knee and has not played for a few weeks.  Case Keenum has been up and down, but he’s no Bradford.  The Vikings are 2-2, but they’ve had a tough schedule (beating the Buccaneers and Saints, losing to the Steelers and Lions (with Case Keenum having a very bad game)).

If Bradford comes back before week 10 and the Minnesota defense can play to its high potential, this will be a tough game for Washington, even in Washington.

It’s not the brutal game it once was for the visiting team to go to New Orleans, but it will still be tough for Washington to win in New Orleans.  Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and the Saints defense has played much better of late.  The Saints (2-2) have won their last two games by giving up 13 points to the Panthers (in a 34-13 win) and shutting out the Dolphins, 20-0, in London.

Historically, the Saints have been much better at home and this game is in New Orleans.  A very tough spot for Washington.


No objective football analysis would have come up with Dallas winning 13 or more games this year.  The Cowboys are 2-2, but their win over the now 0-4 Giants obviously isn’t the big win many (including this writer) thought it was after week 1.  Nor is their victory over Arizona (without David Johnson) that impressive as well.  The Broncos mauled the Cowboys, 42-17, by shutting down the vaunted Cowboys’ running game, holding Ezekiel Elliot to single-digit yards.  And then the surprising Rams beat the Cowboys in Dallas, 35-30, proving (again) that the Cowboys are weak defensively.

From a scheduling perspective, the Cowboys are in the worst shape for their “different” two games.  They have the Packers in Dallas this week and are at the Falcons in week 10.

Uh-oh!  It says here that the Cowboys will have a lot of trouble with Aaron Rodgers and reigning (regular season) MVP Matt Ryan, especially if they can’t shore up their defense.  The Packers are 3-1 after manhandling the Bears in week 4.  Their only loss is to Atlanta in Atlanta, in a game that many think might be an NFC Championship game preview.  Their defense seems to be a little better and the Cowboys are only a two-point favorite at home, meaning the Packers have a decent chance to win outright (since you essentially get 3 points when you are the home team).

As for the Falcons, they haven’t been the dominant team many thought they would be.  But they are 3-1 and beat the Packers at home, 34-23.  Having said that, the surprising Buffalo Bills did beat them in Atlanta, but it says here that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the Cowboys, with their not-very-good defense, to go to Atlanta and beat the Falcons.


It would be a waste of time to analyze the New York Giants for, essentially, two reasons.  First, the Giants are 0-4 and have eliminated themselves with end of game losses to both the Eagles and the Buccaneers.  Two, given our analysis of the two different games for each NFC East team, the Giants have already lost both games, to the Lions and the Bucs.  Had these games been in the future, or had this article been written before these games were played, an analysis would have been two tough games but probably a 1-1 record for the Giants. 


A general view of the two different games that each team has (again, as opposed to the other teams in their NFC East division) shows that the Eagles, already a game up in the NFC East, have an advantage over the other three teams. 

It says here that the Eagles have the best chance to go 2-0 in those games.  It also says here that Washington has a good chance to be 1-1 in their two games while the Cowboys have the toughest two and a decent chance to go 0-2 in their games (starting with the Packers this week).  Finally, the Giants are already 0-2 in their two games.

While you never know what is going to happen week to week in the NFL (you know, on any given Sunday …), the Eagles have the advantage in this part of the schedule.  We’ll see what happens.


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