Any observer who follows the NFL on a weekly basis can tell you it is incredibly unpredictable. There was a strong contingent of folks who prior to the season believed the New York Jets would not win a game. They already have four victories through nine games.
The L.A. Rams, who won all of four games last season, are off to a 6-2 start.
Jacksonville has a better record than the NFC champion Falcons.
Even Cleveland ... oh wait, never mind. But you get the point. There's a reason why Vegas has all of those big, fancy buildings and why your friendly neighborhood buddy who you call every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday continues to keep taking those calls. They're making money off of you and the betting public because this is a tough league to predict.
It's difficult to win on a weekly basis in the NFL. Which makes the Eagles' 8-1 start and streak of seven straight wins that much more impressive. Simply put, they have played better football than any other team through nine games. This has been no fluke. It should be pointed out, however, that in those first nine games, only two of those teams currently have a winning record, the Chiefs and Panthers. Certainly not the Eagles' fault — they've contributed to the fact that the Redskins are 4-4, handing them two of those losses. But the schedule gets tougher down the stretch as they face 5-3 Dallas twice, the 6-3 Seahawks and the aforementioned 6-2 Rams. Three of those games come on the road.
And while the Eagles themselves have suffered some major losses with season-ending injuries to Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles, the teams they have coming up over their final seven games will be without some big-time firepower as well. Let's take a look.
Cowboys — Week 11 and 17
Stop me if you've heard this before but Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. At least for right now. The Birds would miss him a week from Sunday at Dallas. He would be eligible to return for the season finale in Philadelphia. Who knows if that game will hold any meaning to the Eagles. Elliott rushed for an NFL-high 1,631 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns as a rookie and was the second-leading rusher this season prior to the suspension.
The Cowboys are a vastly different team without Elliott and there will be a great deal more pressure on Dak Prescott if their run game does not flourish with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Not to mention a defense that could be exposed if the Cowboys can't control the ball or put up a lot of points.
Seahawks — Week 13
The Seahawks were dealt a major blow when they lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season to a torn Achilles Thursday night. Sherman is a shutdown corner who has accumulated 32 interceptions in seven seasons. And at 6-foot-3, he is a physical, willing tackler. Sherman's absence will really change the dynamic of a Seahawks defense that, while still very good, is not quite what it once was a few years back.
With Sherman in the game Thursday, Cardinals QB Drew Stanton rarely threw to his side. Once Sherman left, the Cardinals threw to that side with regularity.
Giants — Week 15
New York is a hide-the-children-and-pets kind of bad this season. Ben McAdoo and his coif shouldn't be buying any green bananas but this was a team that won 11 games and made the playoffs last year. So what happened? Injuries for one. The Giants will be without arguably the league's best receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 15 vs. the Eagles, not to mention Brandon Marshall.
Injuries aren't the only reason this team is 1-7. They've had players go AWOL, their O-line stinks, Eli Manning may be nearing the end of the road, and McAdoo appears to be lost. But no Beckham in a game that late in the season that may have major playoff implications for the Eagles. It could be huge. Especially coming off what appears a very tough back-to-back on the road at Seattle and at Los Angeles against the Rams.
I, for one, don't subscribe to the "give me the other teams' best" school of thinking. If the Eagles can miss Elliott for a game, or Sherman, or OBJ, great. When you've never won a Super Bowl, I'll take the path of least resistance. I'm pretty sure Cowboys or Rams fans aren't shedding any tears over Jason Peters being out in those games. Take it any way you can get it. And enjoy the ride.