NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

After beating up on the Cardinals, 34-7, in Week 5, the Eagles traveled to North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup against the Panthers. The Birds would use another composed and meticulous performance from Carson Wentz to sneak past the Panthers, 28-23.

Wentz finished with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns — backing up his best performance of the season so far in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

A victory over the Panthers puts the Birds at 5-1. They now hold the best record in the NFC and a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Redskins, who sit at 3-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to Washington, which is coming off of a 26-24 victory over the 49ers.

Before the Birds host Washington on Monday night, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up three spots to No. 2
Florio wrote, “Carson Wentz needs to avoid contact, or the Eagles won’t be able to avoid having to play multiple games without him.”

Wentz has been hit a total of 41 times this season on dropbacks, the eighth most in the NFL. And that doesn’t include the number of times he has been hit when running. Wentz has to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting hit because the Eagles would take a huge hit in performance, morale and confidence if he were to be out for a significant amount of time.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 2
Harrison wrote, “Two things I like — LeGarrette Blount getting 14 carries. Keep working him. Also, Nelson Agholor contributing big plays including the touchdown reception to end a second-half drive.”

Agholor received a lot of criticism the past two seasons because of his inability to catch the football and deservedly so. He has had a solid start to the season thus far. In total, he has caught 20 balls on 30 targets for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns through six games this season are more than his total in his previous 28 games (three). Agholor has become a large part of the passing offense along with tight end Zach Ertz. Don’t expect it to change.

USA TODAY: Up three spots to No. 2
USA TODAY wrote, “Fletcher Cox leads front four that anchors league's best run defense and consistently jeopardizes quarterbacks without much blitz help."

Cox has been invaluable for the Birds this season and as a result, the run defense is in the top five. In the four games he has played this season, he has six total tackles and 2½ sacks. The Eagles haven’t been rushing more than four on most occasions and have been able to get to the quarterback with ease. Moving forward, Cox’s value is huge to disrupting opposing offenses because of his size and speed in the middle of the line.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 2
Schwab wrote, “A good argument can be made for them being No. 1. However, they played the No. 1 team and lost. It was a competitive game in Kansas City, but it’s still part of the resumes.”

Each rankings outlet used in this piece outside of The Washington Post is reluctant to put the Birds at the top spot. While losing to the Chiefs in a close one at Arrowhead could be the tiebreaker for most, I think it is worth considering the Eagles at No. 1. The Chiefs losing at home to a lost Steelers team is something to be taken note of for later.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot at No. 2
Prisco wrote, “They are on a roll and showed at Carolina that they are one of the best teams right now. The defensive front is nasty.”

Last week, I wrote the game against Carolina was the Eagles’ biggest test thus far and they passed with flying colors. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated because of a late Carolina touchdown. Cam Newton didn’t have any time to throw and his three interceptions came as a result of the defensive front for the Birds stepping up once again.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Up two spots to No. 1
Maske wrote, “They have earned the top spot after an impressive triumph Thursday night at Carolina. Second-year QB Carson Wentz is getting better all the time while utilizing the help he has around him on a bolstered offense.”

Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top and they have earned it. The fact of the matter is rankers can’t come to terms with the Eagles at the top because of what happened last year after a 3-1 start. Waiting in the wings on Monday night is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who are looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance against the Eagles in Week 1.

ESPN: Up two spots to No. 2
ESPN wrote, “The 5-1 start to the Eagles' season is bolstered by the fact they've won three on the road. Now they get to play their next three at home, where they're 2-0 this season and 8-2 over the past two years.”

Lincoln Financial Field has been good to the Eagles over the last two seasons and fans should expect the Linc to be filled to capacity on Monday night. The buzz surrounding the team continues to grow exponentially. Now all the Birds have to do is keep the momentum going.

Eagles Film Review: Shaq Thompson is no match for Nelson Agholor


Eagles Film Review: Shaq Thompson is no match for Nelson Agholor

Coming into Thursday night's game, the Eagles thought they would have the chance to exploit a mismatch against the Panthers' defense. 

They were right.

At times, the Panthers like to stay in their base defense, which means lining up linebacker Shaq Thompson on Nelson Agholor. While Thompson is a pretty athletic guy for 6-0, 230, he's not nearly quick enough to match up with Agholor, who is having a great season. 

Through six games this season, Agholor already has 20 catches for 321 yards and four touchdowns. After a terribly disappointing start to his career, it appears Agholor has finally figured it out as the Eagles' slot receiver. 

On Thursday, he had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Most of that came against Thompson. When lined up against Thompson, he had two catches for 48 yards, including the fourth-quarter touchdown. 

"They've done that in their past. Shaq's a tremendous athlete and very gifted," head coach Doug Pederson said. "[He] can run, [he is a] physical linebacker, [and] plays a lot like a nickel DB. It just so happened that he thought Nelson was going to — great move, great move at the top of the route. He juked him to the outside and he bit on the play and then Nelson broke inside. Carson (Wentz) made a very accurate throw for the touchdown. But that's something they've shown even leading up to the game."

We'll take a look at the touchdown, but first a look at an early reception: 

Agholor (circled) has plenty of space on 3rd-and-5. It looks like he's not covered, but he is. Linebacker Shaq Thompson (also circled) is about drop in coverage. 

At the top of Agholor's route, Thompson actually has pretty good coverage. After all, he's a really good athlete for a linebacker, but it's not going to be enough. Carson Wentz has plenty of time in the pocket; his offensive line is doing its job. 

Agholor wasn't his first read on this play. But Wentz doesn't like what he sees on the left side of the field where Torrey Smith is working. 

Now, Wentz has locked in on Agholor, who has gotten behind Thompson in coverage and he's about to slip to his right and get open. The deep safety sees it too. He's going to start driving toward the play, so it's going to take a perfect pass from Wentz. 

Perfect pass from Wentz. He was actually pretty shaky early in Thursday's game but this was a beautiful throw. After Agholor catches the ball he's able to get past the safety and pick up an even bigger gain of 24 yards. 

This next play is the first of the fourth quarter. The Eagles were already in the lead but this touchdown pass is about to put them up by 12 points. 

At the time of the snap, Thompson has Agholor in man coverage with absolutely no help. This isn't going to end well. 

Wentz notices the mismatch immediately and never looks anywhere else. He stares down Agholor until the receiver makes a break at the top of his route. He already has Thompson beat. Thompson is a good athlete but he can't cut the way Agholor can. 

By the time Agholor catches the ball, it's pretty clear he's already going to have the first down. But there's a lot of space in front of him. And the deep safety's momentum is taking him away from the play. 

Agholor takes a straight line right into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown catch. 

On both of those plays, Agholor doesn't just get open in the slot. He uses his quickness to do it and then uses his speed to make something happen after the catch. For as well as Jordan Matthews played in the slot over the last few years, Agholor is just a more explosive player. 

"That's beneficial for a slot receiver to have that kind of breakaway speed," Pederson said, "and two great plays by him. Just got to keep him coming."

Through six games this year, Agholor is on pace to have the best year — by far — of his career. He's on pace for 53 catches for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns. That would be a big-time jump. 

Eagles snap counts: The left guard rotation might be dead

USA Today Images

Eagles snap counts: The left guard rotation might be dead

Stefen Wisniewski started again at left guard on Thursday night, but this time he didn't get taken out. 

It looks like the left guard rotation might be dead. 

After three weeks of rotating with Chance Warmack, Wisniewski played all 62 of the Eagles' offensive snaps on Thursday against the Panthers. Warmack didn't get on the field once with the offense. 

Coming into the game, Pederson had said a couple times that Wiz was going to get more of the work than before but as Thursday night unfolded, he didn't just get more. He got all of it. 

With Wiz as the left guard, the entire offensive line — including Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle for a concussed Lane Johnson — played all 62 snaps. So did Carson Wentz. 

With Wendell Smallwood (knee) still on the shelf, LeGarrette Blount got 30 snaps, Kenjon Barner got 22 and Corey Clement got 10. 

Alshon Jeffery again led the way for the Eagles' receivers in snaps with 56, followed by Nelson Agholor (48) and Torrey Smith (35). Mack Hollins got just nine snaps but caught two passes (both went for first downs) for 38 yards. 

The Eagles actually didn't win the time of possession battle against the Panthers, which kept the Eagles' defense on the field more than they've been used to. The Eagles' defense played 82 snaps on Thursday. The previous season high was 69 against the Giants. The Eagles' defense got into the 80s just once last season. 

Malcolm Jenkins was the only defensive player to be on the field for all 82 plays. He very rarely leaves the field. Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod missed just one snap each and Patrick Robinson missed just two. 

Fletcher Cox returned to action with a beastly performance against the Panthers (see story). If there were any concerns about his calf, he answered them. And Cox certainly wasn't on a pitch count. He played 65 snaps, more than any other defensive lineman. 

Mychal Kendricks played 55 snaps (67 percent) but led the team with 15 tackles. Nigel Bradham, who had the best game of his Eagles' career, had 78 snaps (see story)

Jordan Hicks played 34 snaps (41 percent) before leaving the game with an ankle injury. 

Derek Barnett played a new career-high of 39 snaps and picked up the first half-sack of his career (see story)

Here are full snap counts from Thursday night: 

Brandon Brooks - 62 snaps (100 percent)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - 62 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski - 62 (100)
Jason Kelce - 62 (100)
Jason Peters - 62 (100)
Carson Wentz - 62 (100)
Alshon Jeffery - 56 (90)
Zach Ertz - 49 (79)
Nelson Agholor - 48 (77)
Torrey Smith - 35 (56)
LeGarrette Blount - 30 (48)
Brent Celek - 24 (39)
Kenjon Barner -22 (35)
Trey Burton - 13 (21) 
Corey Clement - 10 (16)
Mack Hollins - 9 (15)
Isaac Seumalo - 8 (13)
Marcus Johnson - 6 (10)

Malcolm Jenkins - 82 snaps (100 percent) 
Jalen Mills - 81 (99)
Rodney McLeod - 81 (99)
Patrick Robinson - 80 (98)
Nigel Bradham - 78 (95)
Fletcher Cox - 65 (79)
Brandon Graham - 62 (76)
Rasul Douglas - 56 (68)
Mychal Kendricks - 55 (67) 
Beau Allen - 41 (50)
Chris Long - 41 (50)
Vinny Curry - 40 (49)
Derek Barnet - 39 (48)
Jordan Hicks - 34 (41)
Tim Jernigan - 25 (30)
Justin Hamilton - 15 (18)
Joe Walker - 13 (16)
Corey Graham - 7 (9)
Najee Goode - 5 (6) 
Steven Means - 1 (1)

Eric Rowe tracker
We are keeping an eye on Rowe in New England all season. If he plays more than 50 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps this season, that 2018 fourth-round pick the Eagles got in exchange for him will turn into a third-rounder. 

The Patriots don't play until Sunday, but here's what we have so far this season: 

Week 1: 37 of 69 snaps
Week 2: 34 of 65 snaps
Week 3: 0 of 71 snaps
Week 4: 19 of 63 snaps 
Week 5: 0 of 72 snaps

2017: 90 of 358 (25.1 percent)