EAGLES

So can the Eagles actually win the abysmal NFC East?

EAGLES

The Eagles... won? Yes! The Birds finally got the gorilla off their back with a win in front of a national audience. 

Philadelphia sports fans will certainly handle this with perfectly level heads. 

Here are three overreactions from the win ... except they might not be overreactions:

1. The Eagles can win the NFC East

Overreaction? Yes

Through three weeks, the Eagles looked like one of the absolute worst teams in the NFL, an absolute mess with little chance of redemption. We were all looking at the 2021 NFL Draft order and thinking about JaMarr Chase.

Now, the Eagles sit alone atop the NFC East a quarter of the way through the season. Can... the Eagles actually win the worst division in football?

We should probably pump the brakes on this one, even if Sunday night's win was a fun and much-needed collective exhale for Philadelphia sports fans everywhere.

Sure, Carson Wentz looked better despite a nearly unusable wide receiver corps. And yes, the Eagles finally forced turnovers - three of them! - which is a welcome sight for the rest of the season.

But this 49ers team isn't much of a real threat in the NFL landscape, particularly with guys like Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard throwing the football and all of the injuries they've suffered on both sides of the ball. The Eagles still haven't beaten a truly good football team, and they've lost to an objectively bad one in Washington, along with tying a truly mediocre team in the Bengals.

 

Also: the Eagles nearly gave the game right back down the stretch! Beathard looked amazing against Jim Schwartz's fourth quarter defense after coming in cold off the bench. It was an ugly win.

Looking around the division, the Giants and Washington aren't actual threats.

The Cowboys don't have any sort of defense, but their offense is incredible, and could absolutely steal some games for Dallas as the year goes on. I see five winnable games for the Eagles the rest of the way, which would put them at 6-9-1.

Is that good enough to win this miserable division? I simply can't tell right now.

2. Doug Pederson is back to being his aggressive self

Overreaction? Yes

Doug Pederson was criticized, correctly, for the way he decided to play the end of the Eagles' Week 3 tie with the Bengals. Instead of allowing his team to go for a first down with less than 20 seconds to play, he played for the tie. It was cowardly football from a proudly aggressive head coach.

In Week 4, with the Eagles absolutely needing a win, Pederson returned to form. He went for a two-point conversion in the first quarter, and then went for it on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter when a 53-yard field goal would've tied the game, two normally on-brand moves for Big Balls Doug. The Eagles scored a touchdown after the fourth down conversion, and then rode that momentum to a defensive touchdown and the eventual win.

Pederson was also rolling out rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts on offense late in the game, trying out some intriguing looks in an attempt to score touchdowns, rather than settle for field goals. 

It felt like a game where Pederson knew his team needed to leave with a win, no excuses. He took calculated risks, as you have to do when you're playing for the win instead of playing to avoid a loss. 

...and yet, with the game on the line, Pederson went right back into a shell and played as conservative as conservative gets when all the Eagles needed was a single first down to seal the game late in the fourth.

Which is why, despite all the good signs, I have a hard time believing Doug is really back until he does it for a full game - and, ideally, multiple games in a row.

3. It's time for Nate Gerry to go

Overreaction? No

We can have the Howie Roseman team building conversation soon. The decision to essentially ignore the linebacker position this aggressively was a bad one, particularly in a year when you decided to move a cornerback to safety while getting rid of your defensive captain, who happened to play safety. 

The tight end position is undergoing a revolution across the league, and you need a player who can defend guys like George Kittle or else you'll be matchup-ed to death like the Eagles were on Sunday night, when Kittle caught 15 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.

But that conversation isn't going to solve the linebacker problem, and we have 12 games to go. Gerry has been awful through four games, consistently out of position on relatively routine plays. He can't hold up in coverage, he's bad against the run - he's just bad. 

 

Gerry had a brutal 45.1 grade out of 100 from Pro Football Focus through three weeks, when he was doing stuff like this:

His play didn't improve on Sunday night. Something has to change if the Eagles want to beat good teams.

Cutting Gerry doesn't carry a dead cap hit. 

The only reason he will stay on the roster is a lack of depth, and injury issues, but this isn't an NFL-caliber player.