Eagles

Eagles

If you have an elite quarterback and a top-10 defense, you have a chance to be a special team.

We know the Eagles have the first. And they just might have the second.

I don't have to make much of a case for Wentz as a top-10 quarterback.

Without the benefit of a preseason, limited in training camp, victimized by drops and inconsistent offensive line play, Wentz has come in and performed at an extraordinary level these last four weeks.

He's completed at least 65 percent of his passes in all four starts, averaged just under 300 yards and thrown eight TDs to just one interception. The only other Eagles quarterback to ever have a four-game stretch like this was Donovan McNabb the first four weeks of 2004.

What's scary is that Wentz has gotten better each of these four games, and you know he's only going to keep getting better.

Top 10 quarterback? Heck, yeah.

The real question is how good is this defense, and honestly, I don't know the answer yet.

Six games in, two things stick out:

No. 1, they're allowing way too many big plays.

And No. 2, when they don't allow a big play, they're very good.

The Eagles have allowed seven plays of at least 45 yards, tied with the Raiders for most in the NFL. It's also the most they've given up six weeks into a season in at least 25 years.

Those seven plays have netted 420 yards, which equals an incredible 20 percent of all the yards the Eagles have given up all year.

 

This sounds nuts, but when the Eagles aren't allowing big plays, they're not allowing very much at all, and the numbers prove it.

The Eagles' defense has allowed the third-fewest first downs in the league, 17.7 per game. Only the Ravens (15.5) and Bears (17.0) have allowed fewer.

On third down, they're third-best in the league at 29.5 percent, behind only the Vikings (25.0) and Ravens (26.5).

And in the red zone, they're once again No. 1 in the league, allowing touchdowns on only seven of 21 opposing drives.

Add up all that, and you have a defense that, despite allowing big plays at an alarming rate, is still allowing the fifth-fewest points per game in the NFL.

Here's a look at the top 10:

12.8 … Ravens

16.0 … Bears

16.7 … Titans

17.2 … Cowboys 

18.3 … Eagles

18.3 … Seahawks

19.7 … Rams

19.8 … Jaguars

20.8 … Redskins

21.4 … Packers

The Eagles' defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns. Only the Jaguars (10), Titans (10)  and Ravens (8) have allowed fewer.

So there are signs of greatness. But in the midst of all of it are plays of 75, 75, 68, 55, 51, 50 and 46 yards.

What does this tell us?

If the Eagles can solve their problem allowing big plays, they have a chance to be a special team.

When you look at that list of top-10 defenses, how many of those teams also have top-10 quarterbacks?

Mitch Trubisky has played very well and given the Bears new life. Jared Goff, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are elite. Alex Smith and Dak Prescott have both been OK.

There are obviously teams whose quarterbacks are so good they keep their teams in every game, despite weak defenses. Matt Ryan, Pat Mahomes and Drew Brees lead teams with bottom-7 defenses that are nonetheless very dangerous. The Patriots are 20th in defense but will be a threat as long as Tom Brady is in uniform.

But the bottom line is the Eagles have a chance. 

On those key plays that are killing them, they obviously need to tackle better and cover better. If they can do that and either eliminate or drastically reduce those big plays, they're going to have a chance every week.

I don't think any of us know exactly who this Eagles team is yet. They're certainly not where they wanted to be at 3-3.

But I know exactly what they can be. And they're not that far off.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles