EAGLES

Is there a reason for hope in second half of Eagles season?

EAGLES

The most alarming thing about the first two months of the season wasn’t the Eagles’ record.

It was how they got there.

Nobody expected the Eagles to be any better than 3-5 eight games into their first year with a new staff and a first-time starting quarterback coming off a four-win season with their minefield of an early schedule.

The real issue is how those five losses looked. In particular, the Cowboys, Chiefs, Buccaneers and Raiders games. Because there were long stretches in those four losses where the Eagles just weren’t competitive.

The Cowboys outscored the Eagles 34-7 from late in the first quarter until the middle of the fourth. The Chiefs went on a 35-13 run after the Eagles took an early three-point lead. The Bucs scored 21 straight points, the Raiders 30 straight.

So it was understandable if a lot of people bailed on the Eagles when they were sitting there at 2-5.

Things looked hopeless. Things looked bleak. When you get embarrassed like that four times in the span of 27 days it’s hard to have faith.

Through it all, the Eagles had one thing going for them.

Not the offense, not the defense. The schedule.

In my week-by-week prediction column before the season began, I had the Eagles 3-5 through eight games and 6-3 the rest of the year.

Because of the schedule.

And you can see why.

The four teams that embarrassed the Eagles are currently 21-9. Throw in the 49ers, and the Eagles’ five losses are to teams with a combined 24-13 record. Their schedule has been a murderer’s row. The 49ers at home is a game the Eagles should have won, but nobody in their right mind figured they’d win any of the other games.

 

The next eight weeks? There isn’t a Brady or Mahomes in the bunch. There isn’t a first-place team on the docket. There are two winning teams among the Eagles' next eight opponents, and one of them has lost two straight games and is ranked 24th in defense and the other just lost its quarterback for the season.

In other words, there is reason to believe.

For a Super Bowl? Stop. For a wild-card berth? Probably not, although it’s not out of the question. For something positive to build on? Yeah, it’s right there.

I don’t want to make too much out of the Lions win. That’s a terrible team, although they had been playing competitively. But that win did show that the Eagles are still buying in, still engaged, still playing hard, still believing in themselves, still listening to their coaches.

I don't care who you're playing, you don't win on the road by 38 points if you've packed it in.

And all those qualities will serve them well during the next couple months when the schedule suddenly becomes their friend.

The next three weeks are crucial. If the Eagles can stay afloat, a five-game stretch against five opponents who have fewer wins than the Eagles awaits.

Chargers home, at Denver, Saints home.

Then Giants, Jets, Washington, Giants, Washington. Five straight two-win teams.

The Saints will be tough even without Jameis Winston just because their defense is so good. But if the Eagles snag a win over one of the two AFC teams they face the next two weeks - the Chargers at the Linc Sunday, then the Broncos in Denver a week later - they’ll reach that five-game stretch against the Jets, Giants and Washington at 4-7.

And then we’ll see what this team is all about. Because those next five will all be winnable.

Remember, the Eagles are 3-2 against teams that don’t have at least five wins. They’ve basically won the games you’d expect them to win and lost the games you’d expect them to lose, with the possible exception of the 49ers.

I don’t know what happens next. Heck, if Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon coach like they did most of the season the Eagles might not beat anybody else.

But we saw some much-needed growth from the coaches in Detroit, we’ve seen some encouraging lineup changes and there’s no question this team remains hungry and motivated.

Are they good enough to beat a bunch of bad teams and salvage something out of this season? Too early to say. But there’s no question that any team has a much better chance when guys like Brady, Mahomes and Carr are safely in the rear-view mirror.

 

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