The700Level

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles continue to lead the pack

usa-eagles-bears-celebration-1.jpg
USA Today Images

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles continue to lead the pack

The Eagles were back at the Linc last Sunday afternoon for a matchup against the Chicago Bears, whose defense has been quite underrated this season. 

That didn’t prevent tight end Zach Ertz from turning in a 10-catch performance to help the Birds handily defeat the Bears, 31-3.

The Eagles still hold the best record in the NFL and have a chance to clinch the NFC East this week with a win or a Dallas loss or tie to the Redskins on Thursday night.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to the Seattle Seahawks for a Sunday night matchup in the Pacific Northwest. 

Here’s a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings after Week 12:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Stayed at No. 1
Florio wrote, “They’re making it look too easy. At some point, it won’t be.”

The Eagles have been on cruise control since losing to former coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs in Week 2. They have now reeled off nine straight victories and it doesn’t seem like they are ready to slow down. Florio might be hinting that the Eagles’ West Coast trip coming up against Seattle and Los Angeles to play the Seahawks and the Rams might be the real test for them at this point (see story).

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 1
Harrison wrote, “The Eagles are rolling through the league right now — or electric sliding, if you happened to catch the late stages of their declawing of the Bears. Carson Wentz continues to be the talk of the league, but as my colleague Steve Mariucci pointed out this weekend, general manager Howie Roseman must be given credit for the depth he's acquired to bolster Doug Pederson's roster.”

The Eagles have been one of the most fun teams in the NFL this season (see story). The Birds have celebrated in many ways, whether it was hitting a home run or getting hit by a pitch. However, the choreographed Electric Slide after an interception by Corey Graham has to top the list. 

USA TODAY: Stayed at No. 1
USA TODAY wrote, “Peaking too soon? They've won past three games by 28 points apiece, which is why NFC East may be wrapped before three-game road trip starts Sunday.”

The Eagles could clinch the NFC East before even stepping on the field in Seattle. Something to consider here: In Week 17 last season, the Cowboys rested their key skill players in an effort to keep them fresh and healthy for the divisional round of the playoffs, a game they would lose to Green Bay. The Eagles might be in a similar situation coming down the stretch, which could be concerning. But with the Vikings, Saints, Panthers and Rams all within striking distance for a top-two seed and home-field advantage, the Eagles can't afford to step off the gas now.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Stayed at No. 1
Schwab wrote, “The Jay Ajayi trade looks peculiar three weeks into it. Ajayi has just 22 total touches in three games. He had just six touches on Sunday. It seems that rookie Corey Clement could have handled the role Ajayi has and it wouldn’t have cost the Eagles a draft pick.”

Ajayi seemed frustrated after the game against the Bears and you would be too if you fumbled at the goal line after breaking a long run (see story). He ended up with six total touches in Week 12 for a total of 33 yards. Ajayi has been the game-breaker for the Eagles in the run game, while LeGarrette Blount has been bulldozing defenses for short gains. Expect this running back by committee with Ajayi, Blount and Clement to continue.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Stayed at No. 1
Prisco wrote, “They just keep right on rolling and Carson Wentz is getting better. They are the class of the NFC — by far.”

They are the class of the NFC without a doubt and the Patriots and Steelers are the same in the AFC. The Patriots and Steelers play in Week 15, so one of those teams will cement itself as the head of the conference after that matchup. There is a lot of football left, but the Eagles should be the class of the NFL right now, not just the NFC.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Stayed at No. 1
Maske wrote, “The Eagles’ last three wins have come by 28 points each. They haven’t had a single-digit margin of victory since a five-point triumph at Carolina on Oct. 12.”

The Eagles have been destroying every team in their path over the last 2½ months. They are the top-scoring offense in the league with an average of 32 points per game, two points better than any other team in the NFL. 

ESPN: Stayed at No. 1
ESPN wrote, “The Eagles have the best record in the NFL and are the most efficient team, according to FPI — and that's all thanks to balance. They've thrown for the most touchdowns, rushed for the most yards after contact, allowed the fewest rushing yards per game and allowed the second-fewest yards per pass attempt.”

This balance has been terrific for this offense and especially to take the pressure off of Wentz. Wentz’s ability to spread the football around only enhances the offensive prowess of this team. It also helps when the defense continues to dominate opponents (see story).

Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

ap_embiid.jpg
AP Images

Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

Joel Embiid's new backup wasn't very fond of the Sixers' star center when he wasn't his teammate.

The Sixers will eventually acquire Mike Muscala from the Atlanta Hawks as part of a three-team trade involving Carmelo Anthony (see story). The trade is not official yet.

As is the case these days with social media, players' old takes resurface and Muscala is no different — except this time, it's not old tweets from a teenaged Muscala.

Appearing on the Road Trippin' podcast (h/t Jeff McMenamin and Pro Basketball Talk) on Feb. 13, 2018, Muscala, then with the Hawks, said the following:

"I don’t like the Sixers.

I just don’t like them. I just feel like they talk a lot of s—, especially Embiid.

I understand there’s going to be some trash-talking. But I just feel like – I don’t know. Sometimes, I just — I respect players that just let their play do the talking. And I think sometimes, it just gets excessive, especially with Embiid.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the league. I think it’s entertaining, and I think people can feed off of that. In a weird way, I respect him for being to do that, because it takes a lot of guts and confidence, at the same time."

One important thing to note here. Muscala and Embiid were not teammates at the time and anyone who has watched Embiid play basketball knows he's a trash-talker. Of course, his opponents are not going to like it.

Embiid played just one game against the Hawks in 2017-18. He scored 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes on Nov. 1, 2017. Muscala? Just two points in 22 minutes.

Yeah, it's pretty clear who had the better stat line. And you can bet Embiid was chirping the entire game. Who could blame him?

More on the Sixers

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse?

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse?

The Eagles won the Super Bowl last season. Does it get any better than that?

It just might.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve dissected the 2018 Eagles’ roster one position at a time. The majority of the time, we determined this year’s team was more talented than the group that won a championship. But when it comes time to put all the pieces back together again and kick off on Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons, will the Eagles truly field a superior squad compared to last season?

Better

Wide receivers

Pass rushers

The Eagles are demonstrably improved in two key areas. Replacing Torrey Smith with Mike Wallace was a clear upgrade in a receiving corps that should also benefit from a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins having a year in the NFL under his belt. And while the defensive line as a whole has some question marks, adding three-time Pro Bowler Michael Bennett at defensive end along with the continued development of Derek Barnett could provide the Eagles a vastly scarier pass rush off the edge.

Another spot we might see a significantly elevated performance is, tight end, assuming second-round draft pick and freak athlete Dallas Goedert can come in and contribute immediately. Goedert joins Wallace and Bennett as the key newcomers for 2018.

Worse

Nickel cornerback

While there is a ton of talent at cornerback, it’s extremely unlikely anybody will be able to match the job Patrick Robinson did in the slot. Robinson was a proven option for the nickel, posting a career year with the Eagles last season. The options to replace him full-time, on the other hand — most notably Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox or De’Vante Bausby — have next to zero NFL experience in that role. This is essentially a starting position, so Robinson’s departure in free agency is no small matter.

Another spot to keep an eye on is the vacancy at weakside linebacker following Mychal Kendricks’ release. Kendricks enjoyed a resurgent season in 2017, and the candidates to take over — Corey Nelson, Nathan Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill — lack name recognition. Fortunately, this is a limited role, so Kendricks isn’t as big a loss as Robinson.

The same

Offensive line
Safeties
Jim Schwartz
Doug Pederson
Howie Roseman

The great news is there’s a ton of carryover for last season’s Super Bowl champions. If you consider Jay Ajayi the lead back for that squad, which he basically was, then 19 of 22 starters are returning, along with many key backups. That is incredible continuity few NFL teams are blessed with, let alone the reigning champs.

That continuity extends to the bulk of the coaching staff as well. Schwartz and his entire defensive staff return. There were some changes on the offensive side with Frank Reich and John DeFilippo snagging new jobs, but the Eagles were able to promote from within. Most importantly, Pederson remains as head coach, and Roseman stays on to run the front office. The foundation of the franchise is the same.

The unknown

Injured players: QB, LT, MLB, PR/RB, DT

Perhaps the biggest question as to whether the Eagles are better or worse lies in the recovery of the many injured star players from a year ago, almost all of whom are expected to reprise their roles.

Can Carson Wentz recapture his MVP form? We’ve seen quarterbacks struggle in their first year back from an ACL injury. Can Jason Peters still dominate at age 36 after an ACL of his own? The franchise left tackle has battled back from worse. Will Jordan Hicks be the same after a ruptured Achilles? The young man is a student of the game, but that’s a big one. Will Darren Sproles be as electric out of the backfield and in the return game at 35 and, again, with an ACL? Throw Tim Jernigan on to the list, too. The defensive tackle is sidelined indefinitely with a back injury, hurting the Eagles’ depth up front.

Then again, the Eagles already won the Super Bowl with almost all of these guys sidelined. For everybody but Hicks, there is a clear replacement waiting in the wings should they falter. Still, it’s a concern.

Better or worse?

As is always the case, the only way to find out for sure is on the football field. And the Eagles could very well put a better squad out there, but still not repeat as champions, as luck and timing are also factors here.

That being said, some questions and concerns aside, the Eagles look like a more talented team overall. Nineteen starters are back. Two replacements, Wallace and Bennett, look like upgrades aside. Kids like Barnett, Goedert, Jones and running back Corey Clement could be on the verge of becoming stars. Best of all, the Eagles remain strong along the offensive and defensive lines and have two quarterbacks capable of leading a team to the promised land. They may not be a better team than the group that just won it all, but the 2018 Eagles sure look like a BETTER team.

More on the Eagles