Through three weeks of the NFL season, the Eagles are tied with Dallas and Washington atop the NFC East. Despite a rash of injuries, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, people are starting to look at Doug Pederson’s team as legitimate contenders. The Eagles already beat Washington, and the Cowboys have been something of a roller coaster. At 2-1 after last Sunday’s dramatic win over the Giants, the Eagles have one of their few truly winnable games ahead of them this week in Los Angeles. And they’re probably going to lose.
Through three games, the Eagles have only played at home once. This week’s trip to Los Angeles is one of three — three — games the Eagles will play on the West Coast and that doesn’t include trips to Carolina, Dallas and New York still to come. That is a killer road schedule, but frankly the home slate doesn’t look so easy either, with games against Arizona, Washington, San Francisco and Denver before the bye, then just three home games in the last seven weeks against Chicago, Oakland and Dallas.
While 2-1 with a close loss in Kansas City is great, it could all start to unravel at any moment. Like, for example, this week.
The Chargers are, as we say in sports, due for a win. There’s almost zero data to back that up, but it’s just something sports people say when they’re nervous a team that should win won’t win. According to the latest odds, the Eagles are actually 1 point underdogs so this is as pretty close to a “pick ‘em” game as there should ever be when a 2-1 team faces a team that hasn’t won yet.
Oh, right, I forgot to mention. The Chargers are 0-3 for the first time in the Philip Rivers era. Yeah…they’re due.
Eagles on the West Coast
The Jeffrey Lurie era goes back to 1994 and while that’s not quite a quarter century, it’s pretty darn close. Also, it’s as decent a reference point as any, given the Eagles have had three head coaches in the last six years.
So, over the last almost 25 years since Lurie has owned the Eagles, the team has played 31 games on the West Coast. Now, before people freak out and start sending me maps of the United States, I did consider Arizona to be the West Coast. I did not, however, consider Denver, despite both opponents being on Mountain Time. Time zones are weird and arbitrary, so this is more about distance traveled than time of day. With that, the Eagles are 12-19 in their last 31 trips across the country, including playoffs.
Now, as you can see, a dozen of those 31 games came against Arizona — it helps the two were inexplicably in the same division for years after the Cardinals moved from St. Louis — and so without those games, facing truly the West Coast teams in the NFL, the Eagles are 9-10 since Lurie has owned the team. That’s not awful.
What has been awful, though, is the recent run. Since losing the conference championship game on Jan. 18, 2009 in Arizona, the Eagles are just 2-8 when traveling out west.
Home field advantage
So far the NFL’s move back to Los Angeles has been a disaster. Rams attendance in year two is horrific, while the Chargers are playing in a soccer stadium that fits about 27,000 people. And they’re having trouble even filling that.
Through two home games, the Chargers have averaged 25,384 fans. By comparison, nearly 70,000 fans packed the Linc last week. And those who have shown up to see the Chargers aren’t all Chargers fans. It’s bad.
Expect to see a ton of Eagles fans at the game Sunday. But that might not matter. While Philly fans travel well and there are Eagles enthusiasts all over the country who show up wherever the team is playing, it hasn’t helped much in the Pederson era. The Eagles are 1-1 on the road this year, but they’re just 2-8 on the road under Pederson.
Eagles in Week 4
Last year the Eagles had their bye in Week 4, so they didn’t play their fourth game until the fifth week. But considering Week 4 means “Game 4” on the Eagles schedule, the team hasn’t won their fourth game of the season since 2012. Four straight years the Eagles have lost this game on the schedule, and all four have been on the road, including last year’s heartbreaker in Detroit.
Since 2014, the Eagles have not only lost Game 4, but they’ve only lost by a combined 9 points. Kind of makes remembering the 52-20 blowout loss to Denver in 2013 feel a little better.
Oh, the team’s record in Game 4 over the last 10 years: 2-8.
Eagles against 0-3 teams all-time
Fun fact: The Eagles haven’t played a team that’s 0-3 in Week 4 since 1990. The No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 that week:
Yes, it’s been a while.
The Eagles have played two Week 4 games against winless teams more recently than 1990, losing to Arizona on October 7, 2001 and beating Atlanta on September 22, 1996. The Falcons had a Week 2 bye that year, so they were 0-2, while the Cardinals actually had a Week 1 bye in 2001 because there were an odd number of teams — so they also were 0-2.
Here’s a history of the Eagles against winless teams in Week 4, according to data pulled from Pro Football Reference. Hey, 9-5 isn’t half bad. It’s actually two better than half bad!
|9/25/83||St. Louis Cardinals||L||11-14|
|9/28/80||St. Louis Cardinals||L||14-24|
|* – 0-2 at the time|
Oh those Boston Yanks! They existed from 1944 through 1948 and won 14 games. Ever.
See, it could be worse, Eagles fans.
Chargers 0-3 All-Time
Like I said before, the Chargers are due.
The last time the Chargers started a season 0-3 Philip Rivers was still the quarterback at NC State. But the thing is, this Chargers team is probably the best 0-3 team in the league, and yes that includes the Giants team the Eagles barely snuck past last week. San Diego Los Angeles could have won in Week 1, falling 24-21 in Denver on a blocked 44-yard field goal at the end of the game. They should have won in Week 2 but they missed a 44-yard field goal at the end of the game. Last week they lost to the same Chiefs team the Eagles lost to in Week 2. So, yeah, they’re due.
Now, again, none of those 0-3 starts, until this year, featured Philip Rivers. This is uncharted waters for the veteran, who is completing 65.2 percent of his passes so far this season, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. But it’s starting to look like this might be the end for him.
Rivers will turn 36 in December and had threatened to retire if the team moved from San Diego to Los Angeles. They did, and he didn’t, but a season going the way it is — in the AFC West they’re already out of playoff contention for sure — this week could put a nail in the coffin of a very good NFL career.
That said, the Eagles secondary is still banged up and the defensive line will be without Fletcher Cox. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich used to coach with the Chargers and said of Rivers, “Philip is an elite — in my mind, he is an elite quarterback in this league. He’s proven it over a lot of seasons. He can do it all, make all the throws, great leader, mentally and physically as tough as they come. He’s just an excellent player in every way.”
Is he excellent enough to beat the Eagles? Probably. And he’s definitely due for a win.