Sunday was a wild day in the NFL, so naturally, the 5-1 Eagles sat at home in front of the TV, relaxed, kicked up their first-place feet and watched the NFC implode. (Or, perhaps, some were hunting game rather than watching them.)
The 4-1 Green Bay Packers lost at Minnesota, and Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone and could be out for the year.
The 3-1 Atlanta Falcons lost in the final minute to the Miami Dolphins, despite being up 17-0 at halftime. The Saints and Lions combined for 90 points.
Washington barely snuck by winless San Francisco and the Giants shocked the world late Sunday night to get their first win, beating the Broncos in Denver.
Why is the Giants winning a good thing? Well, the bug for the Eagles is they haven’t played anybody, a criticism that was oddly timed coming out of a road win against fellow 4-1 Carolina, so the Giants beating another team with just one loss not only makes the Eagles’ record look better, but ups the “teams they beat” quality quotient a little bit as well. Plus, the Giants were going to steal a game from someone, so better the Broncos than the Eagles in December.
That said, we’re still only in October, but through six weeks of the NFL season, there are just two teams with only one loss: Kansas City — the previously undefeated Chiefs fell at home to Pittsburgh Sunday — and the Eagles.
Philly’s opponents through six weeks are a combined 18-17, but when we remove the results against the Eagles, they’re a collective 17-12. That’s not bad.
After Sunday’s craziness, are the Eagles suddenly Super Bowl favorites? Probably, and it all comes down to their quarterback, who is having an MVP-caliber season. Let’s look at the NFC as it stands right now:
NFC East: Eagles 5-1; Washington 3-2; Dallas 2-3; Giants 1-5
The Eagles are 2-0 in the division, having beaten both Washington on the road and New York at home. Washington is the perfect example of today’s NFL: D.C.’s defense is ranked 19th in points per game and 21st in yards per game. The offense is sixth in yards per game but 13th in points scored. They got crushed at home by the Eagles, went to LA and beat the suddenly good Rams, beat up on the Raiders at home, lost at Kansas City and squeaked by the 49ers this week. They scream inconsistent. Or, better put, mediocre.
The Giants won a game in Denver with nothing to offer on offense. That result says more about the Broncos’ preparation than anything substantial about New York.
The Eagles have yet to face Dallas, which will happen in Week 11 without star running back Ezekiel Elliott who is finally going to start serving his six-game suspension. Dallas was expected to be the class of the division, but have a blowout loss at Denver and two home losses in five games.
Washington is okay, but an Eagles win Monday night will put them far ahead of their D.C. foes. Don’t expect too many more Giants wins and while Dallas certainly has the talent to rebound, they’re kind of a mess. Right now the Eagles are the class of the division.
NFC North: Minnesota 4-2; Green Bay 4-2; Detroit 3-3; Chicago 2-4
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 15, 2017
The Vikings took control of the NFC North Sunday with a win against Green Bay, especially given the injury to Rodgers. The Packers went from Super Bowl favorites to, at best, a middle-of-the-pack team in the NFC. At best.
But the Vikings have quarterback issues themselves, needing to rely on Case Keenum for weeks, as Sam Bradford continues to struggle with injury. That, plus losing rookie running back Dalvin Cook has the Vikings relying heavily on backups. That said, Teddy Bridgewater might be healthy soon, which would change their quarterback situation drastically. Plus, they have the fifth-rated defense in football. That can mask any quarterback issues.
Detroit had a chance to get back to the top of the division but a wild 52-38 loss in New Orleans has the Lions at 3-3. They’re still a dangerous team in a wide open division. So are the Bears, who have two overtime wins this season and new life with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. They’re not winning that division, but they could give the Eagles fits on Nov. 26 at the Linc. Barring injury, that would be Trubisky’s seventh game under center.
NFC South: Carolina 4-2; New Orleans 3-2; Atlanta 3-2; Tampa Bay 2-3
Atlanta has this thing with blowing huge leads, huh?
Despite losing at home to Miami Sunday, it’s hard to count the 3-2 Falcons out of that division, and Carolina still looks like a very good team. That said, they’ve lost at home to both the Eagles and Saints, so what does that say about New Orleans? Who the heck knows with that team, other than the game will be unpredictable. They’ve given up 29- points three times, held Carolina to 13 and shut out Miami. They scored 52 Sunday and have three games of 20 points or less. Who knows?
The same can be said for Tampa, too. They can still make a run, but Jameis Winston hurt his shoulder Sunday in the loss to Arizona. He doesn’t think it’s serious, but in that division, every week matters.
NFC West: LA Rams 4-2; Seattle 3-2; Arizona 3-3; San Francisco 0-6
Everyone’s making such a big deal about Carson Wentz but here’s Jared Goff, taken one pick before Wentz last year, leading the Rams to a 4-2 record and first place in the NFC West. The Rams have the most points in the NFL through six weeks. Philly’s Dec. 10 trip to LA is going to be a window into the NFL’s quarterback future. Or, as it seems, present.
Philly faces the Rams a week after they visit the Seahawks. Seattle seems to take half a season to figure itself out almost every year. When the Seahawks last went to the Super Bowl, they started the year 3-3 and finished 12-4. The following year they were 4-5 and finished 10-6 and made the playoffs again. Last season they started 4-1 and were 7-2-1 through 10 games before alternating wins and losses for a 10-5-1 record.
So at 3-2 with a win over the Rams before resting on a bye this past week, expect Seattle to rattle off some mid-season wins.
As for Arizona, they looked like a high school team against the Eagles and looked like world beaters for much of Sunday’s game against Tampa. The difference? A healthy offensive line and a trade for Adrian Peterson, who had his best performance in nearly three years.
San Francisco comes to Philly in two weeks. They’re getting closer to a win, losing the last five weeks by 3 points or less. Will their first win come soon? Eagles fans hope it comes this coming week against Dallas, not the following week at the Linc.
NFC Contenders or pretenders:
It’s really too early to tell who’s a playoff contender and who is benefitting from an early-season surge. We wrote off the Cardinals after last week, but with Peterson that team might be totally different. Certainly the Packers are.
So here’s what we’ll say after six weeks: The Eagles are the best team in the NFC. There’s little question of that. And if you think their schedule has been easy, it seems to be getting easier and easier from what we thought at the start of the year.
Games that looked like sure losses — Denver, Dallas, Oakland — before the season look like they could fly in the Birds’ favor. That said, the last time the Eagles were 5-1 they finished 10-6. They could lose to Washington, fall to winless San Francisco, get beat by a good Denver defense and be 5-4 with half the city calling for Doug Pederson’s head again.
Or the opposite could happen. So will the Eagles continue to be the class of the conference? Will they hit their bye at 8-1? Will they head to Seattle at 10-1? Is this a 13-3 team?
Like Green Bay learned, it might depend on the health of the quarterback.