The Eagles are 6-1 through seven weeks of the NFL season, tops in the NFL. Carson Wentz is a legitimate MVP candidate and at this point, the Eagles have a 94 percent likelihood of making the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
Meanwhile, the Sixers have all the promise in the world, but through four games of the 2017-18 season they’re just 1-4 after losing 105-104 to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night. The Sixers were up by eight points with 100 seconds to play, but James Harden found Eric Gordon in the corner for a three over an outstretched Joel Embiid, ripping victory away from the Sixers. It was terrible.
A 5-point loss in the season opener in Washington preceded a home loss to Boston that got away from the young Sixers late. Without Joel Embiid, the team got its doors blown off at Toronto in Game 3 of the 82-game slate. The Sixers then beat the Detroit Pistons as Ben Simmons recorded his first career triple-double and Joel Embiid scored a team-best 30 points. Wednesday would have given the Sixers their first two-game win streak since March. Instead, they’re left looking for late-game answers.
Wednesday was also met with the news that Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the draft, will need to rest for about a week — knowing the Sixers, it’ll be more — because his injured shoulder isn’t healed and, frankly, it’s impacting his performance on the court to the point of mockery. He can’t shoot, and it’s embarrassing.
So now the Sixers, with all the promise in the world, are 1-4 with an injured rookie (again) and questions about who should be on the court when the game is on the line. This is not the start fans had hoped for, but surely it’s not time to panic, not like if the Eagles had were 1-4 through five games.
That does beg the question, though: Which team will get to 10 wins first?
It has to be the Sixers, right? Right…?
This would probably have been a tougher question to answer in years past. In 2013-14, the Sixers only won 19 games, getting win No. 10 on Jan. 1. In 2014-15, the Sixers started the season 2-23, winning their 10th game on Jan. 30, the team’s 47th game of the season. The year after that — 2015-16 was the low point of The Process Era — the Sixers only won 10 games all season, recording their final win on April 5.
Last season — the first with Embiid actually on the court — the Sixers had a bit of a resurgence, finishing with 28 wins, but they still didn’t get their 10th win until Jan. 8 of this year.
This season hopes to be different. The Sixers have a full complement of young stars and brought in some talented veterans to help this team make the playoffs. This is not a “re-building” year for the Sixers. If anything, it’s a year to build on the foundation they have in place already, to figure out what to do with a few extraneous pieces — hello Jahlil Okafor — and show that all this time spent trusting The Process is about to pay off for fans.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility the Sixers could still win 45 games this season, finish 45-37 and fight for a top 6 seed in the Eastern conference. But in order to do that, they’ll need to start winning games they should. Like the one they gave away Wednesday night.
And given the team’s upcoming schedule, it’s anyone’s guess when they’ll get to 10 wins.
Following last night’s loss to Houston, the Sixers travel to Dallas — the Mavs got their first win last night — then play the Rockets again, in Houston. Winnable home games against Atlanta and Indiana open November, before a five-game West Coast road swing capped by a nationally-televised game against Lonzo Ball and the Lakers.
Let’s say the Sixers get through that stretch at 5-10 on the season, maybe 6-9. The mid-November home slate includes Golden State, Portland, Cleveland and Washington. Looking favorably at games against Utah and Orlando before closing November at Boston, the Sixers could be 8-14 heading into December.
Home games start the last month of the calendar year with games against Detroit, Phoenix and the Lakers, so if they haven’t gotten 10 wins before that point, expect them to go on a bit of a run there, getting to double-digit wins before New Year’s Day for the first time since 2012. (It’s worth noting that the NBA season started a full two weeks earlier this year.)
Yes, there’s a case to be made that even at 1-4, the Sixers could get out of their Nov. 15 visit to the Lakers at 7-7, then go 3-3 in the tough late November homestand to get to 10 wins by Thanksgiving. But that’s being rather optimistic.
Optimists we’ll be, however, giving the Sixers 10 wins by Nov. 29. Can the Eagles get there first?
At 6-1, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Eagles host San Francisco Sunday and even without Jason Peters and linebacker Jordan Hicks, who both went down for the year in the win over Washington, the Eagles should handle the 49ers with relative ease.
The 49ers are terrible. Maybe not Chip Kelly is coaching them terrible, but still winless and not thought of as much of a threat for the team with the best record in football.
The Eagles will then host a Denver Broncos team that has a very good defense but scored just 10 points combined in the last two weeks, losing to both to the Giants and Chargers. Since a 42-17 beat down of Dallas in Week 2, Denver has scored no more than 16 points in any game and is 1-3 over the last four games.
That would put the Eagles at 8-1 heading into their bye, with games at Dallas and home to the Bears to follow. Win both of those and the Eagles could be 10-1 by Sunday, Nov. 26.
More than likely, though, the Eagles will lose at least one of those games, which could mean 9-2 heading into a road swing at the Seahawks, Rams and Giants. Would fans take 10-4 heading into the final two home games of the season? Probably. Could it be better than that? At this rate, the sky’s the limit for this team.
But let’s be real, the Eagles have withstood tons of injuries and at some point that has to catch up to them. They’re also winning close games, which is a testament to how Wentz has evolved as a quarterback and how the defense is playing in the fourth quarters of games, but it’s also likely that success will even out over the course of a full season to some extent. That’s not to say the Eagles will end up 10-6 this year after starting 5-1, but looking at the schedule it’s fair to suggest 11-5 would be more likely than 15-1.
Chances are, the Eagles go 12-4, far outpacing preseason expectations.
The Sixers are probably still on pace for the same number of wins people expected to start the year. The one player they could afford to lose for a short period of time is Fultz and the teams they’ve lost to are all playoff teams. A bad loss to Houston is better than a bad loss to the Nets. So, yeah, in a way 1-4 ain’t that bad.
Between the Sixers and the Eagles, we’ll slightly hedge that the Sixers will get to 10 wins first, just by a few days. But the Philly team that’s most likely to get to 10 wins first? The Flyers! (Did you think I was going to say Villanova basketball? They should start 10-0, but not until December 22nd.)
The Flyers are 5-4-0 after Tuesday’s tough home loss to Anaheim. Their next three games are Thursday (tonight) at Ottawa, Saturday at Toronto and then back home Monday against the Coyotes. Only the Arizona game is a sure win of those, as Ottawa is 4-1-4 to start the year, Toronto is 7-2-0 and the Coyotes are a woeful 0-8-1. But let’s be optimistic and say the Flyers end October at 7-5-0.
November starts in Chicago and St. Louis on back-to-back nights before hosting the Avalanche, Blackhawks and playing home-and-home with the Minnesota Wild. There’s a realistic chance the Flyers could hover around .500 (or below) for a while.
Still, they play 10 games between today and Nov. 16, and 16 between now and the end of November. It’s hard to imagine they won’t find five wins in before the Eagles, or nine before the Sixers.
So bank on the Flyers getting to 10 wins first, then the Sixers then the Eagles.
If you’re a fan of all three teams, you should at least hope that’s the order they get there.