The Eagles sat at home and rested on their bye week Sunday. And by sat at home and rested, of course I mean sat in a tree and shot arrows at wild game.
Alas, while Carson Wentz was keeping his eyes down a different kind of field this weekend, the rest of the NFC was playing some serious football catch up. This was not a great weekend for the 8-1 Eagles.
It seems odd to say the Eagles had a bad weekend when 1) they didn’t play and 2) the entire NFC East lost. Birds fans were celebrating Sunday afternoon as the Cowboys got walloped in Atlanta, falling 27-7 to the Falcons.
Dallas was without Ezekiel Elliott, who was finally suspended by the NFL, as well as left tackle Tyron Smith, a loss that had a bigger impact on Sunday’s game than Zeke’s absence. Dallas managed 5.1 yards per carry, but Dak Prescott was sacked eight (!!!) times. If Smith isn’t back against the Eagles next Sunday, it could be a long night in Dallas.
The Giants (1-8) lost their eighth game of the season to previously winless San Francisco, while Washington fell to 4-5 after losing at home to Minnesota. Washington losing is usually a good thing for the Eagles. But they had no shot of winning the division and could have played NFC contender spoiler again, beating Seattle last week, but unable to help the Eagles out again this week. And so, the Vikings remain just a game behind the Eagles.
Here’s a look at how each of the NFC contenders did Sunday, and why some pundits are suggesting the Eagles may not even be the best team in the conference anymore.
Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 13, 2017
Minnesota has given up just 165 points this season, and while they’ve already lost Sam Bradford for the year, they got their actual starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, back this weekend. And still, Bridgewater didn’t even play. Third-stringer Case Keenum is performing at a Pro Bowl level this season, completing 21-of-29 for 304 yards and four touchdowns against Washington Sunday.
The Vikings stayed just one game in the loss column behind the Eagles, and while Philly’s schedule gets much tougher in the home stretch, so does Minnesota’s, having to play the Rams, Lions, Falcons and Panthers in the next four weeks, the last three on the road.
If the Vikings survive that stretch, they’ll deserve a first-round bye in the playoffs. They end the year with Cincinnati, Green Bay and Chicago, so 12-4 is still a definite possibility. Is that enough to catch the Eagles? It could depend on the Rams.
Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
The Rams are legit.
“Competitive greatness — always striving for that.” pic.twitter.com/Rzs7JxLFae
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 13, 2017
Los Angeles throttled Houston 33-7 to advance to 7-2 on the season. How good are the Rams this year? They have the most points scored this season, the fewest points given up and, with that, the best net point differential at plus-134. The last time the franchise won more than seven games was 2006. Now they have seven wins in nine games.
Over the last two weeks, Jared Goff has started to give Carson Wentz a run for his MVP money. He has 666 yards passing and seven touchdowns in the two games since the Rams’ bye. Goff has completed 61.2 percent of his passes this season for 2,385 yards and 16 touchdowns, with just four picks. He also has one rushing score and one lost fumble.
Wentz, meanwhile, has a 60.5 percent completion rate and 2,262 yards passing, with 23 touchdowns and five picks. He has way more yards rushing than Goff, but hasn’t scored with his legs yet — odd with how good he’s been on the ground — losing two fumbles.
The Rams play at Minnesota, then host New Orleans before a trap game at Arizona. Then the Eagles head to Los Angeles in a game that could ultimately mean the difference between securing a first round bye or not.
The Rams end the season at Seattle, at Tennessee and home to the Niners. This Rams team hasn’t done anything like this in nearly 15 years, so 7-2 could easily become 7-7 given their schedule. That said, there’s something different about this team.
New Orleans Saints (7-2)
Here’s a question people are asking now: Are the Saints the best team in the NFL?
The Eagles didn’t play and it seems they’ve been passed as the hot team in the league. It might be with good reason, too. The Saints have given up just 165 points this season — second fewest in the NFC with Minnesota and Seattle, just three behind the Rams — while they’ve scored 268, behind only Philly and Los Angeles in the conference.
What makes the Saints so hot? Their win streak is the longest in the NFL at seven straight. New Orleans lost to the Vikings in Week 1 then the Patriots a week later, but since then they’ve looked awesome, giving up 12 or fewer points each of the last three weeks and allowing 17 or less in six of their last seven games. Per the NFL, The Saints are the second team in the Super Bowl era to win its next seven games immediately following an 0-2 start. The other team – the ‘93 Cowboys – won the Super Bowl in that season.
And, oh yeah, the Saints have Drew Brees, who has completed more than 71 percent of his passes in each of the last four weeks. Brees relied on more than 300 yards rushing Sunday, led by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, but he’s still as accurate as ever. Given their level of opponent recently, it’s hard to put the Saints in a class above the Eagles or Rams, but they certainly belong in that class. And so do the Vikings.
The Saints host Washington next week — the third-straight week the Eagles will be pulling for their division rival — then head to LA to face the Rams before getting Carolina, Atlanta, the Jets, Atlanta again and ending the season at Tampa. The division isn’t easy for New Orleans, what with 6-3 Carolina and a disappointing but resurgent 5-4 Atlanta still waiting, but they’ve proven to be the class of it. The Eagles, meanwhile, get the benefit of a depleted Dallas team, but do not have an easy slate down the stretch, even with the Bears and Giants still on the schedule.
Carolina, Seattle and Detroit still have some fight left in them as well, and all have a chance to win their divisions. But most likely the two NFC byes will go to the Eagles, Saints, Rams or Vikings. With the other three winning Sunday, and continuing to get better and better each week, it was not a great week off for the Eagles, big game hunting or otherwise.