Are the Philadelphia Eagles the Best Team in the NFC?

By Bryn Swartz
PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 27 :  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates with teammates Jeremy Maclin #18 and Jason Avant #81 after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter againt the Denver Broncos at Lincoln Financial Field on December 27, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It’s been one crazy season. Crazy enough that the Eagles’ 4-2 record is good enough to tie for first place with the Giants, Bears, Saints, and Falcons. Then there’s the Packers and Redskins at 3-3, and both teams beat the Eagles this season. The Vikings are also 2-3, but they have a roster as talented as any in the NFC.

So are the Eagles, who might have had the craziest season out of any of those teams, really the best team in the NFC?

This season, the Eagles have won all four games in which their quarterback wasn’t injured. They lost against the Packers when Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion halfway through the game. And they lost to the Redskins when Michael Vick suffered a rib cartilage injury in the first quarter.

I believe we would have beaten the Redskins if Vick (or Kolb) had played all four quarters, but I don’t think we would have beaten Green Bay.

Whoever plays quarterback for the Eagles (and they’ve both thrown about 100 passes) has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC, maybe even in the entire NFL.

Combined, the Eagles’ quarterback duo of Kolb and Vick has produced 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, for a 103.3 passer rating. They’ve also rushed 33 times for 226 yards and a touchdown, most of which is due to the legs of Michael Vick.

22-year old second-year running back LeSean McCoy is quickly developing into one of the top running backs in the league. He’s rushed for 429 yards and five touchdowns in six games. He’s also caught 32 passes for 239 yards. He’s averaged 115 total yards from scrimmage while playing the last two weeks with a cracked rib.

The receiving threats of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Brent Celek have been remarkable. Jackson is averaging over 20 yards per catch with three touchdowns. And Maclin leads the team with 416 yards and six touchdowns, which are tied for first in the NFC.

The offensive line has been better than expected. The loss of left tackle Jason Peters to injury may actually be a good thing, as King Dunlap proved in his last game that he may have a future in the NFL. And center Mike McGlynn is playing much better than Nick Cole did when he filled in for Jamaal Jackson.

The defense has been solid, especially in the last few minutes of close games. Rookie safety Nate Allen earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in September, intercepting three passes and ranking third on the team with 24 tackles. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley has finally started making plays, and defensive end Trent Cole is turning in his usual Pro Bowl season.

The special teams have been a weakness all season. However, with the exception last game’s disaster, David Akers has been kicking all of his field goals. Return man Jorrick Calvin has finally (rightfully) earned the punt returning duties. And punter Sav Rocca is finally showing his powerful leg by averaging 46.8 yards per punt, the fourth best total in the NFL.

They have the highest scoring offense in the NFC, and the best point differential in the conference. They’ve turned the ball over just five times in six games, the fewest by any NFC team. Their +8 turnover differential is the best in the conference.

And as of right now, I do think the Eagles are the best team in the NFC. I’m not saying I expect them to win the division or even make the playoffs. But right NOW, the Eagles have played better than every NFC team.

The Eagles still need to play the Giants twice, the Cowboys twice, and the Redskins again, as well as the Bears and Vikings.

By the end of the season, the Eagles will have played every single one of the NFC’s top teams, with the exception of the New Orleans Saints.

But right now, it really doesn’t matter which NFC team is the most dominant. The AFC, led by the Steelers, Jets, Ravens, Patriots, Colts, Titans, and Texans, has the NFL’s top seven teams.

While I would put the Eagles as the NFC’s best team, just ahead of the Saints and Giants, I would only rank them as the NFL’s eighth best team.

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