Chip Kelly’s first year at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles has consisted of a complete organizational overhaul. Typically, upheaval like the Birds have experienced would lower playoff expectations, however, the horrendously non-competitive NFC East gives Eagles fans hope.
With three weeks completed in the NFL schedule, it continues to appear that an 8-8 record could very well win the once powerful division. A quick look at the Eagles’ remaining games doesn’t rule out a .500 winning percentage come the end of December.
With a record of 1-2 after playing three games in 11 days, the Birds are preparing to face the explosive Denver Broncos. A battle of the league’s top two offenses Sunday should prove to be another day at the playground he calls an office for the ageless Peyton Manning.
However unlikely beating Manning and his band of gifted receivers might prove to be, there is no denying that Kelly’s offensive scheme is anything but an NFL failure. Currently second in total offense, averaging 462 yards per contest, the Birds’ No. 1 ranked ground attack is led by LeSean McCoy. With 395 rushing yards thus far, McCoy is on pace for a single season NFL record 2,107 yards.
Eighth in the league in scoring at just over 26 points per game, the Birds’ real issue continues to be in stopping their opponent. Short on talent and learning a new scheme, the Eagles 29th ranked defense will face a team this Sunday averaging more than 42 points per game. Denver’s staggering number could actually be increased, given the generous nature of Philly’s defense, who has allowed 323 passing yards per game as well as a whopping 28.7 points per contest.
Unless Kelly can figure out a way to put up 45 or more points against the Broncos’ 19th ranked defense, it’s likely the Eagles will be 1-3 heading into their Week 5 matchup against the winless New York Giants. As bad as that record sounds after four weeks, it is certainly still reasonable that the Birds will have an opportunity to compete for the division title.
Taking a look at the rest of the schedule, Week 5 and Week 6, both road games are very winnable for Philly. The Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are two teams in turmoil, headed towards very disappointing seasons. Neither team’s offense is good enough to outscore the Eagles, so two wins there brings the Birds to 3-3 heading into a home matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.
“America’s Team” has a 2-1 record currently, having beaten two teams with a combined 1-5 record. As usual, the Cowboys are overrated by the media and their fans. Tony Romo is still their quarterback, so it stands to reason that the Cowboys will find a way to end the season at 7-9 or 8-8.
Often coming up short in big games, expect Romo to stumble to a loss in Philly in Week 7. Follow that with a disappointing Eagles loss at home against the Giants, and the Birds’ record evens out at 4-4 through the first half.
A win in California against the Oakland Raiders, loss at Green Bay and win at home against the Washington Redskins leaves Philly 6-5 at their bye week. Post-bye, a win against the Arizona Cardinals, a loss to the Detroit Lions, a win at Minnesota, and closing with consecutive losses to the Chicago Bears and Cowboys, has Kelly’s Birds at 8-8 to finish his first campaign.
The regular season could end much differently for two other “NFC Least” head coaches, with the Giants’ Tom Coughlin and the Redskins’ Mike Shanahan both being on thin ice. Their teams’ 0-3 starts doesn’t bode well for a happy ending. Long known as one of the toughest and most competitive divisions in football, the NFC East is the doormat of the NFL this year.
Although general manager Howie Roseman and Kelly’s rebuilding project might have not privately called for the Eagles to visit the playoffs this season, their public stance of “re-tooling” and always aiming for the postseason could end up being more than just a sales job to their fans. The incompetence of the division could be the perfect recipe for the Eagles’ revolutionary offense.
Barring key injuries, if the Eagles can execute offensively close to the way they did the first two weeks of the season, a trip to the NFL bonus round might just be in play. If Kelly is coaching a game in January, he can thank “Shady” McCoy and a pathetic division for the national exposure.