Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Crystal Ballin' Part 2: Remorse of the Bye Week



by Hal Greenblatt
Phanatic Football Contributor 

Six weeks into the season and your Philadelphia Eagles find themselves tied for the best record in the NFC East (and NFL) at 5-1. 

After Sunday night's unexpected but deeply satisfying  27-0 dismantling of the rival New York Giants, the Birds enter their bye week.

Looking back at my original July predictions through the bye week for the 2014 edition of these Eagles, I find myself just a tad off pace. Through six games, I had the Birds at 4-2 with their two losses coming on the road against the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers. I could have easily been right, but this Eagles team has something that others in the past have not possessed: a lot of heart.

As predicted, The Eagles find themselves with an unblemished record at home, sitting at 4-0 with wins over Jacksonville, Washington, St. Louis, and the New York Giants. On the road, the Birds find themselves sitting at 1-1, with the aforementioned comeback win at Indy and a come-from-ahead loss against San Francisco in the house that jeans built..

We’ve seen how Chip Kelly's kids accumulated the record in reality, but now, because I am a glutton of punishment, let’s see where I went wrong with my picks…

Week 1: versus Jacksonville

I predicted the Birds would win this game 27-13. I noted that the Jags had been competitive during the second half of the 2013 season and that the home team would be in for a fight.

Well, the Eagles fought the temptation to play winning football and entered halftime down 17-0. The offense would eventually get going and the Eagles would win, 34-17.

Week 2: at Indianapolis

Although I predicted the Colts to win 34-30, I gave the Green Machine virtually no shot at beating Indianapolis at home in their (retractable) dome. In 2013, Andrew Luck led his team to wins over Seattle and Denver and had a 6-2 record at Lucas Oil Stadium.

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. The Birds, struggling most of the game, pulled it together in a magic fourth quarter to upset the Colts 30-27, and improved to 2-0.

Week 3: versus Washington

Ah yes, the much-hyped DeSean Bowl. I don’t want to pat myself on the back, but I was spot on with this game, right down to Jackson’s “big (albeit hollow) numbers.” D-Jax put up five catches for 117 yards and one touchdown, but Kirk Cousins, filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, could not help Washington leave Philadelphia with a win, ultimately falling 37-34.

Week 4: at San Francisco

As much as it pained me to do so, I predicted an Eagles loss to the Niners after an “emotional division game,” and sadly, I was right. The visitors started the game like gangbusters (at least on defense and special teams), but the offense failed to do anything. Although the Eagles led for most of the game, much like the writer of this column, they could not close out their ungracious hosts, as they fell to 3-1 by the score of 26-21.

Week 5: versus St. Louis

This was a game that scared me when the schedule was released. The ultimate “trap game,” I called it, as the Eagles would be looking ahead to Sunday night football and the Giants. As if I were taking a spin as a professional prognosticator, I wrote in August, “the key for the Rams' success will come with the of quarterback Sam Bradford.” Well, Bradford was out injured and the Birds struggled with undrafted unknown Austin Davis (we can’t all be right!).

The Eagles, up big going into the fourth quarter, would “call the dogs off” and allow the Rams to come back and almost win the game -- holding onto a 34-28 result.

Week 6: versus New York

I expected a big win, and that’s what I got. I think the Giants have been beaten down enough, but the score bears repeating.

27-0.

Through six games, the Eagles have averaged 30.5 points per game, but find themselves averaging just 378.3 yards per game, which is good for 12th in the NFL. Individually, quarterback Nick Foles, though inconsistent, has thrown for 1,628 yards, good enough for fifth in the NFL. Running back LeSean McCoy, on the heels of a breakout 149-yard performance, is now ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing with 422 yards.

Defensively is where the Eagles have improved the most. After Sunday’s shutout of the Giants, the gents who are tasked with shutting down the opposition feature several league leaders. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is tied for the NFL’s lead in interceptions with three while linebacker Connor Barwin is tied for third in the league in sacks with six. As a unit, the Eagles are ranked 24th, allowing 22 points and 380 yards per game.

The third phase of the game is where the Eagles have excelled. Philadelphia has perhaps the league’s best special teams unit. New additions such as kicker Cody Parkey (12-of-13 field goals, 22 touchbacks), running back Darren Sproles (one touchdown, 15.6 return average), and special team aces Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos lead a unit that has two punt blocks for touchdowns as well as a kick return for another TD.

Moving forward, the Eagles face a tough task after the bye, traveling to Arizona to face the 4-1 Cardinals, followed by a trip to Houston before returning home for a Sunday night showdown with the Carolina Panthers. 

Although the Eagles have started the season 5-1, just one game better than my 4-2 prediction, I will stand pat in my 10-6 record by seasons end.
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