All year, the talk of the NFC has been the Philadelphia Eagles. Head coach Doug Pederson did a great job surrounding second-year quarterback Carson Wentz with a strong supporting cast including wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. The Eagles defense got better with additions including defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and defensive end Derek Barnett.
So it shouldn’t be a shock that the Eagles went on a tear, winning nine games over a two-month span. But look a little closer and you’ll notice something important, which the Eagles themselves didn’t realize until their upset loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football: They ain’t played nobody.
all 12 NFL teams with a winning record ranked by strength of schedule— John Sigler (@john_siglerrr) December 4, 2017
no team with a winning record has faced, much less beaten, fewer winning teams than the #Eagles#Falcons, #Saints, #Panthers have run a gauntlet pic.twitter.com/95JXWNy1kc
The Eagles have faced the weakest strength of schedule among twelve teams with a winning record, with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of .427. That’s by far the easiest slate of games drawn up by any team currently headed for the playoffs; second-weakest are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, each having seen an average opponent of .453.
To put it another way, the Eagles have played just two teams all year that currently have a winning record: the Carolina Panthers, who they beat narrowly by 28-23, and the Seahawks, who stepped on Philly’s neck with a 24-10 statement win.
It makes sense given how bad the media darlings in the NFC East have been. The Eagles share a division where the Dallas Cowboys sit precariously at 6-6, Washington has been an underachieving 5-7, and the 2-10 New York Giants are locked in the cellar. Those bottom-feeders aren’t a threat to them.
Contrast that with the other teams at the top of the NFC. Three NFC South teams lead the league’s winning teams in degree of difficulty: the Atlanta Falcons have seen the toughest schedule at .557, with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers tied for second at .536. Like the Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams (.495) and Minnesota Vikings (.489) have taken advantage of the weaker teams in their path.
So what does this mean? Likely more of the same for the Eagles. They finally drew a team with a backbone in the Seahawks and got ran out of town on a rail. The Seahawks held the Eagles to less than 100 rushing yards in a game for the first time since Philadelphia’s season-opener. Wentz was sacked three times to bring his twelve-game total to twenty-seven (27), compared to Drew Brees’ fifteen (15). The Eagles’ offensive line has been a strength of the team but a banged-up Seahawks front exposed them. How will they handle the pass rushers real title contenders throw at them?
If this Sunday’s upset is any indication, they won’t take well to being challenged. The Saints have won in Philadelphia in the playoffs before, and it looks like they can do it again.