(Photo by The Dallas Morning News)
With another Dallas Cowboys suspension setting off pre-Fourth of July fireworks, “Southwest America’s Team” looks one step closer to missing than making the playoffs for the second straight year. Several weeks ago I wrote about how the Cowboys may have kept tight end, Jason Witten, at least one year too long and quarterback Tony Romo has not played sixteen games since 2012. Combining these factors with an increasingly maligning defense, it comes to show you how terrible the NFL is at creating national television schedules. In addition, there clearly is no runaway favorite anymore, especially, since there have been no multiple NFC East playoff teams since 2009.
Of course, the Washington Redskins are the defending division champions, but no team in the division has won consecutive titles since 2004. With their running back depth chart in mediocrity and secondary still in question, do not be surprised if prognosticators correctly pick them to miss the playoffs.
The New York Giants are another sexy pick as their fans in forums like Facebook act almost as if they are going to win the Super Bowl; even though their fans make up a city that always blames general manager Jerry Reese for everything gone wrong.
Even as someone who has felt that Reese gets far too much blame in comparison to his general manager peers and Giants coaches, I can see why New Yorkers, particularly the media (ahem Bob Glauber), do not like him. Ereck Flowers and Eli Apple as reaches make him look worse than former New York Jets general manager John Idzik.
On the other hand, the same people that doubted Tom Coughlin as a possible winner despite him taking the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC Championship Games keep forgetting about the Giants going 8-8 after their last free agency splurge in 2009. In fairness, the team had three winning seasons afterward and a title in 2011. Except, the reality is that nearly every team, mainly a recent loser, that tries to win a Super Bowl in March usually goes 7-9 or 8-8.
If these three can legitimately be ruled out, strangely enough, there is one team that can win the NFC East. Unfortunately, no one knows who its starting quarterback is.
Sam Bradford had an up-and-down year in 2015, but his second-half made him look like he had a modicum of promise. Realistically, however, everyone has been down on him as the Philadelphia Eagles bankrupted their future to jump for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, leading Bradford to act cowardly and miss the early part of team OTAs.
Except, what if Bradford could have a playoff appearance the same way that the once .500 and doubted quarterback Alex Smith finally did as a then seven-year veteran of the San Francisco 49ers? The 49ers were a run-first offense that controlled the line of scrimmage and set up the passing game for Smith. Frank Gore stayed ageless as he ran for 1211 yards while Smith stayed in sync with catchers like tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Now, with the Eagles’ addition by subtraction of its exile and current Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray, the same could happen in Philly. Last season, reserve tailbacks Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner combined for 663 yards on 135 carries. Simultaneously, Murray expectedly averaged a pathetic 3.6 yards per carry after having carried and caught the ball a combined 449 times in 2014. With Mathews’ 5.0 average and Murray (12.9) having roughly five more carries per game than Mathews (8.2), more carries to Mathews means more movement down the field.
There is another benefit to Mathews playing over Murray: doing everything opposite of the prematurely declared genius Charles (Chip) E. Kelly.
Remember how Kelly was supposed to revolutionize the NFL and get into the red zone by turning every Eagles’ offensive play into the Philadelphia Eagles’ edition of NFL Redzone? Well, the so-called genius showed how dumb he truly is by forcing the Eagles to be last in time of possession for the past three years. He also revealed what a sports scientist he was not by turning himself into “Potato Chip Jelly.”
With “Jelly” set to ruin another team at a place where he was a recent predecessor’s whooping boy, the Eagles can indeed run the football with constructiveness and efficiency and keep their defense fresh. The Kansas City Chiefs averaged 30 minutes and 56 seconds in time of possession with new Eagles coach Doug Pedersen as their offensive coordinator. As the Eagles were last in that category during the three-year unconventional “Jelly” era, the Chiefs followed a formula filled with conventional wisdom in the same timeframe. From 2013 till 2015, 54.9 percent of winning teams averaged at least 30 minutes in time of possession. Impressively, 75 percent of winning teams averaged at least 31 minutes in time of possession. In two of the last three seasons, the Chiefs averaged over 31 minutes; both times, they made the playoffs. Let us not forget that new Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich helped the San Diego Chargers average 31 minutes and 25 seconds in last two seasons at the same position. But injuries and poor defensive personnel moves by general manager Tom Telesco held the Chargers back.
Defensively, with Jim Schwartz as the other coordinator, the chances of winning increase as he brings his Wide-9 defense to suit the skill sets of the Pro Bowl caliber defensive line. In his last three years as defensive coordinator, Schwartz’s teams have gone 32-16, sacked 46.0 times per season, and allowed 17.1 points per game. Teams that averaged at least 30 minutes per game in time of possession scored 23.1 points per game. Those that averaged at least 31 scored 24.5 points per game. If the Eagles achieve either of these feats, which is possible, they can have differentials of 95.9 or 118.9. Over the past three years, out of twenty-one teams with point differentials of at least 90, seventeen won at least eleven games. Out of seventeen teams with differentials of at least 115, sixteen won the same amount.
A team that was 7-7 with Bradford after having subtracted waste like Murray and “Jelly,” added a possibly better alternative like Wentz, and hired coaches with past success like Reich and Schwartz should be considered improved.
There is no point in defecating on the Eagles when believing in the Cowboys, Giants, or Redskins is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. As the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins stay molded in the images of their idiotic supporters as both take the same routes to destinations we have seen, we might as well give the Eagles a shot as this division deservingly remains known as the “NFC Least.” Besides, teams win the NFC East after being highly ignored nowadays, and after the Redskins did so in 2015, such a claim cannot be inaccurate. If I am wrong while everyone else is smart, why did no one pick the Redskins, Cowboys, and Eagles to win the division respectively in 2015, 2014, and 2013?