A couple of weeks ago, Philly fans were on the verge of a meltdown about their beloved Eagles.
Chip Kelly’s team was 4-7 and had lost consecutive games to three less-than-stellar teams in Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit. An opportunity to grasp control of the weak NFC East was slipping through their fingers.
What a difference two weeks can make.
The Eagles have rebounded — beating the New England Patriots in Foxborough and squeaking out a three-point win over the Buffalo Bills to push their record to 6-7 and put them on top of the division with three games to play.
The NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals visit Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night with a chance to wrap up their division and take a big step toward securing a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
All week, we’ll take you to Philadelphia and keep you up to date on everything going on with the Eagles as they get ready for the Cardinals.
It’s Behind Enemy Lines …
• Ready for Patriots’ Trickery, Eagles Turn Their Focus to an Unlikely Berth (New York Times)
Even if the Eagles lose to the Cardinals, they will win the division and advance to the playoffs if they beat the Redskins at home Dec. 26 and the Giants on the road Jan. 3. It is a situation that few could have envisioned just a few weeks ago.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he expects the Cardinals to try six to eight deep passes. The Cardinals have a league-high 59 passes of more than 20 yards this season. Coach Chip Kelly said the area that was the Eagles’ Achilles’ heel last season is better this year.
• Rowe coming along quickly at cornerback for Eagles (Philly.com)
“Confidence is key to playing a position in which you are often on an island. And Rowe was brimming with it following the Patriots game. Brady went at him 12 times, but he allowed just four passes for 42 yards and had two pass breakups.”
• Holding out hope – still – for Eagles to win the East (Philly.com)
Seen as a Super Bowl contender by some, the Eagles have faltered when it comes to their expectations for the 2015-16 season. Still, the Eagles have a chance at winning their division and achieving a playoff birth, something Eagles fans would gladly take after the way the season has unfolded.
• Eagles confident about handling Cards’ blitzes (Philly.com)
Against the blitz, as in most other areas, Bradford has done better lately than he was doing earlier in the season, when he really struggled processing a new offense, while trying to get up to game speed after missing a season-and-a-half with knee injuries.
The Eagles are 6-7 and don’t really need to win their game this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. If they lose to Arizona, they can win the NFC East title by beating Washington and the New York Giants over the final two weeks. Heck, they may not even have to beat the Giants.
Last season, the Eagles were the worst defense in the NFL in terms of X plays. They allowed a league-high 72 passes longer than 20 yards. That is what prompted head coach Chip Kelly to change three-quarters of his starting secondary during a busy offseason.
• DeMarco Murray plays it cool in Chip Kelly’s offense (ESPN.com)
Murray played in 25 offensive snaps in the Eagles’ 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. That’s more than the 14 snaps he played in the Eagles’ game in New England. After that game, Murray talked with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie about his situation.
• Early Birds: Eagles-Cardinals predictions (Philly.com)
Zach Berman and Jeff McLane predict Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field.
• Brandon Graham’s mission: Get to Carson Palmer (Philly.com)
Like most pass-rushers, Brandon Graham likes a quarterback who’s easy to find. Tom Brady. Eli Manning. Carson Palmer. He’d rather line up across from those quarterbacks, as accomplished and skilled as they are, than he would against one who can scurry and scramble and will abandon the pocket for the sake of saving himself and extending the play. Graham is one of the Eagles’ two starting outside linebackers. He’s tied for the team lead in sacks with 61/2. He prefers an immobile target.
• Eagles see big things ahead for Agholor (Philly.com)
Agholor and the rest of the receiving unit will be well tested on Sunday night by a stiff Arizona secondary. The Cardinals are the sixth-toughest defense against wide receivers this season. They have yielded just two touchdowns to the position over the last five weeks.
Here we are in Week 15 with a 6-7 football team and talking about playoff scenarios.
• Sam Bradford looking to Zach Ertz more and more (CSN Philly)
It’s probably no coincidence Zach Ertz had big plays in each of the last two Eagles victories. He hauled in a momentum-altering touchdown pass against the New England Patriots last week, then had the 41-yard catch-and-run to set up the game-winning field goal against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The divergent paths have something to do with the Eagles’ switch this season from Nick Foles to Sam Bradford, while Arians was able to stick with Carson Palmer, and build around him, but the Cards also are doing a better job overall at attracting talent.
• DeMarco Murray plays it cool in Chip Kelly’s offense (ESPN.com)
Kelly said Thursday that he is concerned with trying to win the Eagles’ three remaining games, not with placating Murray, who’s been unhappy with his playing time.
• Sam Bradford only focused on game against Arizona (ESPN.com)
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t know if they’ll have Sam Bradford at quarterback beyond this season. Bradford’s contract is up at the end of the season and he was noncommittal on the subject of his future in Philadelphia.
The view from Arizona hasn’t been clouded by expectations or incorrect assumptions. So Bruce Arians hasn’t been surprised by the Philadelphia Eagles’ mystifying season.
• Eagles CB Byron Maxwell returns to practice (NJ.com)
One day after missing practice due to a sprained ankle, Maxwell was on the field with a helmet on Thursday as the team began their training session inside of the bubble at the NovaCare Complex.
It looked like the Philadelphia Eagles’ season had fallen apart after the 45-14 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Detroit Lions. The Eagles were 4-7 at that point and had lost four of their previous five games, but the biggest issue was speculation that the players might have given up on coach Chip Kelly.
Fast-forward two weeks and this team has seen a 180-degree turnaround. Philadelphia has won its past two games and is now considered the favorite to win the NFC East, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
• Sam Bradford noncommittal about re-signing with Eagles (Philly.com)
ULTIMATELY, IT’S up to the Eagles whether Sam Bradford plays here next season, the outcome Chip Kelly indicated he expects. They can franchise their quarterback for 2016, at $20 million or so, if it comes to that. They’d surely prefer that it not come to that, since a longer-term contract could be amortized against the salary cap. If they don’t want to pay $20 million, they can let him become a free agent and start over, in Kelly’s fourth year.
• Eagles special teams rising to the occasion (Philly.com)
It would take a remarkable finish in the final three games for this year’s Eagles special teams to be compared to last year’s units, but that might be exactly what this team needs to win the NFC East.
Murray, who signed a five-year, $40-million contract in free agency, began the season as the starter. He started eight of the first 10 games he played in and got the most carries in all 10 of those games.
On the last day of Pro Bowl voting, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis hit the campaign trail.
His candidate: Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox. His target audience: Fans whose vote could get Cox to his first Pro Bowl after the regular season.
• In Arians, Eagles to face coach they snubbed (Philly.com)
Three years ago, Bruce Arians was the Mr. Irrelevant of that year’s NFL head-coaching hires. Eight teams, including the Eagles, fired and hired new coaches following the 2012 season. The last name off the board that year, the last guy hired, was Arians.
• Eagles rookie Eric Rowe standing up to early tests (Philly.com)
THIS IS ERIC ROWE’S third week as a starting NFL cornerback.
First time out, he faced Tom Brady. Sunday, it was Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, a quarterback with a less impressive resumé but a similar 2015 passer rating; Rowe mostly covered either Sammy Watkins or Robert Woods, both formidable threats.
• Eagles offense still has a way to go (Philly.com)
None of the offense’s 14 drives covered more than 57 yards. Six were three-and-outs ending in punts, including the penultimate possession in which even one first down would have ended the game.
• Back at nickel, Malcolm Jenkins to face Larry Fitzgerald (CSN Philly)
For two games, the Eagles moved Malcolm Jenkins out of his role as the team’s nickel cornerback.
In those two games, the Eagles’ defense gave up 83 points in a five-day span.
• Ed Reynolds rewards Eagles for taking a risk (ESPN.com)
Philadelphia Eagles second-year safety Ed Reynolds showed the risk and reward of playing young players on two very similar plays Sunday.
• Zach Ertz’s big play was a ‘pick’ or an accident (ESPN.com)
After the Philadelphia Eagles’ 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the feeling in the visiting locker room was that Josh Huff set a pick on Zach Ertz’s 41-yard reception. It was a significant play. Ertz’s catch-and-run put the Eagles in to position for the game-winning field goal.
• Sam Bradford following Carson Palmer’s NFL path (ESPN.com)
He won the Heisman Trophy. He was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament twice.
He could be either Sam Bradford or Carson Palmer, the two men who will start at quarterback Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals.
• Chip Kelly will face another critic this week (Philly.com)
A former Philadelphia player who accused Eagles coach Chip Kelly of a lot of nasty things has left town a sore loser. A former Philadelphia coach who has questioned Kelly’s offensive system is up next at Lincoln Financial Field and he brings with him a big-time winner.
Nothing Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has said in the past contained the kind of jilted vitriol that LeSean McCoy aimed at his former coach after being traded to the Buffalo Bills during the offseason. Still, Arians’ opinions about zone-read offensive systems and quarterbacks who run an up-tempo offense that relies on cue-card instructions from the sideline have made for interesting debate.
• Eagles’ Chip Kelly says Sam Bradford has progressed (Philly.com)
“We’ve always wanted Sam here. We wouldn’t have traded for him if we thought he was (only) going to be here for a year,” said Kelly, who sent Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round pick to St. Louis for Bradford back in March.
• Chip Kelly doesn’t know what a catch in NFL is either (CSN Philly)
Don’t know what a catch is in the NFL anymore?
You’re not alone. Neither does Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
“Yeah, I don’t know what a catch is,” Kelly said on WIP on Monday morning, when host Angelo Cataldi asked him to help everyone understand.
• Chip Kelly strikes back, sounds like himself again (CSN Philly)
It has been an interesting year for Chip Kelly, which is not the same thing as it being a good year for the coach and general manager. He made many decisions during the offseason, several of which turned out to be of the head-scratching, inadvisable variety in retrospect. Much of what he’s done and said has not been well received, from trading a second-round pick for Sam Bradford to overpaying for underproductive DeMarco Murray (and Byron Maxwell, if you want to throw him in there).