This Eagles team has been through the wringer this season, starting with Duce Staley’s holdout, then losing their first two games, then with the whole Rush Limbaugh situation. Then, suddenly, Philly came out of that mess after the bye week and arose by winning 11 of their next 12 games. In the process, they silenced all the noise that marred their early-season performance. But with a loss to the 49ers last week at home, the Eagles have probably surrendered the home field advantage in the NFC playoffs to the St. Louis Rams. Can they recover and return to the NFC Championship Game? And more importantly, can the take the next step and finally go to the Super Bowl? The Microscope reveals much that is hidden…
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)|
|Rushing Offense||128.8 (8)||22 (2)|
|Passing Offense||184.7 (23)||14 (t25)|
|Rushing Defense||133.0 (23)||12 (t15)|
|Passing Defense||203.5 (16)||17 (t9)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|24 takeaways (19)
22 giveaways (t7)
+2 overall (12)
The Eagles need a win against Washington to stay ahead of Dallas and earn a first round bye in the playoffs. Although they aren’t guaranteed home field throughout, a bye week is very valuable at this stage of the season. Expect to see the Eagles on top of their game this weekend.
Donovan McNabb, QB – There’s no question that Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about Donovan McNabb earlier this season were racist, uncalled for, and just plain stupid. But as misguided as it was to use McNabb as an example in advancing some kind of media-race-bias issue, the basic point Limbaugh was trying to make holds true. McNabb has not played well this year, at least statistically. He was a fantasy disappointment, I think largely due to the fact that his receiving corps just isn’t very talented. But the ultimate measure of a quarterback should be one simple number that resides in a column labeled with a “W”. When the game is on the line and a play needs to be made, McNabb is there to make it.
Brian Westbrook, RB – In fantasy terms, Brian Westbrook and really every offensive player on the Eagles suffers from the same problem. But a fantasy owner’s problem is Philadelphia’s strength – they have the most balanced offense in the NFL. There is no single stand-out player who gets enough touches to make a difference on your fantasy team. Westbrook is an excellent runner and receiver capable of big numbers, but the problem is you can’t always predict when he will get the ball enough to help you out.
Correll Buckhalter, RB – Buckhalter is the same way. He has 113 carries this season … exactly the same as Westbrook. The difference is, he only has 7 receptions to Westbrook’s 35. Add in the fact that he sat out the last game after being suspended for missing a team meeting, and you have some dismal fantasy prospects in week 17.
Duce Staley, RB – Staley is the third cog in this RBBC from hell. He hasn’t generated enough offense lately to give you much hope of a big score. Start him (or Westbrook) if you must, but don’t get your hopes up.
James Thrash, WR – This is going to start sounding like a broken record with the receivers. It’s a WRBC. Thrash catches a deep pass or two, but his numbers aren’t good enough on a week-to-week basis to warrant a start.
Todd Pinkston/Freddie Mitchell, WR – You get the idea. Look elsewhere for a receiver.
L. J. Smith, TE – Finally, a glimmer of hope for fantasy teams! Although he did not play last week with a groin and back injuries, Smith is listed as probable on this week’s injury report. There are better tight ends out there, but he might be worth a start if you need to pick someone up off waivers.
Chad Lewis, TE – Lewis’ fantasy numbers are very predictable. He will have one or two catches and no TD’s. This is really scraping the bottom of the barrell.
Defense/Special Teams – The past two years when the Eagles have gone to the NFC Championship, this was the strength of their team. But the loss of a few key performers has weakened this unit to the point where they can no longer carry the team for an entire game. I wrote of the Eagles’ balance on offense, but high-scoring teams like the Packers, Rams, and Vikings can knock Philly out of the playoffs this year. Rushing defense is their major weakness, and the NFC playoffs are full of teams that can exploit that. However, if you are desperate for a team to start in week 17, their matchup against Washington should be good for the numbers.
The Bottom Line
I must admit, after seeing what the microscope tells me about the Eagles, I don’t know how this team keeps winning games. Their RBBC works well, but they are in dire need of some better receivers. They have more salary cap room than most teams, but year after year they do not address this problem. Add to that a defense who can’t stop the run, and you have a recipe for playoff disaster. But somehow they keep making the right plays and winning. And they will probably have a week off and at least one home playoff game, meaning the odds favor them to return to the NFC Championship game. But I still see a team that hasn’t improved themselves enough to take that HUGE last step and make it to the Super Bowl.
Next Week … The playoffs arrive! Since I’ve already reviewed most of the playoff teams and the fantasy games you’ll be playing differ from the regular season, next week’s article will have a different format. I don’t want to give it all away, but you’ll see what I have in store soon enough. Until next week, good luck to all of you playing a championship game this week, and may the best Shark win!