PHILADELPHIA – When it came time to submit a preseason prediction about the Philadelphia Eagles, I went with an 8-8 record. If anything, that seemed a little optimistic. One factor was the state of the NFC East -- it just seemed like a developing team could find its way to eight wins in this unimpressive division.
Two games do not a season make, but here the Eagles are at 1-1, on pace for a .500 season and 1-0 against NFC East opponents. They are also tied for the division lead because Washington and the New York Giants are unimpressively winless. There is an opportunity for any team to win the East, including the Eagles.
That makes this Thursday night game against Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs an early-season must-win. After whiffing on an excellent chance to start off 2-0, the Eagles can ill afford to lose a second home game in five nights. With a very difficult game in Denver on Sept. 29, they would then be eyeball-to-eyeball with a 1-3 start, a three-game losing streak and a definite loss of confidence.
The other important lesson from Weeks 1 and 2 is that, if you’re going to be in a shootout every week, you can’t afford to get outdrawn. Chip Kelly’s offense got the drop on Washington in the season opener and the defense was able to hang on for a win. The offense stumbled early against San Diego and the defense collapsed completely.
“I do know that every game we're going to play is going to be close,” Kelly said Monday, “and that's what this league is all about. I saw a stat this morning that there's been 31 games played, 22 of them have been decided by a touchdown or less. So that just makes us understand how important it is to execute every single snap you get an opportunity to get out there on the field. You've got to execute to your utmost because that play right there could be the difference between winning and losing a football game, and that's the message I had for our guys today.”
The Eagles made every kind of mistake possible Sunday -- bad penalties, dubious coaching decisions, totally inept defensive coverage, dropped touchdown passes -- and still lost by just three points. That’s a testament to just how effective Kelly’s offense is.
That offense might be the single best unit in the NFC East -- certainly, none of the defenses has made a strong case for themselves through two games. It would be a shame to squander a prime season in the careers of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
So 8-8 might have seemed overly optimistic before the season. Now it seems reasonable, and the division seems winnable. A victory against Kansas City would go a long way toward keeping that possibility alive.