PHILADELPHIA -- The comical ineptitude of the NFC teams has served to defend the Philadelphia Eagles during this lackluster season. It should have been just the opposite.
The poor play of the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and the New York Giants has allowed the Eagles to argue that they were still in the division race. The worse their record became, the more desperate that argument sounded.
But it’s the wrong argument. That never seemed clearer than it did as the Giants took a beating from Washington Sunday. It didn’t help that Fox previewed the game as a battle for control of the NFC East.
For the past two seasons (the entire Chip Kelly era), the division race has been between the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Washington and New York were minor players as the Eagles beat the Cowboys on the final day of the 2013 season to win the division. Last season, Dallas beat the Eagles in December to take the NFC East.
The division race appeared to be about the same coming into this season. The Cowboys and the Eagles would compete for the title while Washington and New York played out their schedules in oblivion.
And that’s just what Washington and New York are, two oblivious teams with no business being in the conversation about NFC contenders. That was clear Sunday, as the Giants stumbled around the FedEx Stadium Field and blew their tenuous grip on first place in the division.
It may come down to Washington and New York for the division title, but that’s not because either team has been particularly good. It is because the Eagles and Cowboys have been epic disappointments.
One of those teams has an excuse. Injuries have cost Dallas the services of quarterback Tony Romo for most of the season. Wide receiver Dez Bryant was also out for a long stretch. While that lets Dallas off the hook a bit, it does nothing but make the Eagles’ failure this season look even worse.
Their three-game losing streak -- against Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit -- was only the most dramatic (and most recent) chapter in the Eagles’ story. The reality is, this Eagles team has been inexcusably out of sync since the beginning of the regular season.
They lost their season opener in Atlanta to a team that has lost five of its last six games.
They lost to Dallas at home thanks to one of the most pathetic offensive performances you’ll ever see.
They let Washington drive 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown at FedEx Field.
They were thoroughly outclassed by the Carolina Panthers.
An overtime victory against the Romo-less Cowboys got the Eagles to 4-4 and lent credence to the idea that they were still very much alive in the NFC East. And they were, but only because the NFC East was that pathetic.
If the Eagles were anything close to a legitimate contender, they would have beaten Atlanta, Washington, Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit. OK, let’s allow for a poor game here and there. That happens.
The Eagles should have no worse than a 7-4 record. That would have them in first place in the NFC East. Even with tough remaining games against New England (Dec. 6) and Arizona (Dec. 20), the Eagles would be in control of the division race and their own playoff destiny.
Now they are 4-7. Worse, they are coming off two of the worst performances in franchise history. Their losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit, by a combined score of 90-31, have called Kelly’s entire program into question. They were losses of a kind you only saw in franchise-shaking seasons: 1994, when Rich Kotite lost his last seven games; 1998, when Ray Rhodes’ final team went 3-13; 2012, when Andy Reid’s mistakes caught up to him all at once.
They were losses that you would see only when coaches were on their way out the door, losses that forced that door open.
It may be too late for the Eagles to bounce back and win this wretched NFC East title. But there is still time for them to win three or four of their remaining games and remove some of the stench from this horrendous season. There is time for Kelly and his players to leave a more positive impression than they have through their first 11 games.
That shouldn’t be that hard, really. It has been a pretty lousy impression.