PHILADELPHIA – The question of whether the Philadelphia Eagles made progress in Chip Kelly’s second season as head coach will be hard to answer definitively.
If they beat Washington on Saturday and the New York Giants in the season finale Dec. 28, the Eagles will finish 11-5. That will be one victory better than last season's 10-6 team. But the 2013 team won the NFC East title and earned a home playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys win out, the Eagles could find themselves missing the playoffs all together.
Is that progress or a step back? Kelly didn’t really answer the question, but he made something of a case for the view that missing the playoffs is all that really counts.
“Right now, we’ve only got nine wins,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I mean, for us to think of questions like that, that doesn't help us beat Washington. So I don't really think about it. If we win 11 games and it's not good enough to get in, shame on us because we didn't win the right games. That’s the bottom line. That's what this whole deal is all about and we know it going in.”
That’s undeniable. The Eagles are 9-5. All five losses are to NFC teams that are, or were at the time of the game, in the NFC playoff field. In short, the Eagles lost to the teams they would have possibly faced in the postseason. That doesn’t support the argument that they should be outraged if they go 11-5 and somehow miss the postseason.
“All we can do is get to 11-5 and believe that somehow, some way, that will be enough to get us into the playoffs,” tight end Zach Ertz said.
So there is little reason to believe the Eagles will take Washington (3-11) lightly when they play Saturday. The Eagles beat their NFC rival back in September, but it was 37-34. It was not an easy victory.
“Right now, there is no such thing as struggling to get up for a game,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We need to win. Bad. So it won’t take much motivation. It’s not like we have our playoff seed locked in and we’re the No. 1 seed and we’re resting starters. We’re fighting for everything we’ve got right now.”
It sounds like Kelly’s message for the week has gotten through.
“What we can do is control how we prepare for Washington and that's what we're going to do,” Kelly said. “They [the players] were great yesterday; they came in here ready to play. That's what I know about this group. They love playing football, they love training for it and they were fantastic yesterday and they’re going to be the same today.”
If they’re fantastic Saturday, that will be even better.