Eagles will soar in the playoffs

By David Schwartz

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Philadelphia Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Charger defense in the first quarter on Oct. 1 in Carson, Ca. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Eagles fans usually have high expectations for Philadelphia’s beloved football team before each season. Prior to this season, expectations were not high enough.

After finishing the 2016 season with a record of 7-9, the Eagles are currently flying high with a 10-1 record, which was captivated by a 37-9 blowout win over the division rival Dallas Cowboys Nov. 19 and a 31-3 abomination over the Chicago Bears Nov. 26. The Eagles have a five game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East Division now that Dallas is 5-6.

One of the highlights of this current Eagles’ season has been the play of second -year quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz.

So far, he has accumulated a 60 percent completion percentage, 2,657 passing yards, and 28 touchdown passes. Wentz also ran for 253 yards on the ground.

The success of Wentz’s season is due to the amazing effort by his receiving corps, led by tight end Zach Ertz (55 catches, 639 receiving yards, seven touchdowns), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (43 catches, 619 receiving yards, seven touchdowns), and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (33 catches, 458 receiving yards, six touchdowns).

LeGarrette Blount has been the top rusher so far for the Eagles as he’s ran for 658 yards on 137 carries and two touchdowns.

The running game looks to get even better since acquiring former Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi in a trade on Oct. 31. Ajayi scored his first touchdown for the Eagles on a 46-yard run in their 51-23 blowout win against the Denver Broncos Nov. 5.

As much as the Eagles offense has excelled, the defense has been just as good since allowing an average of only 17.4 points throughout their first 11 games.

Their pass rush has been the anchor of their defensive scheme led by defensive tackler Fletcher Cox (15 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and defensive ends Brandon Graham (34 tackles, seven sacks) and Vinny Curry (32 tackles, three sacks).

Safety Malcolm Jenkins (53 tackles, one sack, two interceptions) has been a tremendous leader for the Eagles’ secondary and cornerbacks Jalen Mills (51 tackles, three interceptions), and Patrick Robinson (35 tackles, three interceptions) have filled the voids at that position while Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones have been recovering from injuries.

Darby played against the Cowboys for the first time since dislocating his ankle in the season opener against the Washington Redskins, which included an interception in the first half.

With fives games left to go in the regular season, it’s safe to say that the Eagles are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, but how far can they go?

To reach the Super Bowl, the Eagles are going to have to play against some pretty good teams in the NFC. The Minnesota Vikings (9-2), New Orleans Saints (8-3), and Los Angeles Rams (8-3) all lead their respective divisions, along with the Carolina Panthers (8- 3), the Atlanta Falcons (7-4), and the Seattle Seahawks (7-4) battling it out for the two wild card spots.

Due to most of the division leaders not having much playoff experience, the Eagles should win the NFC and advance to the Super Bowl.

Prior to the season, my Super Bowl matchup prediction was the Seahawks facing the New England Patriots. That all changed Nov. 9 when Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles against the Arizona Cardinals.

Safety Kam Chancellor was also announced out for the rest of the season due to a neck injury a week after the Cardinals game.

Throughout the last few seasons, the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL due to their amazing secondary featuring Sherman and safeties Chancellor and Earl Thomas to make up “The Legion of Boom.”

Before Sherman and Chancellor got hurt, the Seahawks were the only team that I believed to be in the way of the Eagles reaching the Super Bowl. Wentz and the rest of the Birds have a huge opportunity to dethrone Seattle and represent the NFC, but can the Eagles actually win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history?

They certainly have a shot.

There are two teams in the AFC that can win the Super Bowl: the Patriots (9-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2).

The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

The Patriots, with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, should still be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. This famous head coach-quarterback duo have won five championships together, including last year’s victory against the Falcons.

The Eagles have all of the tools to make a run and win it all, but due to a surplus of experience in New England, my prediction currently stands with the Patriots.

Whatever happens in this season’s playoffs should take nothing away from what the Eagles have been doing so far this season. Wentz has been phenomenal and is a NFL superstar in the making.

He’s a winner, but he’s young. At the age of 24, Wentz will have his first playoff experience and it’s going to be exciting to see if he can handle the pressure in playoff games.

Mark your calendars for Feb. 4th.

Contact David Schwartz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu