This is unfortunate timing, I admit, but here’s a healthy portion of reality to serve with your turkey and trimmings on Thursday. The Eagles will not win the Super Bowl this season. I hereby withdraw my bold prediction. It’s not going to happen — despite Sunday’s easy win, despite a terrific 8-3 record, despite the continued success of Chip Kelly.
There are several reasons for this unwelcome concession. The biggest is the Eagles defense, which is not good enough to stop the best offenses in the NFL. Also, Mark Sanchez — and Nick Foles, before his injury — are not Super-Bowl quarterbacks. And finally, Kelly still needs a little more experience before he will be ready to claim the Lombardi Trophy.
When this season ends after the first or second round of the playoffs, the Eagles will look back with disappointment at two injuries that foiled their ultimate goal — a season-ender to linebacker DeMeco Ryans and the six-to-eight-week loss of quarterback Nick Foles.
Ryans was, and is, the soul of the defense. The stats don’t lie. Before Ryans was hurt, the Eagles camouflaged their weaknesses — Bradley Fletcher, Nate Allen, and depth at linebacker — behind his indomitable spirit and tireless work ethic. It is no coincidence that the Eagles gave up 22 points per game before he was hurt and have allowed 33 since the injury.
The current defense has two players who will destroy any chance the Birds have to go deep in the playoffs. Fletcher’s side of the field has been a crime scene from the time Ryans left. The cornerback cannot cover good receivers, and has become prone to stupid penalties because of his frustration. Casey Matthews, for want of a better word, stinks.
Meanwhile, on offense Sanchez is capable of making precise passes like the sideline laser to Riley Cooper that set up a third-quarter touchdown against Tennessee, but he cannot be trusted to make the smart decisions mandated by Kelly’s offense. The two interceptions he gave up on Sunday were not fatal errors against the awful Titans; they will be against the Packers, Cardinals or (gulp) Cowboys.
Foles was not much better than Sanchez before his injury, but he was more than good enough last year, with his uncanny accuracy and knack for protecting the ball. His performance last season inspired my original Super-Bowl prediction. Now, the aura is gone. In all likelihood, 2013 will be the best season of Foles’ career.
Kelly has remained brilliant in his second NFL season, but he remains a work in progress when it comes to personnel. His 2014 draft is looking more and more like a major disappointment – especially first-round pick Marcus Smith, who has provided no relief at linebacker after Ryans’ injury.
I guess it’s crazy to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving now, isn’t it?