How the Changing of Tides in the NFC East Will Help Catapult the Eagles to New England Patriot Level Success
One interesting storyline going into the Super Bowl 52 match-up between the Eagles and Patriots is looking at what could be and what is. The Patriots, with a quarterback at age 40, and on the cusp of losing their coordinators, could see their reign that spanned almost two decades coming to a close. The Eagles, with a quarterback in year two, a trusted coach and front office, and a somewhat young nucleus, could transition into the golden goose of the NFL. Our desire as fans has always been to see this Eagles franchise hoist their first Lombardi trophy and what better way to do it than by ushering out the Patriots era of success in the league and creating our own. While the Patriots although hated, have to be respected for their unprecedented tenure as championship contenders. While Brady and Belichick are obviously the pillars of success for New England, other major details play apart in an NFL team remaining consistently successful. One of those major factors: your division.
During the Patriots era of title contention, some divisions have obviously been tougher than others. In the AFC North, the Ravens and Steelers have done a good job beating up on each other. While the Bengals haven’t been great, they’ve literally been beating up on the rest of the division. The NFC South has seen three of its teams make a Super Bowl appearance since the turn of the decade, two in the past two seasons. Those same three teams also all made a playoff appearance here in the 2017 season. Constant rotation of division winners with intense competition against divisional rivals year in and year out make it tough to make it to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. And then, there’s the AFC East. As foolish as it is to say, sometimes part of being good is beating the teams that are bad and the Patriots have continually taken care of business against inferior division foes. The path back to a Super Bowl is the shortest when you are handed six somewhat cupcake games each year, boosting the odds of home field advantage in the playoffs. To put it into perspective, a team led by Mark Sanchez was the most competitive opponent the Patriots had to thwart during their dominant era. For the Eagles to reach the stage of constant Super Bowl contention like the Patriots have, it starts with constant success in six divisional games each year. Now, the NFC East has been notoriously topsy turvy during the time the AFC East has faltered. As many of you Birds fans know, the last team to repeat as division champions was our Eagles in 2003-04. Yet, due to some recent developments with the other teams in the NFC East, the time may have arrived for the Eagles to establish dominance within in the division.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 31, 2018
The most recent NFC East transaction that has benefited the Eagles is this eye opening trade the Washington Redskins are set to complete in order to acquire Alex Smith and part ways with Kirk Cousins. If on the surface this seems like a bad trade, that’s because it is. I like Kirk Cousins. He’s a fucking nerd, but I like him. He can make some big time throws, he’s more mobile than people give him credit for and he gave the Eagles fits. I think we should be pretty ecstatic that we are playing Smith twice a year now instead of Cousins. Smith, as we saw this season, can be very efficient with the right pieces. But, the offensive fire power in DC nowhere near matches that of KC. They let go of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to invest in Terrelle Pryor which didn’t work out. They had a banged up offensive line all year that needs revamped. Plus, they had a below average run defense and to top it off, the player with the most upside on that defense, was the unknown player in that tweet who was traded, Kendall Fuller. Now, with all bad teams who have holes, they can be filled through the draft. Except, it will now be tougher to do so for the Redskins, because they gave up a 3rd round pick to get Smith. Head-scratching, yet supremely beneficial to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Unless drastic events occur between now and the start of next season, an enormous talent gap will exist between the Redskins as well as the Giants and our Eagles. We have discussed the uphill climb of the Redskins and the Giants may be in more dire straights. They have a 37 year old quarterback in the declining stages of his career and a transition to a fresher option has to be made at some point. Whether their opening day starter is young or old next year, they will be stuck behind a horrid offensive line which is brutal for developing a quarterback and for a quarterback as old as Eli. On top of that, unless they forego the quarterback transition and draft Saquon Barkley, they will once again have an anemic run game to rely on. Even the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and they development of players like Sterling Sheppard and Evan Engram will not save them. As for the Dallas Cowboys, the same talent gap does not exist but they do not strike fear. Three years ago, they went 5-12, drafted Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott. The following year, they went an astounding 13-3 before running into the buzz saw that is Aaron Rodgers. This year, they finished at 9-7, right where they belong, right where they always have been during the Patriot Era. Mediocrity at its finest.
I am not here to say Carson Wentz is the next Tom Brady. I am not here to say Doug Pederson is the next Bill Belichick. What I am here to say is to reach their level, everything has to fall into place perfectly and consistently. For the Patriots, the weak level of competition in the AFC East has always played a positive and integral role in creating this dynasty. Trades like the one the Redskins just made, help to make sure the NFC East gives the Eagles the same advantage.