Ever since Vince Young proclaimed his new team the “Dream Team” in the summer of 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles have been on a surreal, gut-wrenching downward spiral.
With a combination of misfortune and mounting injuries, the “Dream Team” barely escaped last year with a .500 record (8-8) and have fallen into a disastrous 3-7 hole to start this season. It’s painful to watch precisely because the Eagles did have a lot of talent – and, in fact, still do.
But at this point, there’s no way to turn their season around. Even with a miracle, the Eagles could at best be 9-7 – which would assuredly not win the NFC East. Andy Reid’s job isn’t even salvageable.
With a win over the visiting Carolina Panthers on “Monday Night Football”, however, the Eagles can show the world that they’re not the cupcakes opposing teams think they are. And it starts on defense – the part of the game the Eagles bolstered most with stars during their spending spree in the summer of ’11.
All-Pro cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha will have their hands full covering Carolina wideouts Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, while fearsome defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole will be forced to deal with the elusive Cam Newton.
In order to stay in this game, the Eagles need to be able to tackle efficiently – something they haven’t been able to do so far this season. If they let Newton have time in the pocket (and out of the pocket), they’ll be forced to concede either deep passes or deadly open-field scrambles. Those are exactly the things that continue drives – and ultimately lead to more ticks in the loss column.
But sadly, defense hasn’t even been the worst part of Philadelphia’s 2012 campaign. Poor quarterback play and awful offensive line protection has kept the Eagles from winning at least three additional games this year: if you look at the scores, the Eagles have failed to score 14 points or more in three of their seven losses. And just to be the bearer of bad news, I’ll have you know that Michael Vick has been officially ruled out of Monday’s matchup, meaning rookie QB Nick Foles will get the start for the second straight week.
Fortunately, the Panthers maintain one of the league’s worst defenses, which could help jumpstart the Eagles offense. According to the DynamicPicks formula, the Panthers are expected to allow over 24 points per game to an average offense. (The league average is around 22.) I guess you can’t afford to pay defensive players when you dish out over $80 million to two running backs.
With Foles running the show, I’d say the Eagles have a below-average offense. Worse than the Cowboys; better than the Jaguars. If that’s the case, then we can expect the Eagles to score in the range of 21-24 points. On the flip side, with the explosive Panthers offense matched up against the star-studded Eagles defense, I’d put the Panthers at right around 20 or 21 points.
Essentially, I’m giving a slight edge to the Eagles. Despite missing their star quarterback and having lost all sense of morale, the Eagles have a defense with immense potential and an offense that has explosive playmakers at positions other than at quarterback. And at least they don’t have another Vince Young running around claiming they’re still the one of the best teams in the NFL – or do they?
Bold prediction: Birds take down Cats, 24-20.
DynamicPicks Computer Prediction:
Carolina Panthers (-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles
Projected win: Philadelphia, 64.0%
Projected ATS win: Philadelphia +3, 69.5%
The injury to M. Vick messes with the stats. Subjectively correcting for it, I would have to still give the Eagles a strong advantage to win, and consequently an even stronger advantage to cover the spread.