The first-place Philadelphia Eagles.
Not many NFL pundits around the league predicted that after four weeks the Eagles would sit atop the NFC East, ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, but coach Doug Pederson’s shift to a more run-centric offense and the development of quarterback Carson Wentz have paid dividends for the Eagles.
“We want to go in and establish that run, play-action pass with Carson, being able to move him around a little bit,” Pederson told reporters Monday. “It’s sort of the direction that I think our offense needs to go in.”
Experts also seem to be high on Wentz, who appeared to take another step forward Sunday by engineering an 11-play drive late in the fourth quarter that drained the last 6 minutes, 44 seconds of the game, sealing the win for the Eagles.
“I am loving the development of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia,” said NBC Sports anchor and former head coach Tony Dungy. “He is playing well, making plays and giving the offense tremendous confidence.”
Still, it’s no time to celebrate. As my colleague Les Bowen pointed out, the Eagles were also 3-1 at this point last season, yet still managed to end the season 7-9. But according to Bowen, this season’s 3-1 might be more promising than last season’s 3-1.
“I’m going to come down on the side of this year’s 3-1 being more promising, partly because I don’t think Dallas is as good as it was a year ago,” Bowen wrote. “I think winning the NFC East, for an imperfect but promising team, is a more attainable goal than it was in 2016.”
National sports outlets seem optimistic as well, with the Eagles ranking among the top 10 in every NFL power ranking this week. NFL.com currently ranks the Eagles the third best team in the league, and only Bleacher Report had the team moving down in the rankings.
Here’s how national outlets ranked the Eagles:
ESPN (Eagles ranked #8 | Last week’s rank, #13)
“The Eagles have allowed the fewest points in the first three quarters of games this season but have allowed the second-most in fourth quarters. Philadelphia has three wins, but the past two were by a combined five points. If the Eagles can tighten up in the fourth quarter, they could start winning more comfortably.”
NFL.com (Eagles ranked #3 | Last week’s rank, #6)
“High ranking for the Eagles. However, with what we know at this point in the season, how can Philadelphia not be here? Doug Pederson’s outfit is tied for the best record in the NFC, leads the East and seems to have fixed the glaring weakness that every fan, blog and LinkedIn piece was fixated on during the preseason: the ground attack. In Week 3, the Eagles ran the football 39 times — the most in three years. Against the Chargers, Philadelphia eclipsed that total while piling up 214 yards rushing. Glad the coaching staff took my advice and actually started using Leggie Blount.”
Bleacher Report (Eagles ranked #10 | Last week’s rank, #7)
“All of the sudden, the Eagles are tied for second in the league in rushing with 572 yards through four games,” NFL reporter Steven Cook wrote. “The tune has dramatically shifted in regards to an Eagles offense that initially appeared to be very heavily [reliant] on the arm of Wentz. Now, Philly has the look of a complete offense that could very well turn into a machine.”
CBS Sports (Eagles ranked #5 | Last week’s rank, #5)
“The big question moving forward is whether rookie quarterback Carson Wentz can keep it up. He looks like he can.”
Washington Post (Eagles ranked #5 | Last week’s rank, #8)
“It was a nice bonus for the Eagles to have that home-away-from-home game at StubHub Center. They already have beaten the Redskins and Giants and are the early front-runner in the NFC East. Few expected that. But with the Giants winless and the Cowboys not living up to expectations, their chances cannot be discounted.”
Yahoo! Sports (Eagles ranked #6 | Last week’s rank, #10)
“The Eagles have a pretty deep offense. Three backs got 10 or more carries on Sunday. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith had 38 yards combined, but Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor had solid games. The Eagles lead the defending NFC East champion Cowboys by a game, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon.”
USA Today (Eagles ranked #8 | Last week’s rank, #6)
“Run game has improved every week, culminating with 214 yards Sunday. Looks like LeGarrette Blount has settled in after zero carries two weeks ago.”
Sports Illustrated (Eagles ranked #8 | Last week’s rank, #11)