Torrey Smith walked through Philadelphia while talking on his cell phone Monday and passed fans who all shared similar reactions – whether it was holding up five fingers on one hand and one finger on the other to symbolize the Eagles’ record or showing excitement about the start to the Eagles’ season. When Smith logged onto social media networks, he couldn’t escape it, either.
“That’s the fans’ job,” Smith said. “They’re excited when things are like they are. And it’s their right, too, when [the team is] being terrible, to rip you. Fans are definitely excited about it. … To me, it’s a big start, and that’s it. It’s a good start. It’s exciting. Fans deserve that. And we just have to keep it going.”
When Doug Pederson sent the Eagles off for a long weekend following last Thursday’s win over Carolina to advance to 5-1, he told them about the need to stay grounded. By the time the players returned on Tuesday, the expectations about the Eagles only intensified.
With the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs losing, the Eagles now have the best record in the NFC and are tied with the Chiefs for the best record in the NFL. They have the top odds to win the NFC, according to Bovada, and the fourth most favorable odds to win the Super Bowl. Yes, the Super Bowl.
“A lot of football left,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “Ten games. Not putting too much stock in it.”
The 10 teams that reached the Super Bowl during the past five seasons averaged 4.8 wins through six games. But the last time the Eagles opened 5-1 was in 2014, when they didn’t even reach the playoffs. So it doesn’t take a locker room full of players trying to keep focused to realize it’s way too soon to buy into the hype.
“This is my personal opinion: Once you get by Week 10, Week 12, things start to show themselves a little bit,” Smith said. “There are teams that start off 5-1 and blew it. There are teams that are terrible and somehow scrap their way back to making the playoffs. So you don’t really get caught up in things too early. You keep working.”
But the upcoming schedule appears favorable. The Eagles have their next three games at home, where they are 8-2 since Doug Pederson became head coach. They enter Monday’s game against Washington, which they beat in Week 1, with 10 days between games – almost like coming off a bye week. They then host San Francisco on a short week, but the winless 49ers are traveling across the country for a 1 p.m. game. And they close out the stretch by hosting 3-2 Denver after the Broncos play a tough game the previous Monday in Kansas City. So the Eagles have an opportunity before the Week 10 bye to build on their success. If the Eagles can get to 8-1 or 7-2, the excitement will reach new heights.
“We’re not focused on the big picture right now,” Ertz said. “The Redskins game is huge. It’s definitely one of the biggest games we have on our entire schedule.”
Working in their favor could be the makeup of the team. Smith, who has played in the postseason three times and has a Super Bowl ring, said he “knew as soon as I came here it just looks right.” That comes from a player who has seen the Baltimore Ravens culture when they perennially went deep into the playoffs. The Eagles have added other players with similar backgrounds, such as running back LeGarrette Blount, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots.
“I feel like we’ve been confident since we started,” Blount said. “That’s one of the things you need to be a winning team. … We know what we’ve been doing to get to this point. We’ve got to buy in to continue to do that. A big part of that is to make sure you ignore the noise.”
Teams often try to “ignore the noise” in bad times. But the noise is good right now. And after Aaron Rodgers’ injury in Green Bay, the NFC does not appear to have a juggernaut. However, teams such as Seattle, Atlanta, and Carolina aren’t far behind and have already proved they can win in December and January. The Eagles, even with the best odds, still have much to prove. Their next chance is Monday against Washington.
“It’s Year 5 for me in this city, and I know how it is: If you win, you’re the best thing ever and if you lose, you’re not very good quickly,” Ertz said. “We’re just focused on this game. Six-and-one is a lot better than five-and-two.”