It is dangerous to assume anything after one quarter of the NFL season. Fresh history tells us that the Eagles looked like a playoff team after Week 4 last season, but were at the bottom of the NFC East by the end of the year. As a reverse example, the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions started 1-3 and still secured wild-card playoff spots.
A lot can change between now and Christmas, but it sure appears as if the Eagles have a legitimate chance to be a Super Bowl team and maybe even win it all. That assumption is based somewhat on their own 3-1 start, which has come despite key injuries to Fletcher Cox, Darren Sproles, and Ronald Darby. Depth is vital to a deep playoff run, and the Eagles appear to have it.
Karma seems to be on their side, too. How many times can a team replace its kicker with a better kicker after the start of training camp? It has happened three times in the last four years for the Eagles.
The bigger reason to think the Eagles can win it all, however, has to do with the rest of the league. For most of this century, you started with the premise that you had to be elite to win the Super Bowl because the New England Patriots were almost always elite.
That does not appear to be the case this season. Yes, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, but the New England defense, which surrendered a league-low 15.6 points per game a year ago, is vulnerable. Opposing teams scored on 50 percent of their possessions (22 of 44) this season through New England’s first four games if you exclude Kansas City’s final possession on opening night when it ran out the clock.
Tampa Bay could not keep up that pace in its loss to the Patriots on Thursday night, but the Bucs would have won if not for kicker Nick Folk’s shankfest.
The Patriots have already lost twice at home, a shocking development when you consider Bill Belichick’s teams had lost a total of only four home games in the previous four seasons.
More concerning: The Patriots have the league’s lowest-ranked defense in yards allowed, yielding 447.2 per game. They have also surrendered 28.4 points per game, the third most, behind Indianapolis and Tennessee. Quarterback Tom Brady’s 112 passer rating is among the best in the NFL, but it is nearly identical to the 109.2 rating of the quarterbacks New England has faced this season.
The Pats are beatable, and that’s always a good thing for every other team with Super Bowl aspirations.
For the second time in his five seasons with Kansas City, Andy Reid has the Chiefs standing as the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team. In his first season after leaving the Eagles, he led Kansas City to a 9-0 start. He’d surely like to forget what happened after that as much as he’d like to erase his bright idea to make Juan Castillo a defensive coordinator. The Chiefs lost six of their final eight games that year, including an epic playoff collapse against the Colts.
The only other time Reid led a team to a 4-0 start, the 2004 Eagles went on to the Super Bowl. This Chiefs team seems to have a lot more in common with that Eagles team than the K.C. squad that crumbled down the stretch in 2013, but the Eagles and Washington played them tough at Arrowhead Stadium. Let’s see where the Chiefs stand after the five-game stretch that starts this week in Houston. After that game, they’ll play at home against Pittsburgh, at Oakland, at home against Denver, and at Dallas. Hard to imagine they’ll still be unbeaten after that.
The Steelers and Cowboys went into this season as Super Bowl contenders, and Pittsburgh is off to a 3-1 start. It appears as if coach Mike Tomlin’s team is having success with a great defense rather than an explosive offense for the first time in a while. But the Steelers’ loss was the Chicago Bears’ only win, so Pittsburgh is far from invincible. The Cowboys, meanwhile, just lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams two weeks after being routed in Denver. The Broncos are another good but not great team that relies heavily on its defense.
Atlanta, the defending NFC champion, looked good before losing at home last week to a Buffalo team that has a weaker receiving corps than the one the Eagles put on the field a year ago. Green Bay lost big at Atlanta, but it’s unwise to bet against any team that has Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
Four weeks in, the NFL landscape appears to be wide open. There are a lot of good teams, but no great ones. The Eagles are in that mix. It has been a while since we could say even that much.
For the second straight season, the Los Angeles Rams have opened at 3-1. A year ago, they finished 4-12, but with second-year quarterback Jared Goff living up to the hype of being last year’s first overall pick and with Todd Gurley looking like one of the best running backs in the league, this Rams team might well be for real. We should know more after Sunday’s home game against Seattle.
On Sunday, Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters cursed at a fan in his own stadium and Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown threw an epic temper tantrum because Ben Roethlisberger did not throw him the ball. On Wednesday, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton mocked a female reporter for having the audacity to ask him a question about receivers’ routes. That’s quite a negative image being portrayed by three of the league’s superstars.
Best of Week 5
Early afternoon Sunday
Carolina at Detroit
After throwing just one TD pass and four interceptions in Carolina’s first three games, Newton reverted to his 2015 MVP form in the Panthers’ upset win at New England last Sunday. He completed 22 of 29 passes for three touchdowns and ran for 44 yards and another score. The Lions are 7-2 in their last nine home games and have started 3-1 for the third time in the last five years.
Green Bay at Dallas
Both the Cowboys and the Eagles get a home game against an NFC North opponent this season, but Dallas, after winning the NFC East last season, gets the much tougher draw against Aaron Rodgers and the 3-1 Packers. The Eagles, after finishing last a year ago, get the lowly Bears on Nov. 26. The Eagles and Cowboys also both play an NFC South opponent on the road. Dallas will be at Atlanta on Nov. 12, and the Eagles will play at Carolina Thursday night.
Kansas City at Houston
The Chiefs are the last unbeaten team, but they will face their toughest defensive test of the season against the Texans, who have allowed 300 total yards in just one of their four games this season. The bigger story in Houston, of course, is rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and run for 132 yards and two TDs on 17 carries in his first three NFL starts.
Minnesota at Chicago
The 2-2 Vikings should have a fascinating quarterback situation before the season is over. Case Keenum is expected to make his fourth straight start against the Bears while Sam Bradford continues to recover from the non-contact knee injury he suffered in a Week 1 win over New Orleans. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater, who suffered the devastating knee injury just before the start of last season that landed Bradford in Minnesota, is eligible to come off the PUP list after the Vikings’ Oct. 15 game against Green Bay.