If there is any reason left to question the legitimacy of the Eagles’ 9-1 record, it would be their schedule. Through 10 games, they have only played two teams that currently have winning records, which was tied with Seattle for the fewest in the NFL among the 13 teams that had a winning record before Monday night’s game between the Seahawks and Atlanta.
Pittsburgh and Carolina were tied for the most with five each.
That, of course, is not the Eagles’ fault. You play the games that are put in front of you and Doug Pederson’s team has played their first 10 better than any other team in the NFL. In fact, they have played their first 10 games at a Super Bowl-caliber level and we will prove that point in a moment.
The funny thing about the schedule this season is that it is eerily reminiscent of the one played by the 2004 Eagles, the franchise’s last team to reach the Super Bowl. That team did not face a team that finished the season with a winning record until Week 7 when the Eagles beat the Baltimore Ravens, 15-10, at Lincoln Financial Field in what was the first real test of the offense’s firepower.
A week later, the Eagles went to Pittsburgh and got clobbered, 27-3, raising doubts about just how good they were. We discovered over time that they were very good. They did not lose another game that mattered until the Super Bowl.
Including the playoffs, which they opened against Minnesota, the Eagles only played five games all season against teams that finished the season with a winning record and they were 3-2 in those games, losing only to Pittsburgh and New England in the Super Bowl.
What the 2004 Eagles did, however, was crush the lesser opponents, which is exactly what the 2017 team is doing as well. Before sitting the regulars for the final two games, Reid’s 2004 team went 11-0 against teams that were .500 or worse and they outscored those opponents by 13.5 points per game.
The 2017 Eagles are 8-0 against opponents with a .500 or worse record following their annihilation of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. More impressive, they have outscored those eight opponents by an average of 16.9 points per game. Only three Super Bowl winners in this century – the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — have gone through an entire regular season without losing to a team that did not have a winning record. And no Super Bowl winner in this century has outscored its lesser opponents by the margin the Eagles are putting up right now.
Beat the bad teams by lopsided scores and it’s a good indication that you are a really good team.
During its last two Super Bowl title runs, Pittsburgh only went 8-8 against teams with winning records during the regular season, but was 15-1 against teams that did not have winning records and outscored them by 15.4 points per game. Seattle was only 4-3 against winning teams during the 2013 regular season, but 9-0 against everyone else, outscoring those teams by 14.6 points per game.
The Eagles have outscored their last four opponents, 155-66, and are on pace to become the first team in franchise history to eclipse 500 points.
How special is that company?
Only 17 teams and 10 quarterbacks have accumulated that many points in a season. The list of QBs: Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Steve Young, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Randall Cunningham.
Seven of those 10 quarterbacks won Super Bowls. Nine of the 10 played in Super Bowls and Cunningham would have too if Gary Anderson’s field-goal attempt had not sailed wide left in Minnesota’s 1999 NFC championship game against Atlanta.
Ultimately, the 2017 Eagles are going to have to win games against better opponents than the ones they have beaten so far. Their two biggest tests of the regular season are coming up after Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Bears when they go on the road for consecutive games against Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams. We should know a lot more about the Eagles after those games, but we won’t know everything because the postseason is a different animal, one that Carson Wentz has not yet encountered.
But we do already know this: Wentz and the Eagles know how to put lesser opponents away and that is a sign of a good team.