The Eagles are a clutch team that plays its best football when the going gets toughest, shaking off adversity and coming back in the fourth quarter to win back-to-back games by just one point.
The Eagles are a sloppy team that makes far too many mistakes to be a legitimate contender, getting outplayed for most of the game twice in a row before barely winning back-to-back games by just one point.
Both are true. But which one better describes the 2012 Eagles? Are they the dynasty in the making that Michael Vick said they were before the season started? Or are they just a mediocre team that missed the playoffs last year and will miss the playoffs again this year?
If I could answer that question with any certainty I’d make my home in Las Vegas, not Chicago, but from where I sit, I believe that the Eagles are a better team than they were last year, and a better team than they’ve shown so far this year. And considering that they are, in fact, 2-0 after Sunday’s 24-23 win over the Ravens, if they’re better than they’ve shown they’re going to be pretty good.
On offense, I simply don’t believe the Eagles can play any worse than they have in the first two weeks of the season, when they’ve turned the ball over nine times — nine times — in just two games. The Eagles are the first NFL team since 1983 to start the season 2-0 despite having at least four turnovers in each of their first two games, and it’s unimaginable that they can keep turning the ball over at this level. Michael Vick, who has never had more than 14 interceptions in an entire season, just can’t keep throwing interceptions at the rate he has been so far this season, with six in two games. He’ll get better.
And on defense, I believe the Eagles are clearly better than they were a year ago, and that’s almost entirely because of linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who arrived from Houston in a trade this year. Ryans was outstanding on Sunday against the Ravens, recording an interception, a sack, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and six solo tackles. He looks like one of the best defensive players in the league right now.
So with the Eagles now 2-0 and six days away with a surprisingly big game against another 2-0 team in Arizona, I believe they’re one of the league’s best teams. They’re going to win most of their games this season, and by a lot more than one point.
Here are my other thoughts on Week Two in the NFL:
The replacement officials took a step backward. After doing a more or less solid job in Week One, the NFL’s replacement officials did a mostly lousy job in Week Two. And the problem was less about any one particular blown call than it was a general sense that the officials weren’t in control of the game. The crucial personal foul penalty on Redskins receiver Josh Morgan for throwing the ball at Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, for instance, was the correct call. But the officials had permitted so much post-play pushing, shoving and taunting in that game that it felt arbitrary when they finally decided to call the penalty on Morgan just before what could have been a game-tying field goal for the Redskins. And it was like that across the league on Sunday: Officials seeming unsure of themselves and unable to take control of games. Consistency is of paramount importance in officiating, and if the NFL can’t get consistency from the replacement officials, then the NFL needs to end the lockout of the regular officials.
Darrelle Revis proved in his absence how good he is. The Jets’ shutdown cornerback was out with a concussion, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an easy day picking apart a depleted Jets secondary. Roethlisberger found open receivers all day, completing 24 of 31 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, and the Steelers cruised to a 27-10 win. Without Revis, the Jets’ defense is going to have a hard time stopping anybody. They need him back soon.
C.J. Spiller is an elite talent. The Bills used the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft on Spiller, a running back out of Clemson, and he disappointed as a rookie. But we’ve seen enough of Spiller to know now that he really is a Top 10 talent. Spiller had 15 carries for 123 yards in Sunday’s blowout of the Chiefs, a week after he had 14 carries for 169 yards in a loss to the Jets. And although a lot of people didn’t notice it, Spiller had a great end to the 2011 season as well, carrying 67 times for 391 yards (5.8 yards a carry) over the last five games of last year. Spiller is a stud.
Gregg Williams was a good coach. Just look at how the Saints’ defense has fallen apart without him. Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator who has been banished by the NFL for running a bounty program in New Orleans, may have engaged in egregious misconduct, but no one has ever accused Williams of not knowing how to run a defense. The Saints’ defense allowed quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton to pick them apart, and the Saints, who have already given up 75 points this season, are 0-2.
Reggie Bush is finally the Reggie Bush he was supposed to be. Remember how incredible Bush was at USC, and how he was supposed to be a game-changing running back in the NFL? It never really worked out that way in New Orleans: Yes, Bush was a fine player, but he was more like an interchangeable cog in a well-oiled Saints offensive machine than a uniquely talented playmaker. But now that Bush is in Miami, things are different. He has 760 yards in his last six games, including 172 in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, and his two touchdown runs on Sunday were beautiful. Breaking four tackles on his way to the end zone on a 23-yard run. Racing 65 yards down the sideline. That’s the Reggie Bush we were supposed to see. That’s the Reggie Bush we’re finally seeing.
I have no idea what to make of any of the 1-1 teams. There are 19 1-1 teams in the NFL right now, and there will be 20 after the 1-0 Broncos play the 1-0 Falcons tonight. And I really don’t know which ones are good and which ones are bad. I think the Patriots and Giants are a couple of good 1-1 teams, and I think the Vikings and Dolphins are a couple of bad 1-1 teams, but I don’t know. That’s what’s so fun about the start of the NFL season. None of us knows.