It’s time to believe in the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s time to buy in — fully — in the Eagles as the NFC’s top team and in their second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, as a leading candidate for the league MVP award.
It’s not early in the season any longer. The Eagles have reached the halfway point with a record of 7-1. They beat the San Francisco 49ers, 33-10, on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. They are lapping the field in the NFC East and they are the league’s only one-loss team.
Not impressed by a dominating victory at home over a winless team like the 49ers? That’s fine. But beating the bad teams and winning games that you should win is part of it. Just ask the Oakland Raiders, a would-be contender when the season started. They lost Sunday at Buffalo to drop to 3-5. That’s a game that, going into the season, would have looked like a likely Raiders victory. It hasn’t played out as expected for the Raiders or the Bills.
Or for the Eagles, for that matter. They went 7-9 last season in Wentz’s rookie year, and there was little reason to suspect at the season’s start that they could overtake the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Giants in the NFC East.
But Wentz has become one the league’s best players, a capable passer from the pocket and an improvisational master able to make something out of nothing when a play breaks down. The Eagles fortified the offense around him, and the defense is plenty good enough. The MVP conversation at this point consists of Wentz and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That’s it. There are others worth mentioning, such as Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and his rookie running back Kareem Hunt. But there is nobody else at the moment who rightfully should be mentioned ahead of Wentz or Brady.
The AFC is front-loaded with good teams such as the Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chiefs. The same cannot be said of the NFC. In the NFC, there are the Eagles and … who?
The Green Bay Packers have lost Aaron Rodgers. The Los Angeles Rams might be a year away with their rookie coach, Sean McVay, and their second-year quarterback, Jared Goff. The Cowboys could lose running back Ezekiel Elliott if the NFL secures the right to enforce its six-game suspension of him. The Minnesota Vikings have Case Keenum at quarterback. The New Orleans Saints have a defense that perhaps cannot be trusted. The Carolina Panthers have been inconsistent. The Atlanta Falcons don’t seem completely recovered from last season’s Super Bowl defeat or fully capable of a return trip. The Seattle Seahawks still must prove that their offense is good enough.
It’s easy to look at the Eagles and list the reasons they shouldn’t be a Super Bowl favorite. Wentz lacks postseason experience. There is no clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, although there are capable wideouts there with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor. There is no dominant runner, unless you stretch the definition a bit and include LeGarrette Blount in that category. Left tackle Jason Peters has been lost for the season. Coach Doug Pederson has a tendency to make an eyebrow-raising move every now and then. There were reports entering the season, denied by everyone involved, that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was angling for Pederson’s job.
But there are no perfect teams in the NFC. And the Eagles, at the moment, are the least imperfect of the imperfect teams. They are the Super Bowl front-runner in an underwhelming conference until someone proves otherwise.