Can the Eagles go 17-0? Assessing Philly’s remaining schedule for a chance at history

3 weeks ago 28
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The Philadelphia Eagles aren't even halfway there yet, so it's way too early to start thinking of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. At this point, a perfect season is just a distant dream.

And to be honest, it's not even their dream.

"At this particular point, being 8-0 is sweet," said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. "It beats the alternative of being 7-1 or 6-2, right? We know our goal wasn't to go 8-0." 

"I mean, I've been 8-0 before and lost the national championship," added quarterback Jalen Hurts. "We haven't accomplished anything yet."

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No they haven't — not where history is concerned. What they've done is barely even unique. They are the 29th NFL team to start a season 8-0 in the Super Bowl era, including the 2007 New England Patriots, who went 16-0 during the regular season but lost in the Super Bowl. Most recently, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first 11 games two seasons ago.

Still, the Eagles are the only perfect NFL team remaining this season, the only team to start 8-0 in the history of their franchise, and the schedule in front of them is hardly daunting. They play three more games before their next matchup against a team with a current winning record. They are already two games up in the NFC East and handily beat the team with the second-best record in the NFC — the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings.

From the outside, it doesn't look like much will stand in their way.

On the inside, though, neither Sirianni nor Hurts will allow such talk. They have been hyper-focused on the short-term goal of preparing for whatever game comes next, while making sure they all understand that the long-term goal is something more important than regular-season perfection.

And it's worth noting that although every NFL team that started 8-0 in the past 57 years made the playoffs, only eight of them went on to win the Super Bowl. In fact, none of the past 10 teams to start 8-0 ended their season with a championship. The last to do it was the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who got off to a 13-0 start.

"Yeah, sure, right now 8-0 is fine," Sirianni said. "But it's not the goal. There are a lot of goals, but none of them can be accomplished unless you take care of business each week. You make sure we do this work that we need to do."

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So just how long can the Eagles continue to "take care of business" before someone trips them up? Here's a look at what lies ahead, and who might stand in the way of their quest for an undefeated regular season and potential perfect season — whether they're trying for one or not:

Week 10 — vs. Washington Commanders (4-5), Monday, Nov. 14

Division games can be tricky, but this probably isn't the one to worry about. The Commanders will still be led by QB Taylor Heinicke, who hasn't really gotten their offense in gear and has shown he's prone to big mistakes in bad spots. That plays right into the hands of an Eagles defense that leads the NFL with 18 takeaways.

Week 11 — at Indianapolis Colts (3-5-1), Sunday, Nov. 20

Frank Reich made a messy season worse when he benched QB Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger, then fired his offensive coordinator and watched everything implode in a blowout loss in New England on Sunday where they had just three points and 121 total yards. Of course, now Reich is out and former Colts center — and Georgia high school football coach — Jeff Saturday is taking over (yes, really), turning the Colts into a legitimate laughingstock. Maybe RB Jonathan Taylor (ankle) will be back, but the Colts probably need a lot more than that to make this a contest, even at home.

Week 12 — vs. Green Bay Packers (3-6), Sunday, Nov. 27

This game sure looked prime-time worthy before the season, but the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers are shells of themselves. They've topped 20 points just four times in nine games this season. And Rodgers just threw three interceptions in a 15-9 loss to a Detroit Lions team that came in with the worst defense in the NFL. The Eagles shouldn't have any trouble here.

Week 13 — vs. Tennessee Titans (5-3), Sunday, Dec. 4

Not only is this the next winning team on the Eagles' schedule, but it might be the team that poses the biggest threat to their perfect record. Look at how they took the Kansas City Chiefs to overtime Sunday night. They will win a lot of games behind RB Derrick Henry, who is still one of the best and most physical runners in the NFL, plus an underrated defense and a terrific head coach in Mike Vrabel. Henry is a particular problem since the one glaring Eagles flaw so far is their run defense. They're giving up 121.4 yards per game and sometimes go long stretches where their tackling is simply bad.

Week 14 — at New York Giants (6-2), Sunday, Dec. 11

The talent on the Giants' roster is no match for the Eagles, but they've been playing above their heads all season long. And they have a weapon that is perfect for beating a tackling-challenged Eagles defense — Saquon Barkley. He actually might be more dangerous than Henry because he's more likely to make even the best tacklers whiff. If Barkley really gets going in this game, the Giants will have a shot, especially since they are battle-tested in tight games and know how to win in the fourth quarter.

Week 15 — at  Chicago Bears (3-6), Sunday, Dec. 18

Quarterback Justin Fields has shown signs of improvement, but he still hasn't thrown for more than 200 yards in a game this season. What makes the Bears a potential trap game for the Eagles is that they are the No. 1 rushing team in the league. They are averaging 195.4 yards per game on the ground, and an astounding 243 yards per game over the past four weeks. That includes 67 yards per game from Fields, who had 178 on Sunday against the Dolphins. It'll be another big test for the Eagles' tackling skills.

Week 16 — at Dallas Cowboys (6-2), Saturday, Dec. 24

The Cowboys remain the biggest threat to the Eagles in the NFC East, if not the entire NFC. They have an outstanding defense and pass rush, a strong running game and theoretically enough weapons in the passing game to hang with anyone. Remember, they pushed the Eagles hard in mid-October in Philadelphia when backup Cooper Rush was still their quarterback. Dak Prescott is back now, and by Christmas Eve he'll have had more than two months to get a dangerous offense back into a rhythm.

Week 17 — vs. New Orleans Saints (3-6), Sunday, Jan. 1

It's hard to know what to make of the Saints, who are under .500 despite having a top-10 offense and defense. They gave up 42 points to the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, then shut out the Las Vegas Raiders the next. They have incredible weapons such as RB Alvin Kamara and TE Taysom Hill, but their quarterbacks — Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton — have combined for nine interceptions. They make too many mistakes to be a real threat to the Eagles, especially on the road.

Week 18 — vs. New York Giants (6-2), Sunday, Jan. 8

The likelihood is this game might only matter to the Eagles if they're still playing for a perfect season — and if Sirianni decides he cares about that. It's much more likely to mean something to the Giants, who might just have to fight their way into the playoffs, unless they can keep their magic going in the second half. If they're both playing to win, Barkley will still be a problem for the Eagles. But for Philly, this could be a day of rest.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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