First off, I know doing this every week, I will get a lot of things wrong. The only people that are never wrong are people who don’t say anything. With that said, I wanted to note that Jalen Hurts hasn’t needed the curve so many people were begging to grade him on. He has been excellent by every measure and doesn’t need anyone protecting him outside of his excellent offensive line.
With that said, there is Super Bowl talk in the air for the Eagles and even though we are only entering Week 3, the talk isn’t crazy. We are not getting ahead of ourselves. Johnathan Gannon finally looked like a real NFL defensive coordinator on his 20th try and if he can build on that, there is no reason the Eagles couldn’t win the NFC East. The AFC appears to be the superior conference, so today will be about the Eagles representing the NFC vs. whoever comes out of the AFC.
Here are the possible hurdles, and let’s see if they are real or fake.
First up is one of the other two undefeated teams in the NFC, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their defense has given up just 13 points in two games and they have Tom Brady at quarterback. They have only scored 39 points on offense so far to the Eagles’ 62, but again, they have Brady. They have injuries across the offensive line, but their head coach Todd Bowles is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. We saw the gap between the two teams was 31-0 (before garbage time) when they matched up in the playoffs last season. The Eagles are clearly much better this year, but it is fair to question if they have closed that gap all the way. By every measure, the Bucs are a real hurdle.
Second are the Giants who are also somehow 2-0 despite their point differential so far being just +4 compared to the Eagles’ +20 and the Bucs’ +26. There’s some luck at play here. They have a brand-new head coach in Brian Daboll who is a huge upgrade over Joe Judge, even if he ends up being just bad. Judge was horrible. At the same time, the Giants’ roster is not nearly as talented as the Eagles roster and Daniel Jones isn’t close to as good as Jalen Hurts. Saquon Barkley at running back is formidable, but he shouldn’t be enough to derail what the Eagles have going. The Giants are not a real hurdle.
Third is the defending champion Los Angeles Rams. Von Miller is now playing in Buffalo and Odell Beckham Jr is rehabbing the ACL he tore in the Super Bowl. Still, the Rams have the best wide receiver in football in Cooper Kupp and Matt Stafford is on pace to break all the career NFL passing records despite his elbow injury. It is very hard to repeat as Super Bowl champions, as it has happened only eight times with the Patriots being the most recent in 2003 and 2004. I don’t think the Rams will do it, but more teams have gotten back to Super Bowl and lost. The Eagles won their Super Bowl over a Patriots team looking to repeat. We are talking just NFC here, so the Rams are a real hurdle until they are knocked off.
Next up is the San Francisco 49ers. They are a team that usually finds a way to be competitive. They lost in the NFC championship game last year 20-17 to the Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a star, but he is serviceable and Deebo Samuel is the most unique player in the NFL with his rushing/receiving combination. They have a good head coach in Kyle Shanahan, and they have a track record of success. While all this looks good in theory, I know Jimmy G puts a ceiling on a team and they know it too. Trey Lance got hurt, but they drafted him for a reason. They named him the starter this year for a reason. That’s why at the end of the day the 49ers are not a real hurdle in the NFC at this point.
The last team we will look at is the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most talented thrower in the history of the NFL, despite all his weirdness and the fact he has only one Super Bowl ring. The combination of Rodgers and coach Matt LeFleur have never won fewer than 13 games in the regular season going 13-3 twice and 13-4 last season. At the same time, they always seem like a duo that will let their fans down when it really matters. The Eagles will get to play them at home later in the season, so we will all see this play out head-to-head. I believe when the playoffs start, they will do what they have always done: come up short. The Packers aren’t a real playoff hurdle.
The true last hurdle is defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon. He was excellent on Monday night, but was bad for 17 regular season games, one playoff game and Week 1 against the Lions. He has one great game and 19 mediocre or worse games. It is too soon to tell if he has truly learned or if the Vikings game was a fluke. There are a lot of things we can rely on with this Eagles team. The QB, the offensive line, the offensive weapons. The players play hard for Nick Sirianni and they seem to love all his corny quirks. This comes down to how much Gannon has learned from Monday’s success. If the Washington game looks like the Vikings game as far as approach, it will show how much he has learned. Carson Wentz loves to give the ball to the other team. All you have to do is put pressure on him. The realest and biggest hurdle that could hold this team back from making it to the Super Bowl is still Gannon’s usage of his new defensive talent. I can’t wait to see this play out.
Tyrone Johnson is the host of “The Best Show Ever?” on 97.5 The Fanatic, airing Monday through Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
You can follow him on Twitter: @TyJohnsonNews.