Almost midway through the 2017 NFL season, it feels as if we still have little idea as to who the best teams are. The AFC has the perennial contenders and usual suspects right at the top, but the NFC was recently thrown into a cloud of mystery after the Packers lost their Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback for the season. However, one team has quietly been lurking at the top of the NFC standings, not drawing much attention as a favorite in the conference.
On Monday Night Football in Week 7, the Philadelphia Eagles seemed to finally enjoy their long overdue coming out party. A team that entered this season coming off a middling 7-9 season in Doug Pederson's first year, the Eagles weren't projected by many as one of the league's best teams. Yet, here they sit; sporting a 6-1 record atop the NFC East and brimming with optimism. The type of hope that rapidly eroded to withering misery in the final chapters of the Chip Kelly era just two seasons ago.
Against the Redskins on Monday night, Wentz showed the national stage what a fully fledged star he's become. The second-year quarterback made several dazzling plays after his team's offense sputtered under Washington's strong defensive efforts early in the contest. As the night wore on, Wentz figured out how to work around some of those heated plays sent on by one of the NFL's most blitz-happy teams.
Wentz completed eight of 11 for 117 yards with two touchdowns against the blitz. His 147.7 passer rating was not only the second-highest of this week but his best performance over the past two seasons. On the year, he's thrown an NFL-high seven touchdowns when blitzed. Wentz thrives in the face of chaos.
While the body of work was pristine Monday night, two plays, in particular, told the story of what a superstar-level player Wentz is growing into. The first was his long touchdown to Mack Hollins. Wentz's deep touchdown to the rookie receiver traveled 62.8 yards of air distance, the longest completion for any quarterback this season.
If there was anyone on planet earth who doubted the pure arm talent of the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, they'll have a hard time reckoning their thoughts with that throw. It was an act of pure football beauty.
The second play wherein Wentz captivated the NFL audience as a whole was his third-quarter touchdown to reserve running back Corey Clement. It was a throw hard to accurately convey its brilliance with words.
Washington managed to put pressure (defenders within two yards at time of throw) on seven of Wentz's pass attempts. He made them pay dearly on one. Starting at the Redskins' nine-yard line, Wentz dropped back too soon find waves of defenders bearing down. Despite them knocking him well off his platform, he still managed to thread the needle to Graham in the right corner of the end zone. When the ball arrived, the running back had just 1.25 yards of separation from the defender covering him.
On a night where Washington's defense did manage to put up its own fight through some stretches, Wentz succeeded both inside and outside of quick-strike structure. On plays where he had a 2.5-second time to throw or less, he posted a 138.1 passer rating. He still checked in with a 107.6 passer rating on plays where he had longer than 2.5 seconds to throw the ball.
Hitting the deep throws, creating outside of structure and making plays under pressure are the toughest asks any quarterback finds on his ledger from an in-game standpoint. We can say without a doubt that Carson Wentz excels in all three phases. Monday night was just a one-game sample, but Wentz has played to this tune all year. If you're just now tuning into the 2017 version of this young quarterback, what you saw Monday night was an extreme example of his excellence, but this is a player who isn't just making the leap this year. He's getting better every week.
With the Eagles showing all the signs of a strong contender in the NFC, it's past time to begin mentioning them as one of the league's best teams. While multiple sections of their team are proving strong enough to boost this squad, it's one player who will rightly earn praise for soon taking this team to new heights. Wentz has elevated the Eagles along with his individual play, as he rapidly ascends the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today.
To check out more of the Next Gen Stats data for yourself or get a definition for some of the stats, check out the NGS site.