Harrison: Week 7 Power Rankings
Elliot Harrison provides his updated NFL pecking order, with one preseason darling tumbling all the way down into the mid-20s. READ
I held steady then, and I hold steady now.
Here is why, "Schein Nine" style:
1) The offense is flying high
Sure, they'll have moments of frustration, like they did in their Week 2 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Obviously, Philly's defense is hardly dominant or consistent. But Kelly's system, which has the Eagles moving the ball and scoring in bunches (27.7 points per game, fourth-best in the NFL), can make up for that.
Confidence practically oozes from the offensive players. LeSean McCoy, who leads the NFL with 630 rushing yards and 871 yards from scrimmage, is the perfect fit for Kelly's offense. Receiver DeSean Jackson, who ranks second in the NFL with 589 receiving yards, appears to be playing with much more fire than he had been in recent years; he and McCoy have been unstoppable. Even Riley Cooper is starting to come on, fresh off a 120-yard game.
2) Nick Foles can play
But perhaps lost in all the talk about Vick was the fact that Kelly had a reliable backup in Foles. Though the younger signal-caller's skill set is different than Vick's, Foles can drive this offense.
3) The schedule is favorable
After hosting the injury-riddled Cowboys on Sunday, the Eagles will face the winless New York Giants at home, then visit the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers before returning to Philadelphia to face the Redskins. It's realistic to believe the Eagles will be 7-4 heading into their Week 12 bye, though even a 6-5 mark would put them on track to win the NFC East.
4) Did I mention Dallas is banged up?
The Cowboys are the Eagles' main competition in the division, and they're hurting. Defensive stalwart DeMarcus Ware is out with a strained quadriceps. Running back DeMarco Murray is out with a sprained MCL. Of course, even with those key players, Dallas is flawed, thanks to a suspect defense (ranked 30th overall), shaky coaching and constant chaos. (Paying Jay Ratliff, by the way, worked out well.)
5) Washington won't be able to catch up
6) The Giants are awful
The New York Giants' linebackers are barely NFL-caliber. Their pass rush is non-existent; Justin Tuck hasn't made a play in two years, and Jason Pierre-Paul does not seem like himself after undergoing offseason back surgery. (Not surprisingly, the Giants have a league-worst five sacks through six games.) The defensive backs don't match up. The offensive line is leaky. The running game has done nothing, averaging 67.8 yards per contest. Eli Manning has given up 15 picks.
7) First to reach nine victories takes the crown
I picked the Eagles to win the NFC East at 9-7. Yes, that's just a little above average -- but I believe a little above average will be enough in this sorry division. In fact, I don't think more than one team in this group will finish over .500.
8) Chip Kelly can coach
After all, they stayed together after their 1-3 start. That showed me something. Eagles players appear to love playing for Kelly.
9) The defense doesn't have to be great -- just opportunistic
Is it crazy to think Trent Cole will play his best ball of the season over the next 10 games? The Eagles need him to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback -- and I believe he will. Connor Barwin, meanwhile, is a true Energizer Bunny. DeMeco Ryans, though not an ideal fit for Philly's new 3-4 scheme, is a strong player and leader. Cary Williams is a Super Bowl champion.
The Eagles simply must make plays in big spots, and I believe this defense is capable of doing just that.
See you in the playoffs, Philly.