The opening nine games of the 2019 season were a mixed bag for the Philadelphia Eagles. Stunning wins, worrying losses and a cloud of smoke so thick that it became impossible to see what lay ahead for the Super Bowl 52 champions. But through all the highs and lows, the Bye week presented a chance for the Birds to reset.
“Yeah, obviously we didn’t like how we played in the Cowboys game.” Doug Pederson said of the importance of a bye week after the win over Chicago. “Just wasn’t what we expected and just I hate to look down the road, I hate to look past the next opponent obviously, but we knew we had a tough road schedule right there, three games in a row. But we looked up, too, and we said, hey, if we can weather that storm, we have three games here at home, and we just try to take it one game at a time, honestly.”
After an October month filled with surprise cuts, guaranteed wins, anonymous sources, and appearances on Undisputed, the Eagles were able to take advantage of a much-needed week away from the spotlight. No noise, no rumors, no trade-deadline speculation, just silence.
It’s exactly what a team who were standing on the edge of a Knife needed. The Eagles headed into a pair of games against Buffalo and Chicago with their identity up in the air and their direction murky. Doug Pederson was able to carve an impressive win over both teams and galvanize his team right before a Bye.
Making things even sweeter is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys fell short of the mark on Sunday against the Vikings, meaning that Philadelphia are somehow tied for the division lead. And for one final cherry on the cake, the remaining schedule looks a lot less intimidating than the opening nine fixtures.
vs. New England Patriots (8-1)
vs. Seattle Seahawks (7-2)
at Miami Dolphins (2-7)
vs. New York Giants (2-8)
at Washington (1-8)
vs. Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
at New York Giants (2-8)
Combined record: 27-38
Sure, the team face a tough challenge in hosting the Patriots and Seahawks, but a run of three winnable games will prepare them for what could be a divisional decider at home against the Cowboys. Confidence should be at a new-high if all goes to plan, and that will be pivotal for Carson Wentz and the offense.
“I think we all feel good about where we’re at.” Wentz said following the Chicago win. “Again, there’s things the last two weeks that we’ve left out there for sure. But to be able to go against two good football teams and come away with a win, the defense playing great, and offensively sealing the deal late in the game on both these last two weeks, I think gives us a lot of confidence going into the bye week. We were able to weather the storm with those couple losses and everything going on and everyone staying together and I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from everybody and I have a lot of confidence going forward.”
The Birds’ may have to fly through those last seven games without DeSean Jackson, but a former favorite target of the franchise quarterback has returned. Jordan Matthews is back for this third tenure with the Eagles and given the struggles that the group has endured in recent weeks, a wideout who already has great chemistry with Wentz is a welcome replacement and could well provide just enough of an injection to spur new life into the offense.
On defense, the Eagles are the healthiest they’ve been in a long time. Nigel Bradham could be set to return soon, as could Cre’Von LeBlanc. The secondary has all three starters back and firing on all cylinders, and most importantly, Timmy Jernigan should be able to return to his regular workload after making his return against the Bears, followed by a week of rest.
The bye week acted as a reset switch for the Eagles. If this season really is going to be ‘a tale of two halves’, it gives them a rare chance to leave the tumultuous opening nine games behind them and focus on what separates this team from every other franchise in the NFL – emotional intelligence.
An easier schedule, a healthy team,
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports