Eagles preparing for Jets amid raging debate over NFL’s best team

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, right, celebrates a catch with cornerback Darius Slay, center, and head coach Nick Sirianni, left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

The Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers are the two top teams in the entire NFL right now. And while the guys wearing the midnight green jerseys might be preparing to face the New York Jets, the buzz has been centered on which NFC squad deserves the No. 1 spot in the power rankings.

Most national pundits – aside from proud Philly native Colleen Wolfe of NFL Network — have the 49ers one spot ahead of the Eagles. San Francisco has been blowing opponents out whereas Philadelphia has been playing tight games. The 49ers own an average margin of victory of 19.8 points, including a 42-10 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5.

The numbers seem to tell the story, highlighted by a stingy defense (68 points allowed) and a prolific offense (167 points scored). However, don’t be too quick to wave the white flag on the Eagles. The guys in the locker room aren’t drawing any conclusions after a 5-0 start.

Eagles
GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) warms up during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

“I feel like that’s media talk,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “Anybody can be beaten on Sundays. At the end of the day, it’s the NFL and it’s going to be tough victories no matter who you play, and that’s how I look at it.”

The biggest issue has been inefficiency in the red zone. The Eagles rank No. 27 (42.1%) among 32 teams inside the 20-yard line while mostly settling for field goals there. They have walked away with only eight touchdowns on 21 drives in the red zone.

“I feel like the games are a lot closer than we like them to be,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to score in the red zone and we haven’t done that effectively yet but that’s something we gotta work on. We have those good drives and then instead of three, let’s get six — and then possibly seven or eight so that’s really it.”

Eagles Getting Ready for Zach Wilson, Not Aaron Rodgers

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers practices before an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

When the 2023 schedule first came out, the Jets-Eagles game slated for October 15 at 4:25 p.m. had the makings of an epic clash. It featured the Eagles’ fearsome pass rush against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, perhaps a chance at redemption for Rodgers versus Reed Blankenship.

That matchup will have to wait. Rodgers was lost for the year after only taking four snaps with the New York Jets. He’s out for a game that some Eagles players had circled on the schedule back in May.

“I think you were aware of that game going into the season because it was getting a lot of hype around Aaron Rodgers but, unfortunately, he’s not with the team right now,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “But they are still a team that is capable of coming in … well, we’re going over there so they are definitely capable of putting up points so you gotta be aware of them still.”

Enter Zach Wilson. The second overall pick from the 2021 draft has posted respectable numbers in back-to-back games: 47-of-65 for 444 passing yards in those two games combined, with two touchdowns and one interception.

“He’s mobile, got a good arm, he’s competitive like you said he’s getting better,” cornerback Bradley Roby said of Wilson. “And that’s just how the league is … you start off kind of bumpy at times and as the season goes, you play better and better teams, you start adjusting. And he’s on the upward trajectory so it’s not going to be an easy task or anything like that. He’s going to come to play, come to win, so we gotta be ready.”

Dallas Goedert Takes Advantage of Big Moment

Eagles vs. Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) celebrates his touchdown catch as teammate Kenneth Gainwell (14) looks on during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Tight end Dallas Goedert had been an after-thought through the first four weeks as A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith took turns at putting up monster stats. Everyone was wondering when Goedert might pop off and then he did to the tune of eight catches for 117 yards last week against Los Angeles. It’s all about patience in the Eagles’ offense.

“I think that’s the beauty of this offense, you have so many different people that you have to account for and that’s always the goal out there,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “So if a guy maybe has not had an opportunity, or maybe has not produced in a certain type of way, that doesn’t mean you can’t account for him and so we have a lot of well-respected players and we just all want to get better offensively every day.”

And Goedert understands the assignment. He never takes a play off and when his number is called, well, he rises up to the standard.

“There’s only one ball to go around and it can’t go around to everybody,” Goedert said. “And you see A.J. [Brown] have a bunch of big games, Smitty [DeVonta Smith] has his big games and games where he doesn’t have as much action, and it’s something we obviously have to do as a team — make sure we keep everyone’s heads up but as skill players we know that the ball can’t come every week but when it comes, I think everybody has full confidence in the other group to go out there and make the plays and do what needs to be done to help the team win.”

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian