Saturday, December 31, 2016

Eagles Look to End Their Season on Strong Note Against Big D

The Eagles' 2016 season will come to a close on Sunday regardless of the outcome of their game against Dallas in what was a thrill ride on a roller coaster that started with some really big highs before cascading downward into the lowest of lows.

A perfect 3-0 run to start this ride raised expectations through the roof and heading into a Week 8 showdown against the Cowboys at 4-2 it all started to unravel. One can only speculate how things might be different if Philly could have somehow managed to win that overtime game against Dallas as opposed to coming up on the wrong end of a crushing 29-23 loss. From there things only got worse with just one more win in the Birds' next seven games and by the time they did manage to upset the New York Giants last Saturday at the Linc the damage had been done.

This Sunday's home game against the Cowboys is completely meaningless for either team as far as the final standings. An Eagles' victory would get them to a more respectable seven wins on the year to match Chip Kelly's record last season in his final year as head coach. Dallas has already locked up the top seed in the NFC so its main goal in this NFC East clash in keeping everyone healthy.

The oddsmakers have Philly listed as a 4.5-point favorite in this game given the fact that its motivation to end the season on a winning note will be much higher than a Cowboys' team that will simply try and get out of the hostile environment at the Linc in one piece. It does not look like first year head coach Doug Pederson's job is on the line, but a strong showing on Sunday would not hurt his job status heading into another long offseason.

There is no doubt that some big changes need to take place over the next several months to get Philadelphia on the same level as the rest of the competition in the NFC East. Even Washington can qualify for the playoffs with a win against New York this week, so it is painfully obvious that the current gap is way too wide.

The Eagles' offense is in desperate need of a few playmakers at the skill positions and there are some big holes up front that need to be filled. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz did a decent job with his unit on that side of the ball, but there were still far too many stupid mistakes, bad penalties and mental breakdowns along the way to successfully compete with the stronger competition Philly faced this year.

All-in-all, to quote the words of former NFL head coach Denny Green, "They are who we thought they were....". The highlights were far and few between, but we still have fond memories of those two dominating wins against Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Carson Wentz struggled through his rookie growing pains, but you would have to believe that, at the very least, he did demonstrate the skills to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. There are some solid pieces in place on both sides of the ball that set the foundation for a turnaround in the coming years, but there is still quite a bit work to be done for team vice president Howie Roseman come free agency and the upcoming draft.

For now, we will have to be content with a two-game run to close out the 2016 season against the top two teams in the division, assuming that Philly gets past Dallas on Sunday. Another loss to the Cowboys would be hard to endure given how us tortured fans were forced to watch our arch rivals turn things around in a big way from just four wins the season before.

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