We’re a quarter of the way through the season and it is time to take stock. Where are we now, and where have we been? Last year, we had the bye week in week four, but after week 5, we were 3-1 and just like we are this year.
Last year at this time we just finished womping the Lions and it looked like the offense might have just made a huge leap forward. Our only loss, strangely enough, was to the Giants.
So, 3-1 with a loss to the Giants, not much has changed right? And yet so much has. New coach, new system, but same old last place Eagles.
And the loss of Sean Taylor seems so long ago, and yet that may be the biggest difference in the future of the team this year. At the start of the season, many people argued we only made the playoffs because of a late season surge of emotion for Sean. I would argue that what we lost in Taylor was far worse than the gain we got from any emotional surge. And our quality is showing through this year. Let’s compare some numbers:
Last year’s offense at this time was averaging 21.75 pts per game and 340 yardsper game.
This year’s offense is averaging 21.5 pts per game and 342 yards per game.
Last year’s defense at this time was giving up 13 pts/g and 268 yrds/g.
This year’s defense is giving up 20.2 pts/g and 315 yrds/g.
So does that mean we’re worse than last year? Well, we are playing better opponents this year. The Giants are better now than they were week 4 last year. The Cowboys were widely considered the best team in the league, and the Saints and Cardinals had playoff aspirations at the beginning of the year.
Last year, the Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the history of the league, the Lions, while 3-0 coming in to play us, went on to have a bad year, the Eagles were pretty average.
Given that, its hard to argue we are any better or worse than we were last year. Of course, it is unlikely that we’ll lose one of our best players to a similar tragedy, but we have have an aging defense prone to injury and losing Marcus Washington or Shawn Springs to a blown ACL might be no easier a blow to take.
Some might say I’m trying to be a downer but I consider being about the same place as we were last year to be a real victory. First off, we went to the playoffs last year so going again seems like a pretty good start. Second, a lot of people thought JZ couldn’t hack the job and didn’t belong. Here he is coaching as well as a legend. And last, unlike last year, this is a team that is still capable of growth. We’re still learning our offensive system, and Jason Campbell is getting noticably better. The offensive line is only improving in health and last year it was decimated. Last year’s offense got worse as the season progressed (until a noticable uptick from Todd Collins). I don’t expect that to be repeated.
In other words, this is a team with the talent and current production to go 9-7 that could easily improve, and 10-6 or 11-5 is not out of the question. Our schedule is about to go into the easiest section with games against Philly (who looked very human against Chicago), St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh before the bye. It seems unlikely we’ll go into the bye worse than 6-3 and could easily be 7-2. That seems like the kind of momentum a team can build on even with a tough division schedule and games against the Ravens and a healthier Seahawks team coming up.
I like where we are. I like where we’re going. I even liked where we’ve been. There is still a long way to go in the season, but with a quarter of it done, things feel pretty good. Hail Skins!