The Philadelphia Eagles are the biggest beneficiary of the landscape-changing injury to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, at least in the eyes of Las Vegas. The Packers have fallen from the ranks of NFC favorites and the Eagles have taken their place. Philadelphia is now listed as a 9-2 favorite to reach the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this February. That’s a price that makes Philly a co-favorite with Seattle, and then there’s a dropoff to Atlanta, priced at 8-1.
If the Eagles are going to make good on that promise, they’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. In an era where spreading the field is in vogue and short, high-percentage passing games are the norm, Philadelphia brings physical play in both lines and a power running game.
The Eagle defensive front is the best in football. Brandon Graham has four sacks from his defensive end spot. Tim Jernigan and Vinny Curry are high-caliber players. Any of them might reach the Pro Bowl and none of them are even the best defensive lineman on this year’s Eagles team.
That honor belongs to Fletcher Cox. A defensive tackle, Cox is a potent mix of size and pass-rushing speed. I write this as a Washington Redskins fan who watches the line play closely. Cox is one of the few, if not the only player, to physically manhandle Redskin guard Brandon Scherff. Cox can do for this Eagles team what Warren Sapp did for Tampa Bay back in 2002 and that’s be a difference-maker on a Super Bowl team from an interior defensive line spot.
Philadelphia’s offensive line is a similar source of strength. While Dallas’ offensive front gets the accolades, the Eagles have the best core group in the NFC East. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson seal the pocket from the edges. Jason Kelce is one of the top centers in football. And there are no weaknesses across.
The play the Eagles are getting up front works in tandem with their acquisition of LeGarrette Blount to run the football. Blount, a tough physical back, is averaging 5.6 yards-per-carry. Between Blount and sure handed tight end Zach Ertz, the Eagles can consistently move the chains.
Philadelphia isn’t flawless. In particular, there are some weak spots in the secondary that could bite them. Good offensive line play requires continuity, which in turn requires good health, which makes this area susceptible to injuries over the long haul.
But what the Eagles do have is a significant area of the game where they can distinguish themselves from other favorites—particularly the Seahawks, whose offensive line is awful. If Philadelphia can beat Washington at home this coming Monday Night, the Eagles will have control of the NFC East and the Super Bowl talk will only get louder.