You read it here first.
Yes, I predicted the Eagles would beat the Redskins yesterday. Of course, the loyal readers of ‘The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick’ already know that.
Hey, you’ve got to get one right eventually. I had been perfect in picking the Eagles in the first five weeks of the NFL Season.
That’s right, I was Oh-for-Five coming into this weekend. I picked the Eagles to lose in the opener against the Rams. Of course they rallied for a big win. I then believed they would win each of the next four weeks. They promptly went into the tank, blowing second half leads on the way to four straight losses.
They put the wagons in a circle last week, ralllying around their embattled coach and defensive coordinator, and at one point challenging some fans who put up an “Andy Must Go” banner across the street from the NovaCare Center in South Philly.
But I did not stop with a simple prediction of an Eagles win. I also stated that if the Eagles win – which they did – they would go on to win the division.
I stand by that bold prediction, even if the Giants decided to complicate matters a bit by beating the Buffalo Bills yesterday.
The Eagles are now 2-4, with the bye week this weekend and then another huge date with the Cowboys on Oct. 30 in a Sunday night game.
As for yesterday’s game, I see three keys.
One, it became apparent to me that the Eagles finally threw in the towel on that radical “Wide Nine” defensive alignment. And not a minute too soon. Yes, it allows rushers to rack up some gaudy sack numbers. See Jason Babin. But it leaves them vulnerable to huge gashes in the running game, especially when you don’t exactly have the horses at linebacker to fill those massive gaps.
The Eagles moved to a more traditional alignment and in the process managed to shut down the Redskins running game. That was their No. 1 defensive priority coming into the game. Mission accomplished. The shame of it is that it took the Eagles five weeks to realize what their fans knew back in Week 2, that the “Wide Nine” was killing them.
The second reason the Birds won is that they happen to have the best back in the NFL. That would be LeSean McCoy. Yesterday he added to his gaudy stats by rushing the ball 28 times for 126 yards. You read that right. McCoy got the ball nearly 30 times.
Once again Andy Reid seems to have discovered something the fans already knew. The Eagles offense should be predicated on a heavy dose of McCoy. He’s their best weapon. He’s also the best way to keep Michael Vick healthy – and upright.
McCoy’s 28-carry game comes one week after he carried just 11 times against the Bills.
And it was the battering of “Shady” in the second half that allowed the Eagles to control the clock, even though they did not score. The Birds put the game in McCoy’s hands and he ground out the clock on the ‘Skins after they had drawn to within one score. That should be the blueprint for Eagles’ victories. Get a lead, carry it into the second half, they slowly strangle the opposition with a heavy dose of McCoy. You might say they have it “Made in the Shade-y.” There would be no coughing up another lead. That's because McCoy forced the Redskins to use all their timeouts, then carved out another first down, allowing the Eagles to kneel down four straight times to run out the final two minutes. It's a new concept. Running the ball. Who would have thunk it.
Of course, there is one other reason the Eagles won yesterday. They were playing a team that trotted out Rex Grossman as their starting quarterback.
Grossman had a day he would like to forget. Unfortunately the fans in D.C. are not likely to let that happen. He was pulled after throwing four interceptions – three of them to Eagles safety Kurt Coleman.
In the process he probably managed to save Juan Castillo's job. And breathed life into a team that was teetering on the abyss.
Now, the Eagles have two weeks to get everyone healthy and prepare for another crucial NFC East game. Remember, even though the Birds are sporting a 2-4 record, they have lost only one game in the NFC East. That would be the game they gift-wrapped for the Giants.
It's a long season, especially in a thoroughly mediocre NFC East. That works to the Eagles advantage.
The dream is alive.
Just remember where you heard it. The Eagles will win the NFC East.