Andrew Perna. 29th September, 2009 - 3:07 pm
The Philadelphia Eagles got just what they needed in their matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
After having been dealt a demoralizing loss by the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, the Eagles feasted on the lowly Chiefs in a game that was never close. In the victory, Kevin Kolb shined, Michael Vick debuted and defense got back on track after taking a beating just seven days prior.
Hitch: Much-Needed Bye Week
When looking at the schedule prior the season, Philadelphia's early bye-week came into question. Was a week off after just three games a good thing, or would a later bye have been more beneficial to the Eagles?
In the third quarter of their Week 1 win over the Panthers, the importance of their early bye-week proved itself. Having this week off will allow the Eagles to heal with a handful of vital players having spent all too much time inactive.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb hasn't played since suffering a rib injury in the third quarter of the Carolina game. All signs point to him being healthy enough to start against the sinking Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5. In addition, running back Brian Westbrook, wide receiver Kevin Curtis and guard Todd Herremans were all inactive this past Sunday.
If McNabb is the most important piece of the Eagles' puzzle, Westbrook is next in line. The pair will effectively have had four and three weeks off, respectively, by the time Philadelphia takes the field for another game.
Slant: Kolb Makes Vick Irrelevant
In actuality, the strong play of Kolb in Week 3 really makes Jeff Garcia irrelevant, but his play on Sunday kept Michael Vick on the bench more often than expected against Kansas City.
Assuming McNabb is healthy enough to be active against the Buccaneers next week, Garcia will be sent packing. Heading into this past Sunday's game, many expected to see Vick on the field for as many as 15 plays as his suspension expired. Playing for the first time since Dec. 31, 2006, the team's most controversial player was hardly on the radar screen.
He attempted two passes and rushed once for seven yards in Philadelphia's 34-14 drubbing of the Chiefs. Perhaps he would have been utilized more often had Kolb not performed tremendously.
Kolb set an NFL mark by throwing for more than 300 yards in his first two NFL starts, but his stat line against Kansas City was far more promising than the one he posted against New Orleans the previous week. He went 24-for-34 with 327 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't force throws, displayed great chemistry with his receivers and may have answered questions about what direction the team will go when McNabb ultimately retires.
There is no quarterback controversy currently, but the Eagles' future is in more capable hands than many believed. Also, it's possible that calls for Kolb to start will be legitimate in a season or two if McNabb starts to slow down due to either age or continued injuries.
Post: Eagles Have Clear No. 1?
For the first time since Terrell Owens' only full season in Philadelphia, the Eagles appear to have a clear-cut leading receiver.
DeSean Jackson has scored a touchdown in each of the season's first three games -- one on a punt return and two via receptions -- and he's on pace to eclipse his stellar rookie campaign. If he can avoid turning into the diva that Owens has become, but really always was, they'll be extremely lucky to have drafted him with the 49th pick in last year's draft.
He's currently on pace to post 1,381 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He is also ninth among wide receivers in yards, just a touch ahead of teammate and tight end Brent Celek.
Fade: The Near Future
After their week off, the Eagles will head into three very winnable games before back-to-back showdowns with the rival Giants (Week 8) and Cowboys (Week 9).
They'll welcome the winless Buccaneers to town on Oct. 11, a game that appears winnable even if McNabb isn't healthy enough to go. In fact, I'd venture to suggest that coach Andy Reid give thought to starting Kolb yet again if McNabb isn't close to full strength. Tampa Bay was held to fewer than 100 yards of total offense by New York on Sunday, and they have benched Byron Leftwich in favor of Josh Johnson.
In Week 6, the Birds will travel to the West Coast to face the Raiders, another team in the midst of a possible quarterback controversy. JaMarcus Russell has looked downright awful at times, and had it not been for an unexpectedly stellar drive at the end of their game against the Chiefs in Week 2, Oakland would be 0-3. Through three games, the former first overall pick's quarterback rating is a paltry 39.8. The Raiders represent another matchup in which Philadelphia will be double-digit favorites even sans McNabb/Westbrook.
Barring a sharp left turn in the next two weeks, the Redskins, the Eagles' opponent in Week 7, should be ripe for the picking as well. It's a prime-time game and inter-divisional battles are always hard-fought in the NFC East, but Washington lost to Detroit. That might be a cloud they won't be able to shake for quite some time.
Cut: Playoff Hopes
It's admittedly very early to be talking about the postseason, especially in a sport where title hopes and momentum can change drastically on a week-by-week basis, but it can't hurt to do a little playoff forecasting in the NFC.
Anyone worth his own weight in pylon knows that six (four division winners and two wild cards) teams from the NFC will go dancing this winter. First, let's trim out the unlikely entrants -- Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina and St. Louis.
That leaves six spots for eleven teams. Among those left, there are really only three clubs I see already destined for the postseason -- New York, Minnesota and New Orleans.
Assuming all three win their respective divisions, we have the NFC West and two wild card berths open. Battling for the two "at-large" bids will be Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Chicago and Atlanta. Before I go any further, my belief is that the only team to come out of the NFC West will be the division champion.
I have been left unimpressed by Arizona, and Seattle could be in trouble if Matt Hasselbeck is hurting once again. For those two reasons, let's pencil in San Francisco as a playoff team.
Looking at things from the Eagles' perspective, the Cowboys, Packers, Bears and Falcons will stand in the way of a trip to the postseason. They can control their fade to a degree when it comes to Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta. They'll play those teams four times in the second half of the season, with two games obviously coming against their division foe.
The Falcons have a brutal schedule, but the Eagles' slate in the second half isn't exactly a cake walk. The Redskins are the only team they'll play after October that doesn't currently have a winning record.
In order to gain ground on their competition, it's imperative that the Eagles win their next three games. Doing so will put pressure on their foes, while also building a solid base (a 5-1 record) heading into their rough second half.
For the second-straight season, it's entirely possible that the Eagles and Cowboys will be facing off with a playoff berth on the line on the season's final Sunday.
Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com and co-host of RealGM's Radio Show. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: APerna7.