The 2018 NFL season is at the point where contenders are known across the league. The Saints, Rams, and Chiefs are the most talked about teams 11 weeks into the season, and rightfully so. At 7-3, the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots are still in the super bowl discussion, but have not been as consistent or dominant as those other teams I mentioned. Now, you may ask, where are the defending super bowl champions on this list of contenders? Well, as a surprise to many, as the Philadelphia Eagles are currently sitting in third place in the NFC East with an underwhelming 4-6 record. While they are still in the playoff discussion due to a poor division, it is safe to say the Birds have fallen short of expectations in 2018.
I had a feeling the defending champs were doomed for the 2018 season, and it had nothing to really do with talent, but rather their mentality going into the season. As far as their roster goes, it is essentially the same personnel that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy a season ago, with a few additions like defensive end Michael Bennett, and minor losses such as RB2 Legarrette Blount. Yes they have endured their share of injuries, but on paper this team should be in first place in the NFC East.
However, it seems as though the Eagles and their fan base especially cherished this super bowl for a bit too long, and have paid the price for it so far this season. The past off-season for Philly included the release of books by both head coach Doug Pederson and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and certain players who will remain nameless calling out the New England Patriots after the Super Bowl.
Do you think Bill Belichick wrote a book after his first Super Bowl victory? The answer is no, and he did not write one after the following five rings he won as well. To Philly’s defense, they are not used to winning super bowls. It was the city of brotherly love’s first ever super bowl, so I can sense the jubilation they must have felt. Yet, In my opinion, greatness is not defined as doing something great, but rather sustaining greatness over an extended period of time.
In order to be great, there has to always be a drive to get better, and the Eagles have displayed signs of complacency this season. There was a certain energy the 2017 Eagles had that gave every team they opposed fits. Now, it is as though every team they play against has that same fire, as Philly has a massive target on its back, and rightfully so.
This is not just a matter of mentality, although it is a large reason of why they have struggled. On the field, third-year starting quarterback Carson Wentz has been much less productive than he was a season ago. What was looking like an MVP caliber season before he was injured last season has been anything but that in 2018. Wentz has thrown just 15 touchdown passes and leads an offense that is sits at 25th in the league in points per game with a mere 20.5. Part of this could be due to the departure of former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, as well as quarterback coach John DeFilippo. For a young quarterback like Wentz, this could hinder his development, but he has the arm talent where he should be able to adapt quicker than he has.
The other side of the ball has not looked very promising either. For reference, just take a look at their performance last week in a 48-7 blowout loss to New Orleans, the worst loss a defending Super Bowl champion has ever suffered. Overall, it has been the pass defense that has looked the most inadequate, as they rank 24th in pass defense in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 377.9 yards per game against them, making it no surprise gunslinger Drew Brees was able to shred this defense the way he did.
As the season finishes up in these next couple weeks, we will see if the Birds can prove me wrong. Who knows, maybe they will make the playoffs if they can gather some divisional wins. But, up to this point, it has looked like a textbook super bowl hangover.