Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and perpetual sun, has finally rallied around the Eagles. If any city could embrace an ex-convict as its franchise quarterback, it’s Philly—the town whose fans are so obsessed with winning that they once threw snowballs at Santa Claus when the Eagles were losing at halftime.
In all seriousness, Michael Vick’s return to starting full-time in the NFL after serving 18 months in prison for dogfighting has to be the feel-good story of the year. By all accounts, the thoroughly repentant Vick has morphed into a role model under the mentorship of former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Donovan McNabb. More importantly for Eagles fans, he has also returned to his pre-incarceration form as the premier dual-threat quarterback in the league. The Eagles’ explosive escapist has led Philadelphia to a 7-4 record and put them in a tie for first place in the NFC East.
Going into the season, one of the toughest decisions Eagles coach Andy Reid had to make was whether Vick or 2007 first-round draft pick Kevin Kolb would be the starting quarterback. Reid is famous for waffling over every decision he makes, including whether to get the Double Down or the 2-Gallon Popcorn Chicken Bucket at KFC (presumably, he winds up ordering both), and his handling of the quarterback situation was no different. But the choice was pretty much made for him after Week 2, when Kolb was injured and Vick proved himself a more capable replacement.
The Eagles’ offense is currently ranked 8th in the NFL in passing and 3rd in rushing, but has faltered slightly in the last two games. They lead the league in plays of 40 yards or more, and have turned the ball over just twice this season. Speedy wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are always big-play threats and have combined for the majority of the Eagles’ receiving yards this season. The position of running back has been a constant question mark for the Eagles in recent years, but LeSean McCoy has emerged as a dominant force in his sophomore year, averaging 5 yards per carry and leading all NFL running backs in receptions.
Defensively, the Eagles have also been impressive—they are currently ranked 13th against the pass and 12th against the run. However, Philadelphia is dealing with injuries to some key players—including franchise cornerback Asante “I Can Catch Anything Except A Crucial Interception in the Super Bowl” Samuel. Without him in the lineup, Chicago was able to torch the Eagles’ secondary for 247 yards and four TDs; without Samuel, it’s hard to see them mounting a serious playoff run.
Speaking of playoffs, the Eagles’ fate will most likely rest on an intra-division clash at the New York Giants on Dec. 19. With a win, the Birds can clinch the NFC East; with a loss, they might be out of the playoffs entirely (even though Philly will almost certainly have a better record than the winner of the god-awful NFC West, where all four teams are under .500; this is but one of the many absurdities of the NFL divisional system). With deep personnel on both sides of the ball, the only thing that might hold Philadelphia back in the playoffs is Andy Reid’s penchant for terrible, inexcusable clock management. Stay tuned.