McMullen: Strength of Schedule Argument is a Poor One with Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — The irony is lost on the same strength-of-schedule crowd that peddled the narrative that the 2017 Eagles' schedule was so difficult back in August.
Fast forward to Week 13 of the NFL season and Philadelphia is an NFL-best 10-1 while the same people tell you that Doug Pederson's team hasn't played anyone.
Strength of schedule numbers is as shallow as analytics get, a cumulative win-loss total that doesn't leave any room for nuance or even common sense.
Things looked so dire for the Eagles back in training camp because the NFC East was perceived as strong with Dallas coming off a 13-win season and the New York Giants an 11-win campaign. Turns out the Cowboys weren't nearly as good as the 2016 version even when Ezekiel Elliott was on the field and the Giants are one of the worst teams in football.
And poof -- difficult turns into a cakewalk.
Accumulating wins and losses without context is a useless exercise of course. As an example the Eagles are 4-0 so far against the NFC East, making their rivals schedule all that more "difficult" because they happen to have Philadelphia on their schedules.
And that's the goofiest part of this whole argument.
The Eagles' schedule has turned softer because of their own dominance while the same folks trafficking in the nonsense that Philadelphia really isn't as good as 10-1 might indicate because of the competition it has faced also pivot to tell you its upcoming opponents have such a difficult schedule, largely because the Eagles are 10-1.
That's the circular logic of the obtuse.
The real indicator to whether or not the Eagles are a really good football team is point-differential, which is a league-best plus-160 through 11 games.
In other words, the Eagles aren't just beating the teams they are supposed to they are dominating them as evidenced by three straight wins by 28 points apiece and four consecutive by 23-or-more.
That's not to say the upcoming West Coast trip through Seattle and Los Angeles isn't the toughest pocket on the schedule because it is.
The Seahawks (7-4) and the Rams (8-3) top the NFC West division and instead of Beathard, Osweiler and Trubisky, Jim Schwartz and his defense will be trying to stop Russell Wilson and the much-improved Jared Goff.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our football team, an impressive set of challenges for us,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Monday. “We’re going against, this week, an opponent that’s been to the Super Bowl. They have been in the postseason. It’s a talented football team despite the injury situation. And obviously you’re playing in that loud stadium.
"It’s a great test for us in the month of December when teams need to be playing their best football. It will be a great opportunity for our guys to start something and to continue what we’ve begun, hopefully during this stretch.”
It's a test but Bill Parcells' rules have always applied in the NFL and that means you are what you're record says you are which means the Eagles are better equipped to handle it than any other team in the NFC.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen