Want one team that missed the playoffs last year but is bound to crack the postseason in 2012? Look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles.
After opening their checkbook last season for free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Ronnie Brown, a lot of pundits just assumed that the Eagles would win the NFC East. But the team lost four of its first five games and despite a strong second-half run that saw them win four straight, the Eagles missed the postseason after finishing 8-8.
But Asomugha is primed for a bounce back, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be more comfortable calling plays in his second year and the offense is still chockfull of playmakers.
Thus, there’s little doubt that Eagles will give opponents fits again in 2012.
Their biggest problem remains Michael Vick, who had a very average third season in Philadelphia. He threw for 3,303 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while compiling a QB rating of 84.9. He also only played in 13 games after starting just 12 in 2010.
The Eagles will only go as far as Vick takes them. As most have pointed ad nauseam, he’s immensely talented and capable of winning games with his feet or the rocket he calls for a left arm. But only once in his career has he ever played a full 16-game schedule (that was in 2006) and only once has he completed over 60 percent of his passes (2010, his second year with the Eagles).
If you look at last year’s numbers, seven quarterbacks who finished in the top 12 when it came to completion percentage made the playoffs. In 2010, eight of the top 12 most accurate signal callers led their teams to a postseason berth, including Vick, who finished 10th in that category.
Tim Tebow is the exception to the rule. Everyone saw what happened last year when the Broncos defense didn’t shut an opponent out for three and a half quarters. The majority of the time, quarterbacks have to be able to complete 60-percent of their passes to win in the NFL.
People become transfixed by Vick’s ability to beat teams with his legs but if he’s going to carry this talented Philadelphia team deep into the playoffs, then he has to be able to win with his arm. He did so in 2010 before he ran into the buzz saw that was the Green Bay Packers and he’ll need to do it again before Andy Reid starts looking at other quarterbacks to run his offense. Say what you will about Reid, but he knows when a player’s best days are behind him (just ask Donovan McNabb).
Granted, there are a lot of facets that play into whether or not a team will be successful. The offensive line has to protect Vick when he’s in the pocket, Jackson can’t disappear for games on end and the defense has to play like it did in the second half of last year – not the first half.
But there’s no question that this Eagles team is primed for a bounce back year and should make the playoffs in 2012. That said, they’ve met their ceiling. If Vick can’t stay healthy and accurate when he does play, then we won’t see this Philadelphia team in the Super Bowl. He’s only one man but Philly’s championship hopes rest on Vick.