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The Eagles can take inspiration from the 2022 Phillies and the 1972 Dolphins in their pursuit of perfection

Philadelphia Inquirer 10/27/2022 Mike Sielski, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Eagles center Jason Kelce cheers with the crowd at Citizens Bank Park during the Phillies' 4-2 victory over the Padres in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. © Yong Kim / Staff Photographer/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS Eagles center Jason Kelce cheers with the crowd at Citizens Bank Park during the Phillies' 4-2 victory over the Padres in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

So now that the 76ers have started winning games and the Flyers have started losing them and the Union are two victories from a championship and the college basketball season is just around the corner, let’s ask the question that’s at top of mind for every Philadelphia sports fan:

Can the Eagles go unbeaten?

I’m kidding, kind of, and I get it. Don’t worry. We’ll get to the baseball team in a bit. But this really is a question worth exploring, because a.) the Eagles are 6-0, the last team in the NFL without a loss, and b.) the question is always worth exploring whenever one or more teams make it through at least a third of the regular season unscathed. The Eagles crossed that threshold when they took care of the Cowboys, 26-17, on Oct. 16. (Remember that game? Me neither. A lot has happened since then.)

A fan holds up a handmade sign during the Eagles' 26-17 win over the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 16. © David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS A fan holds up a handmade sign during the Eagles' 26-17 win over the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 16. Action Network: Should you bet the Eagles to go 17-0?

Now, I know what you’re probably saying to yourself. You’re probably saying, Self, is this guy for real? Is he actually going to predict that the Eagles will go 17-0 in the regular season, win Super Bowl LVII, and finish 20-0? They haven’t even played half their divisional games yet. Is he a buffoon? Is he completely clueless? To which I say ... wait, have you been talking to my wife?

Rest assured, I’m not predicting anything. I recognize that the chances that the Eagles will go 17-0 are slim — like, DeVonta Smith-after-six-weeks-of-intermittent-fasting slim. And I recognize that the chances that they will become the first NFL team to go 20-0 are even slimmer. But there are a few karmic facts and factors at play that should make the Eagles’ pursuit of perfection fascinating to follow for as long as it lasts.

Their remaining opponents, and those remaining opponents’ quarterbacks, are … eh.

Hat tip here to my friend, former coworker, and fantasy football aficionado Adam Levitan of (Jeez, the Eagles lead the league in winning percentage, and this column leads the league in inessential alliteration.) On Twitter, Levitan listed the 10 starting quarterbacks that the Eagles are likely to face over the 11 remaining games on their regular-season schedule, and those quarterbacks aren’t exactly a 21st-century redux of the 1983 NFL draft. Here they are:

Kenny Pickett, Davis Mills, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Ehlinger, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Jones (twice), Justin Fields, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston.

Yes, Rodgers is an all-time great, though he’s not having anything close to an all-time great season. Yes, Prescott is excellent and has generally played well against the Eagles throughout his career. But just three of those teams — the Giants, the Cowboys, and the Titans — are above .500, and the aggregate record of those 10 opponents is 32-34-2. At the moment, it’s difficult to pinpoint a game in which the Eagles would be the betting underdog. That doesn’t mean they’ll win all of them. Just means, in theory, they should.

It has been exactly a half-century since an NFL team went undefeated.

There would be a nice symmetry in having the Eagles finish with an unblemished record. After all, 50 years have passed since the 1972 Miami Dolphins became the first and only team to accomplish the feat. Now, if the Eagles were to go 20-0 — and again, for the record, I don’t think they will — they would undoubtedly be regarded as the greatest team in NFL history. But even falling a game or two short of the ‘72 Fins would come with all sorts of historical complications.

Because the NFL’s regular season was 14 games back then, the Dolphins needed to win just 17 games, including their victory in Super Bowl VII, to complete their perfect campaign. A 17-0 record now would get the Eagles through only the regular season. They could then still lose in the playoffs, and a debate would ensue over whether they had equaled or eclipsed the Dolphins’ achievement.

Eagles’ remaining schedule features opposing offenses with some question marks

It wouldn’t be much of a debate. That Miami team’s coaches and players have cherished their status as the last NFL club to complete a flawless season, though their pride in remaining unique has often been overstated and caricatured. As author Marshall Jon Fisher confirmed in his book Seventeen and Oh, the surviving team members do not, in fact, reunite each year, after “the final zero disappears from the NFL standings loss column,” to share a champagne toast.

But even those Dolphins themselves have to know that the sport has changed too much for them to think they’d stand a chance against the teams of today. The players are bigger, faster, stronger. At 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, Jalen Hurts is taller and/or heavier than 11 of the 13 linebackers and defensive backs on that Miami roster. Plus, the season’s increased length and the presence of a salary cap (which leads to parity throughout the league) make it much more difficult and impressive for a team of this era to approach the ‘72 Dolphins’ excellence, let alone surpass it.

The Phillies’ magical run has raised the bar for the Eagles.

One of the widespread myths about Philadelphia sports among those who are not intimately familiar with the region’s culture and history is this: On the rare occasions that a team here wins a championship, the dark clouds part and give way to sparkling sunshine. Dogs and cats exchange paw-pounds and hang out. And that blissful buzz soothes and comforts fans for months, even years. We won. Finally. We are the champions, and we have no other cares in the world. Our desires have been satisfied.

‘They have very little negativity in their offense’: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has high praise for the Eagles

Wrong. If anything, the opposite is true. That afterglow has a shorter shelf life than it would in other cities or areas of the country. Around here, winning is a drug. Once fans taste it, they crave more of it immediately. And once the World Series, no matter its outcome, has ended, they will go into full-fledged withdrawal — headaches, loss of appetite, night sweats, twitchy and irritable behavior, calls for the backup quarterback — if the Eagles don’t keep rolling from one victory to the next. So go get ‘em, fellas. Starting Sunday against the Steelers, a Super Bowl berth is the minimum standard. No pressure.

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