I've bashed on the Raiders long enough -- about JaMarcus Russell, about Al Davis, about, well, almost anything. And I honestly thought that the Raiders would fall to the Eagles by three touchdowns.
Boy, was I wrong.
First, the Raiders came to play. Their defense dazzled the Eagles' overmatched offensive line all day, with Donovan McNabb getting hit more than your average pinata on Cinco de Mayo. To be fair, the Eagles' offensive line is 4/5 depleted from what was to be their opening-day roster. Still, every team in the NFL has injury problems, and the Eagles looked inept across the offensive line.
Second, the Eagles' defense didn't do all that badly, but the experiment with Jeremiah Trotter has to end soon. Coach Andy Reid cannot be the sentimental type, for if he were he wouldn't have jettisoned FS Brian Dawkins (who is on the 6-0 Denver Broncos) and many other veterans from recent years past. If that's the case, he's letting his heart lead his head, and Trotter simply cannot cover the pass. Holding the Raiders to 13 points should have been good enough -- the biggest struggles were on offense.
The irony is that for years the Eagles worked hard to solidify their offensive line, had McNabb and Brian Westbrook, but were deficient at wide receiver. This season, they abound in very good to potentially great wide receivers, their tight end is good, but Westbrook is aging, McNabb is recovering from an injury and the offensive line hasn't been together that long and looks unsynchronized. Going into the season, some pundits had them going to the Super Bowl. With this offensive line, it's hard to see them making the playoffs.
The Giants didn't help the Eagles, either. True, any NFL team would want to come back smoking after getting blown out the week before and the Giants smoked the Raiders in New Jersey the week before. But the Giants also said it was like a scrimmage, thereby offending Oakland's pride and dignity. To the Raiders' credit, they played smart, and they beat a heavily favored team.
It's still somewhat amazing that despite all the Phillies' success the sports talk shows were flush with people ventilating about the Eagles. I was at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night, very happy that the Phillies were shellacking the Dodgers. After all, the fan base was somewhat glum and hostile because of the Raiders game, and they needed something to channel their energy positively. The Phillies were an antidote to the frustration, scoring more runs (11) than the Birds did points (9). Who would have predicted for that to happen?
So the Eagles are now home in Philadelphia licking their wounds and preparing for the Redskins, who, during the first weeks of the season, have played a winless team in each and every week. Perhaps they'll rise to the occasion against the Eagles, perhaps they'll lose by four touchdowns, or, more than likely, they'll fall in a war of attrition, something like 10-6.
Suddenly, the NFL East doesn't look to be all that formidable, at least for right now.