CARSON, Calif. -- At his news conference Friday, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought with him an index card that had a bulk of the reporters' predictions for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers written on them -- all losses.
"Nice predictions, man. Thank you," he said with a smile. "Great confidence. Maybe if you keep doing this, we'll keep winning."
Confidence in Pederson has been hard to come by on the outside. Even after a big win against the New York Giants the week before, the conversation that followed largely surrounded his decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 late in the second quarter.
Respect is earned in Philadelphia, and Pederson and this Eagles team made considerable headway with a 26-24 road win over a desperate Chargers team now up against it with an 0-4 record.
It didn't feel like a road game. The StubHub Center -- a soccer stadium with a capacity of 27,000 that is temporarily housing the former San Diegans -- was overrun by Philly fans, who roared after every big Eagles play, booed the Chargers loudly as they came out of the tunnel pregame and even belted out some "Dallas sucks!" chants when word spread that the L.A. Rams had toppled the Cowboys, 35-30, dropping them to 2-2.
The Eagles, meanwhile, improved to 3-1 despite playing three of four away from Lincoln Financial Field to start the season. With victories over the Washington Redskins and Giants, the Eagles opened the week with a 49 percent chance to win the division -- 20 percentage points higher than the next-closest team, the Cowboys, according to ESPN's FPI. Those numbers are only going up after this week's results.
Quarterback Carson Wentz is a big reason why the odds are starting to slant in the Eagles' favor. He went 17-of-31 for 242 yards and a touchdown, and with growing control at the line of scrimmage, did well checking the offense into favorable plays. He also was aided by a strong ground game for a second straight week. After running for 193 yards against the Giants, the rushing attack racked up 214 yards on 42 carries. LeGarrette Blount had 136 of those on 16 carries (8.5 average), including a punishing 68-yard rumble in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles some breathing room after a 35-yard Austin Ekeler TD on the previous series brought Los Angeles to within two. He also was key in milking the clock late.
This is not a perfect team. Operating without defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and corner Ronald Darby, the defense yielded a number of big plays to Philip Rivers & Co. It remains to be seen whether vulnerabilities in the secondary can be overcome or will ultimately be the Eagles' undoing. But they're on top of the NFC East after four games and that's what Pederson will stress to his team as they roll into the second quarter of the season with some momentum.