There's no arguing the Eagles aren't the best team in the NFL right now. They have the best record at 8-1. They have the longest winning streak at seven games. And they're second in the league in point differential.
Of course, none of that guarantees the Eagles a trip to the Super Bowl, let alone a world championship. And in a season where there are a lot of bad, rudderless teams, and a lot of breaks appear to be going their way, there are actually quite a few teams that are hot on the Eagles' heels as well.
Just in the Eagles' conference alone, there are several surprise contenders are springing up alongside some of the usual suspects. Legitimate threats, many only a game or two back of the Eagles.
Sure, the Packers are out of the mix without Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons aren't the powerhouse they were last season. The Giants' inevitable fall was harder and faster than expected. Yet, the Eagles appear to have plenty of competition on the road to the Super Bowl.
In fact, the NFC feels kind of stacked right now, which -- as good as the Eagles are -- should probably scare people.
5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Yes, the Eagles already beat the Panthers. They did in Charlotte, too, which more than likely won't be the case if there's a rematch, and that was even in the face of some of the most lopsided officiating we've seen. But the case could be made Carolina hasn't peaked yet. Quarterback Cam Newton is getting stronger and stronger after offseason shoulder surgery, and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly exited that game early with an injury. It's hard to beat any team twice in this league to begin with. The Panthers might be better the next time around, and are only a year-and-a-half removed from a Super Bowl appearance themselves, so they know what it takes to get there.
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4. Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
A case could easily be made the Seahawks are overrated. Their defense is great, but the offense comes and goes. Seattle doesn't run the ball effectively and can't protect quarterback Russell Wilson. And while this core group went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and '14, they haven't made it past the divisional round the last two years. Yet, this is a team that usually gets stronger around this point of the season and always looks like a force to be reckoned with by the time January rolls around. Until they prove otherwise, I tend to believe the Seahawks have that in them. Then again, we'll get a preview when the Eagles visit Seattle in Week 13.
3. Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
The Cowboys clearly pose the biggest threat to the Eagles even before the postseason rolls around. With two games against Dallas over the last seven weeks of the season, they could have a dramatic impact on playoff season. A pair of losses would make it difficult for the Eagles to secure home-field advantage throughout or a bye, even put the NFC East up for grabs. And if the Eagles do manage to secure home field and a bye, the potential exists to see the Cowboys again on the doorstep to the Super Bowl -- the conference championship. Which team is better isn't even the question here. Dallas has more opportunities to screw with the Eagles' shot between now and February, and as a division rival, perhaps more motivation than anybody else, too.
2. Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
The only team in the NFL with a better point differential than the Eagles -- by a whopping four points -- the Rams might be the most intriguing team on this list. Last year's No. 1 overall-draft choice, quarterback Jared Goff, has sort of taken a back seat to Carson Wentz, but has been extremely impressive as well. And in case you didn't notice, that's a Wade Phillips defense in LA, one that only seems to be improving as the season progresses. The Rams schedule down the stretch will be a good test as to whether this squad is for real, including a visit from the Eagles in Week 14. If what we've seen the first nine weeks is legit, though, they are a scary bunch.
1. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
The hottest team in the league right now after the Eagles probably isn't who anybody would've expected, either, but the Saints are legit. They finally aren't asking the world of quarterback Drew Brees, who can sling the football as well as anybody and has actually won a championship. The sudden emergence of a decent defense in New Orleans changes everything. After an 0-2 start, the Saints have won six in a row, with opponents averaging 15.0 points per game during that span. Good luck beating Brees that way. Obviously, the Eagles might have more success, but we wouldn't be able to find out if and until they meet in the playoffs. By then, it could be the NFC Championship, and the Saints would be both the only remaining threat and the greatest unknown standing in the path to the Super Bowl.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
From the looks of things, a very good team is going to miss the playoffs this season -- and I don't necessarily mean the Vikings. Yet, assuming Minnesota does earn a berth into the tournament, their quarterback situation is a mess. Case Keenum is the guy for now, and while the team is winning games, he's extremely limited. Sam Bradford was on fire, but may not play again due to another knee injury. Teddy Bridgewater just came off the physically unable to perform list and his ascension to starter might be inevitable, but he hasn't played in a year-and-a-half. This is an outstanding team otherwise, but if they don't have a QB come January, the Eagles would eat them alive.