PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) are the only team in the NFL with three consecutive road games on the schedule this season, and coach Doug Pederson is pumped up about it.
“I was excited [when I found out],” he joked. “Get on the road, three great hotels.”
The trip starts this week at the Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Fox) and is followed by games at the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. It’s a gauntlet of a stretch that could end up defining the Eagles’ 2019 season.
One of the primary reasons the Eagles are on the road for the rest of October? The Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils’ prospects of making a deep postseason push looked strong back in the spring amid an offseason spending spree highlighted by the Bryce Harper acquisition. When the league believes neighboring baseball and football teams have a good chance of playing on the same day, they opt for a “stadium block” and don’t schedule a home game for that week.
“We usually ignore the Phillies when it comes to stadium blocks,” NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations Howard Katz told Peter King in April, “but I don’t think we can this year.”
So much for that. The Phillies’ season fizzled to an 81-81 finish, and South Philly is going to be a ghost town this month while the Eagles set out on a critical road test. Their three opponents — the Vikings (3-2), Cowboys (3-2) and Bills (4-1) — all have winning records currently. In the past 20 seasons, only two other teams have played three straight road games against opponents with a winning record, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The 2017 Vikings went 2-1 from Weeks 12 to 14, while the 2006 Bears went 2-1 from Weeks 10 to 12. Both those teams reached at least the conference championship round. So there’s something to be said for surviving this type of trip.
Having three consecutive road games is not all that rare in and of itself. Three teams — the Ravens, Rams and Saints — were on the road for three straight last season, and there were eight teams in 2017 with three consecutive away games.
And October conflicts come with the territory for teams that share a downtown footprint and municipal services with their baseball counterparts, a group that includes Dallas, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City and, to a lesser extent, Detroit. Oakland is the lone remaining place where the teams share a stadium, which helps explain why the Raiders’ October schedule reads like this: 24-21 win vs. Chicago (London), Week 6 bye, at Green Bay, at Houston.
The NFL learned from history when it comes to Philadelphia. Back in 2009, they had to move the Giants at Eagles game from the late to the early game as the Phillies advanced deep into the postseason. They were trying to avoid similar scheduling gymnastics this time around.
The good news for the Eagles is that once they get through October, they will have to get on a plane only once the rest of the way (at Miami in Week 13) and play five of their last eight at home.
So while the Eagles might be cursing under their breath for the next few weeks, the Phillies and NFL schedule-makers could be back in their good graces once the calendar flips — assuming this road swing doesn’t derail them.