CNN

There were previews last season, but no one could have seen that coming.

On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the lowly Houston Texans 29-17 to record their eighth straight win of the season and remain the only undefeated team in the NFL.

In doing so, the 2022 season became the franchise’s best season opener with an 8-0 first start.

Although they had a decent season last year, no one could have predicted the Eagles would become Super Bowl contenders behind an inexperienced quarterback and sophomore head coach.

But, against all odds, Philadelphia has moved into the No. 1 NFL teams — besides the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs — as favorites for many who will play in February’s season finale.

So how did we get here?

Last year was a rebuilding year for the Eagles. The departure of starting quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson presented a total change for the organization.

And while often those years of reestablishing an identity can be a tough watch, for Eagles fans there were some positives to take away.

The arrival of Nick Sirianni as head coach offered a fresh perspective from the touchline and a change of regime on the pitch.

With no established quarterback on the roster, it was left to Jalen Hurts — the former Oklahoma star who was drafted in the second round in 2020 — to lead the team.

Hurts had limited experience in his rookie year, but his time in the field didn’t go over well as he displayed the naïveté that freshman quarterbacks often exhibit.

But, paired with Sirianni, rookie receiver DeVonta Smith, dynamic running back Miles Sanders and one of the best offensive lines in the league, the Eagles showed signs of retooling quickly.

After a slow start to the season, the offense began to buzz as the games progressed, with the team eventually finishing with an 8-7 record heading into an eventual first-round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, there were good signs for the 2017 Super Bowl winners.

And, sensing that the foundations were in place, Philadelphia’s front office pulled out all the stops to improve the team as best it could during the offseason.

The team made key additions to an already talent-rich defense – including Haason Reddick, James Bradberry, CJ Gardner-Johnson and, just before the trade deadline, Robert Quinn – to make what has become a deadly set defenders for opposing teams.

Gardner-Johnson celebrates a second-half interception against the Texans.

In addition to another offseason to learn the system, the offense received a major boost when the team traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver AJ Brown.

But even with all these additions, the team’s start took everyone by surprise.

The team has won each of its eight regular season games, with Hurts making the leap to a Pro Bowl quarterback after forging an already deadly relationship with Brown for nine weeks of the NFL season – Brown has five touchdowns in his last three games.

The rise in injuries has been astronomical, going from a promising quarterback to one of the best in the league. After Thursday’s game, Texans head coach Lovie Smith praised the 24-year-old, calling him an “outstanding player.”

“I think he’s improved more, maybe more than any player in the NFL,” Smith told reporters.

What was most impressive was the balance of the team. Although the team had developed a threatening passing attack, Hurts’ dynamism with his legs allowed the team to remain a powerful running team, making them nearly indefensible on points.

Coming off of Thursday’s win over the Texans and the franchise’s best start to the season, Hurts was in no mood to get ahead of himself.

“I know this is special for the city of Philadelphia,” Hurts, who has thrown for at least two touchdowns in the past three games, told reporters.

“I mean, I was 8-0 before and lost the national championship. Take it day by day. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. It’s a day-to-day thing where we control the things we can, play to our standards and try to grow every day. I think that’s really what it’s all about.

Hurts throws during the second half against the Texans.

After such a start, many are looking to the Eagles to exit the NFC conference and challenge in Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.

And in what has been a tough year for many of the NFC’s big, traditional teams — the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Green Bay Packers are all going through rocky starts to the season — Philadelphia has delivered the perfect shot to grab a first-round playoff bye in January.

And in the City of Brotherly Love, Hurts will be showered with adoration upon his return as the Eagles continue their push for the organization’s second Super Bowl ring.

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