Can Eagles Repeat as NFC East Champs?
Nov 11, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The NFL salute to service logo on the end zone padding prior to the game between NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
As the offseason changes that occur through free agency and the draft come to a close, we can begin to get a look at how some final team rosters may start to take form. Granted, changes will still happen whether it be through injuries, trades, or additional free agent signings, but at this point we have a fairly safe outlook at what each team will look like. The Philadelphia Eagles finished the 2013 year as NFC East divisional champions but only advanced to the first round of the NFC playoffs after losing at home to the New Orleans Saints. In a division that has had all four teams win the division in the last five years, repeating as champs hasn’t been easy in the NFC East. The last time there were back to back winners was when former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid went on a divisional sweeping run from 2001-2004.
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It wouldn’t be impossible for the Eagles to reclaim their top spot in the NFC East, but this year will bring forth a new set of challenges for head coach Chip Kelly and crew. The Eagles finished their season last year winning seven of their last eight games led by quarterback Nick Foles advancing them to the playoffs. However, none of those wins were against playoff teams except for the Green Bay Packers who were trotting out third string quarterback Scott Tolzien after injuries to both quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace. Philadelphia needs to find a way to show up in the bigger games on this year’s schedule if they want to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs in 2014. Vegas currently has the Eagles winning nine games this year against the 20th ranked strength of schedule (1st being most difficult) facing teams that combined in 2013 to a 127-129 record. The Eagles will be playing five teams that made the playoffs last year and a 10-6 Arizona Cardinals that just missed the playoffs. How they perform in those six games will be an indicator whether or not Chip Kelly’s team is ready to make a deep run in the playoffs this year.
Philadelphia’s NFC East rivals will be no cake walk either in 2014. The Washington Redskins offense has improved remarkably by doubling down on wide receivers in free agency acquiring former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and former Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts. The return of a healthy quarterback Robert Griffin III and tight end Jordan Reed will give new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden plenty to work with as he implements his offense. It’s difficult seeing the Redskins going 0-6 against the division this year, even if their defense still has areas in which to improve.
The New York Giants have been busy this free agency signing a total of 24 free agents to date. Additionally, they drafted several rookies that could have a quick impact depending on how training camp battles play out this summer. Quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a career-worst year, but it’s difficult to see the two-time Superbowl champion repeating this anomaly in 2014. The Giants started 2013 losing their first six games, then rebounded to finish the year winning seven of their last ten. This team made a lot of offseason moves and could easily be back in contention if their newly acquired pieces quickly adapt to head coach Tom Coughlin’s system.
The Dallas Cowboys had a lot of key losses at important positions this offseason and will have an uphill battle this year within the division. Bringing in new offensive play caller Scott Linehan from the Detroit Lions could spark a career year for running back DeMarco Murray if he can stay healthy. The Cowboys’ woes will be in their pass rush after losing premier defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. Duplicating a 5-1 divisional record this year seems like a stretch and wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas finishes last in the division this year.
Teams will be ready in 2014 for the Philadelphia Eagles’ style of offense and the fast-paced tempo that took the league by storm last year. Nick Foles will be tested over a 16-game span this year and will face the arduous test of leading the Birds to consecutive NFC East championships. If their 3-4 defense can continue to improve like it did down the stretch last year, the Eagles have every opportunity to reclaim their title. The Eagles end their season visiting the Meadowlands against the Giants where the Eagles have won six of their last seven trips there. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a one-win differential when these two teams play and the title being awarded following that game. If they can remain healthy, the Philadelphia Eagles have a great chance to avoid a sophomore slump and return to the playoffs as NFC East champions in 2014.