With the recent additions, and before the draft results, the Philadelphia Eagles will make the 2017 playoffs.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles had a rookie head coach. They traded their presumed starting quarterback just a few days before the regular season. They started a rookie QB who had seen action in only one preseason game before getting injured. And they still managed to win seven games.
In hindsight, that was a remarkably good result. Add in woulda, shoulda, coulda and the Eagles make the playoffs in 2016. They suffered an overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys in a game an experienced team would have put away. A one-point loss to the Detroit Lions was the result of two late turnovers. A one-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens after a failed two point conversion. A result of 10-6 was entirely possible last year, and this year it will happen. In 2016, the Eagles were 16th in total scoring. The addition of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith combined with the development of Carson Wentz will push the Eagles into the top ten in scoring offense.
Last year, the Eagles lacked depth to overcome issues
Prior to Lane Johnson‘s suspension, the Eagles were 3-1, and they were 5-1 in the games in which Johnson played. The Eagles did not have the depth on the offensive line to weather that suspension and went 2-8 without him. This year, the team’s offensive line has depth. Playing time last season for Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai was invaluable for their growth. By adding Chance Warmack and keeping Stefen Wisniewski, the offensive line now goes ten deep with experienced, versatile NFL linemen. The Eagles still have needs at cornerback, running back and linebacker, but Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas will successfully address those in the draft.
Last year, the Eagles lacked experience in key situations
The Eagles had a rookie head coach in 2016. Doug Pederson made several mistakes that he will learn from, most notably the fourth down decisions in the loss to the New York Giants. Pederson will be better at understanding the capabilities of his players, and he will be better at strategy during critical moments, like when the Eagles went for a two point conversion at the end of the loss to the Ravens. The Eagles had a rookie QB last year. Carson Wentz will learn from his mistakes as well. He will know when to throw the ball away, rather than heave an unnecessary late game interception like he did at Detroit, with 1:28 remaining in a game in which the Eagles only needed a field goal to win.
After two division wins last year, the Eagles win four NFC East games this year
At this point, we only know the opponents. We don’t know when the games will be played, only where they will be played. The Eagles will play their usual six games within the division. Last season, the Eagles were 2-4 against their NFC East opponents, and all the meaningful games were competitive. The Cowboys have lost their secondary. The Washington Redskins have a front office mess and a quarterback they can’t or won’t sign long-term. The Giants are the seemingly stable team, but for some reason always have trouble with the Eagles. The Eagles will sweep one of these teams and go 4-2 in the division. The early favorite is the Redskins, as I see them as a team that could regress in 2017, but the Eagles always play well against the Giants too. And I am still not sold on the Cowboys, as they had seven wins last year in games decided by a touchdown or less.
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The non-division games offer interesting and challenging match ups
Doug Pederson goes west to face his former team and mentor, the Kansas City Chiefs, and former Eagles head coach Andy Reid. The Eagles have another tough road game at the Seattle Seahawks, who rarely lose at home. At home, the Eagles get a real test against the up and coming Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders. These three games will measure the Eagles’ progress and expose any continuing team weaknesses. The other seven games are eminently winnable.
Will the Denver Broncos be able to win on the road with a young quarterback and new head coach? Will Carson Palmer be able to find success for the Arizona Cardinals on the road against a pressuring defense? Which Carolina Panthers team will greet the Eagles? The Super Bowl runner up or last season’s 6-10 squad? Will the Eagles be able to hold serve against inferior opponents like the San Diego (Los Angeles) Chargers, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams? The Eagles will win a game they shouldn’t on paper, and will likely lose one as well, but the Eagles will go 6-4 against their non-division opponents.
The true deciding factor will be when the games are played
When teams play during the season is critical. Dallas beat the Green Bay Packers last year in Week 6, the second week of a stretch where Green Bay went 1-5. Dallas was fortunate to catch Aaron Rodgers and company while the entire Green Bay defense was struggling. The Packers beat the Eagles in Week 12 in a must win for Green Bay that catapulted them to the playoffs as the first of six straight victories. Who will the Eagles play the week before a key division match up? Who will the Eagles catch at home at the end of a long string of road games? Timing will help determine which teams the Eagles beat, but you heard it here first: 10-6, and playoff bound.