NFL Preview: Will the Philadelphia Eagles Fly in 2017?

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles looked unbeatable in the early stages of the 2016 NFL Season. Philly, with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, won its first 3 games before its bye week. Among the wins was a road victory over the Chicago Bears, and a 34 to 3 beat down of the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. Was anything going to stop Philly? Surely, the team would come out of their bye week ready to roll.

Philadelphia Eagles 2017 Preview

Not so fast. The much-maligned Philadelphia Eagles fan was reminded of what happens when an NFL squad starts a rookie QB, and a rookie head coach. The Eagles lost 9 of its final 13 games. It finished in last place in the tough NFC East.

But, the season was a major success considering that Philly’s brass had overhauled the squad during the off-season. The one goal in 2016 was to shed the specter of Chip Kelly’s disastrous tenure as the head man in the City of Brotherly Love.

In that respect, 2016 was a major success. Will the Philadelphia Eagles fly even higher in 2017?

How Good Can Carson Wentz be This Season?

Carson Wentz finished the season with 3,872 passing yards. He threw 16 TD passes. He only tossed 14 interceptions. That’s not bad for a guy who played Division II ball at South Dakota State.

Could Wentz be much better this season? Yes, he could. In fact, one stat points to Wentz possibly starting a long, and storied, Pro Bowl career in Philadelphia this season. Wentz completed over 62% of his passes. Some 10-year backups find it difficult to reach the 60% mark. Wentz eclipsed it in his rookie season.

I find pass completion percentage to be a signal of how well a quarterback sees the field. Slinging it 60 yards isn’t as important as it used to be. Reading defenses, understanding where your guys are, is much more important.

Wentz can already do that. What it means is that Wentz could take a major step forward in his sophomore season in the NFL

How Much Improved are the Eagles’ Rushing and Passing attacks?

Doug Pederson’s got one of the best football minds in the league. This is a man who turned running back Jamal Charles into a star while at KC. He revitalized QB Alex Smith’s career. Pederson knows how to put together a winning football team.

One thing that Pederson did marvelously while at KC was getting the Chiefs to run out different RB sets. Pederson not only employed Jamal Charles. He also employed Kniles Davis in the backfield.

He can now do that in Philadelphia. LeGarrette Blount, New England’s hammer for many years, decided to take his bulldozing game to Philly. Blount’s an exceptional between the tackles running back. He’s also one of the few ball-carriers in the league that can take on defensive ends one-on-one.

Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood should share time as Philly’s change of pace back. Sproles has put together an impressive career. Smallwood is just starting his. With Blount, the Eagles backfield is suddenly loaded.

Pederson wanted to give his young QB a couple of weapons. So, the Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery, one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, away from Chicago. Jeffery posted big numbers while catching passes from Jay Cutler.

If Wentz improves the way I believe he will, Jeffery could dominate NFC East cornerbacks. On the other side are young Nelson Agholor, and veteran Torrey Smith. Both guys are going to be difficult to handle. Smith can get plenty of rest with Agholor backing him up.

Has Coach Dough Pederson Gotten the Eagles’ Defense Together?

The biggest improvements on this Eagles’ team is with the defense. The NFL Combine gets some things right. It gets some things wrong. The Combine can measure all the outside stuff, how fast a guy runs a 40-yard-dash, what’s his vertical jump, his percentage of body fat, etc.

What it can’t measure is straight up football toughness and tenacity. DE Derek Barnett broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee. Tennessee is in the SEC, not the Mountain West, not the ACC, the SEC. I think Barnett can be one of those special NFL defensive ends. The Eagles are lucky he was around with pick 14 in Round 1.

The Eagles are taking a chance on Sidney Jones, Washington’s electrifying cornerback. Jones enters the NFL recovering from a major injury. If Jones gets back to 100%, though, watch out. He was considered the top corner in the NFL Draft before the injury.

Last season, the defense performed well without potential rookie stars like Jones and Barnett. Philly didn’t rank worse than fifteenth in any defensive category. The D ranked thirteenth in total yards allowed per game at 342.8. It ranked thirteenth in passing yards allowed per at 239.5.

What’s truly encouraging is that Philadelphia’s defense allowed an average of 20.7 points per game. Only one opponent scored 30 points or more against Philadelphia’s defense last season. The Cincinnati Bengals beat Philadelphia 32 to 14 in Week 13.

Philadelphia Eagles 2017 Preview – How Tough is Philly’s Schedule?

The NFC East is one of the best divisions in the NFL. Yes, Philly’s schedule is tough. 4 of the Eagles first 6 regular season games are on the road. The Eagles battle Washington in D.C. in Week 1. The next week, they travel to KC to take on Andy Reid’s Chiefs.

A home game versus the Giants is followed by a road game versus the L.A. Chargers. A home game against Arizona is followed by a road game versus Carolina. 3 straight home games, Washington, San Francisco, and Denver welcome the Eagles before the bye.

After the bye, Philadelphia has road games versus the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants. Philadelphia should only win 9 games this season. They might win 10 games if Wentz develops into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

We can’t expect Philadelphia to sweep both the New York Giants, and the Dallas Cowboys. That’s 2 losses. They may not even sweep Washington although I’ll give the Eagles the sweep because I believe they’re more talented than Washington.

Philly should lose at least 2 of their 4 games versus teams from the AFC West. I don’t believe the Eagles beat Oakland, Denver, the L.A. Chargers, and the Kansas City Chiefs. We’re up to 4 losses.

The road games versus Carolina and Seattle are both tough. That’s 6 losses. If I’m wrong about Philly sweeping Washington, the Eagles are now up to 7 losses.

Fair Betting Odds on the Philadelphia Eagles to Win Super Bowl LII

Philadelphia’s odds to win Super Bowl LII are between 38 to 1 and 50 to 1. Are those fair odds?

I believe those are better than fair odds. Philadelphia’s regular season record figures to be no worse than 9 and 7. That’s the way I’m seeing it. If that’s the Eagles’ record, they should, it’s no guarantee, but they should, garner at least an NFL Wildcard Playoff spot.

Heck, with a 9 and 7 record this season, Philly could win the NFC East. Once Philadelphia gets into the playoffs, it’s a different story. The Eagles can beat any team in the NFC.

Therefore, 50 to 1 odds on Philadelphia to win Super Bowl LII constitute overlay odds. If you’re a Philadelphia fan, I’d take the 50 to 1 odds all day.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson


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