Reigning Super Bowl champions, The Philadelphia Eagles, are amongst many peoples top picks to march all the way back to another Championship game next Feb. Few teams go on to complete the repeat but there has been plenty of talk about Doug Petersons squad being even stronger that last years.
Reasons to be cheerful?
The most fevered fan-base in American sports is still riding high on last seasons championship victory over the Patriots that came with an MVP performance from Nick Foles. We all know the story by now, Foles had nearly retired following poor showings with the Rams and Chiefs in 2015 and 2016, agreed to return to the Eagles where his career peaked way back in ’13 (27-2 TD to INT ration REMEMBER THAT)?! When Carson Wentz was struck down with a knee injury the eagles turned to their veteran and he did just enough to ease them into the playoffs before coming alive and putting up solid stats once the real tournament began. The eagles crushed the pats and lifted the Lombardi trophy without their best player, Carson Wentz. Ok, so the prodigal QB wont return this week (1) and Foles will be under centre again, but expect him back by week 4 fully fit and desperate to show that he too can be a Champion. 33 TDs in 13 games last year was just a glimpse of how good he can be, wrap him in cotton wool until he is needed then unleash his fury, Eagles fans this guy is the reason to be cheerful.
Consider as well that the fixtures have fallen fairly kindly for the Eagles, week 1 aside. The opening K.O against Atlanta will be a tough test for sure but the games at a Winston-less Buccs, home versus an average Colts team (yes even with Luck) and then at unknown quantity Tennessee could have been a lot worse. The tough defensive tests don’t begin until the team host the Vikings in week 5, and by then Wentz should be back in charge.
Still need convincing? Check out T.E Zach Etrz. 8 TD grabs last year and a blossoming relationship with Wentz, he’ll be looking to finish as the leagues top scoring Tight End which means double digit scores. The defense is still the same one which dominated almost every opponent last year, and they’ve added Haloti Ngata from the Lions to the already devastating defensive front.
Reasons to be fearful?
Since winning the title the Eagles have done a lot of talking. There was the trash-talk about the Pats from the players, and coach Peterson released a book in which he criticised Doug Marrone from his team (The Jags) failing to beat New England in the AFC championship game. I’m not a fan of teams blowing their own trumpet, it smacks of complacency which is a dangerous path to walk down. The NFC East really didn’t push the Eagles last year, the Giants went an all-time team worst 3-13, the Cowboys didn’t have Zeke for 6 weeks and the redskins were, as usual, beset by injuries and head scratching decision-making. Make no mistake, this year will be tougher. Saquon Barkley makes the Giants a real threat, at least in individual games if not for the Divisional title, Jason Garrett knows he has to make the playoffs to keep his job in Dallas, and The Redskins have a solid 1-2 RB punch with Peterson and Thompson plus 3 fully-fit starting calibre receivers for a change.
The mid-season fixture list has a 4-game stretch of Carolina, @Jacksonville, Dallas, @New Orleans, which is sure to prove a difficult time. Factor in that we don’t know for sure that we are getting THE Carson Wentz that we saw pre-injury and there are some concerns in place once all the bravado is swept away.
How does the season shape up?
The season doesn’t come down just to the return of Wentz but that is a huge key to the future success of this franchise. If they are forced to hold him out beyond week 4 then I believe the division opens up for the other 3 teams and the Eagles may find themselves scrapping for home-advantage in the playoffs as Nick Foles regresses to being Nick Foles. The defense will crush opponents on a weekly basis, the offense just needs to keep its side of the bargain.
Playoffs? Yes, but how far they go from there depends on those not yet on the field.