The Philadelphia Eagles season came to a slow and painful end on New Year’s Day. They missed the playoffs for the third straight year and fifth of the last six. While they finished this season 7-9 and last in the division, Philly is a town of ruthless, sports-hungry fans who will give their all for their teams no matter how good or bad they are. Being from outside the City of Brotherly Love, this is how my mentality is.
Before diving into the 2017 season, let’s briefly remember what happened in Philadelphia’s 2016 season. Chip Kelly was fired and the headstrong coach left town despite the high hopes coming in. The Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was plucked to be their new head coach. The Eagles mortgaged much of their future to trade up to the #2 pick and draft hopeful franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. DeMarco Murray was shipped to Tennessee and Ryan Mathews was made the starting running back. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford was traded just days before the first game of the year and Wentz was named the starter. The Eagles got off to a 3-0 start and looked like a solid team on the rise. Then they went 4-9 and finished last in the division.Their schedule was ranked 26th in the NFL in Strength Of Schedule and featured the likes of the Browns, Lions, Bears, Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks, Vikings, Packers and Bengals as non-NFC East opponents.
Their schedule was ranked 26th in the NFL in strength of schedule and featured the likes of the Browns, Lions, Bears, Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks, Vikings, Packers and Bengals as non-NFC East opponents.
There is lots of optimism heading into next season, with Carson Wentz having a full season under his belt and showing many flashes of greatness. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz can continue to work with the defense and the team can draft the necessary pieces to build around Wentz. While we have about eight months until the 2017 season kicks off, let’s examine who the Eagles will play next season.
Previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule
San Francisco 49ers
Another last place NFC team will make a trip to Philly when the San Francisco 49ers come to town. The Niners finished 2-14 in one of their worst seasons in team history. San Francisco is a team in disarray, as they are still searching for a new head coach and general manager after firing Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke. They desperately need a franchise quarterback and their defense has fallen from one of the best during the Jim Harbaugh era to one of the worst in the league. They own the #2 pick in this year’s draft and should immediately benefit from whoever they take. San Fran will most likely move on from the Colin Kaepernick saga that has followed them around all year. This game should be an expected win for the Eagles, as the 49ers defense will probably still be shaky and they may very well have a rookie quarterback at the helm.
One of the most disappointing teams in football this season was the Cardinals. In 2015, they went 13-3, reached the NFC Championship game and were predicted to be one of the best teams in the NFC again this season. To the surprise of many, they drastically fell to 7-8-1 and Carson Palmer had a far worse season than his stellar 2015 campaign. They are still led by arguably the best running back in football in David Johnson and ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. They could easily get back to their 2015 ways if their secondary and defense stays solid and Carson Palmer returns to his old ways. It’s beginning to feel like 2015 was a one-time magic season though and they might regress to average play. This will be a game the Eagles can very much win, but stopping the dangerous David Johnson will be key.
The Chicago Bears had an abysmal season, going 3-13 and getting pummeled in their division to the talented Lions, Packers, and Vikings. Their quarterback play fell apart as Jay Cutler was benched and injured most of the season and Matt Barkley could not play like a starter for most of the time. Rookie running back Jordan Howard emerged as the talented bell cow back who can run and catch out of the backfield. Chicago will probably lose star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to free agency and they need lots of help in the draft. Philadelphia could possibly face a rookie quarterback in this game as well. Chicago’s defense is poor so Carson Wentz and the Eagles should pick apart the Bears.
This will be one of the most interesting and difficult to predict games of the season for Philly. Denver has made swift changes since their Super Bowl win in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning has retired, they drafted Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, started the unproven Trevor Siemian, lost their starting running back C.J. Anderson early to injury, and underperformed to a 9-7 record and finished third in arguably the best division in football AFC West. This off-season, head coach Gary Kubiak retired for health reasons and the mastermind behind their NFL-best defense Wade Phillips left to become the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. They hired Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph as their head coach. Their defense has been one of the most stout and complete defenses in football the last three seasons, led by the ferocious pass rush of Von Miller and a deep secondary with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. It’s anyone’s guess who will be Denver’s quarterback next season, but their defense will cause havoc. Unless their defense takes major steps back, they should give the Eagles fits this game.
In my mind, this is the hardest home game they have all season (even harder than Dallas). The Oakland Raiders, led by MVP candidate Derek Carr, are one of the best teams in all of football and are led by a plethora of talent. They finished this season at 12-4, but were bounced from the playoffs in the first round to the Houston Texans when Derek Carr went down towards the end of the regular season and they were forced to play rookie third stringer Connor Cook in the playoffs. Next year, they should come to Philadelphia with Carr healthy and also led by their Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and leading wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Expect the Raiders to be playing at a high level as one of the NFL’s best teams overall. The Eagles will have too many problems to worry about in this matchup and the odds are not in their favor.
NFC East Opponents
As it is in most divisions, records and level of play coming into division games usually do not mean anything. Anyone can win since the members of the NFC East know each other so well. The Cowboys ran away with the division at 13-3 and the Giants played very well, finishing 11-5. Both made the playoffs. Last season, the Eagles beat the Giants and a resting Cowboys team at home but lost to the Redskins. Philly usually plays all of the division well, no matter how the division standings look, so expect some close divisional games.
This will probably be the hardest away game Philadelphia plays all regular season for many reasons. For one, playing in Seattle is one of the hardest places for an away team to play in all of North American sports. Second, the Eagles never win in Seattle and this will be one of three trips the Eagles make to the west coast. Expect Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls and the Legion of Boom to wreak havoc and continue their dominant home play.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams will be heading into their second season since moving back to Los Angeles. They fired head coach Jeff Fisher and hired 30-year-old Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. The youngest head coaching hire in NFL history will be responsible for flipping the 4-12 Rams and developing #1 overall pick Jared Goff. The Rams still have a vaunted pass rush, led by Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, and talented rookie Todd Gurley is still a threat. The Eagles will travel to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and play in L.A. for the first time in over two decades in a three-hour time difference. If Carson Wentz and their offensive line is well adjusted and can handle the Rams pass rush, they should be in control this game.
Los Angeles Chargers
Boy, this is going to take some getting used to. The Chargers have officially moved to Los Angeles and will play in the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The Chargers missed the playoffs this season and finished with a record of 5-11 and last in the AFC West. They are led by their talented offense, which includes the veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver Keenan Allen and breakout player of the year Melvin Gordon. Their defense made huge strides, rising to fourth in the NFL in forced turnovers with 28. This is going to be one of the Eagles most underrated games of 2017. The Chargers are being written off as far from playoff potential, but their offense can be explosive and they have a talented defense that I believe is playoff material. Philadelphia will again have to adjust to the time difference. It may be considered an Eagles victory heading into the season, but watch out for Los Angeles to spoil their trip.
Probably the biggest disappointment in all the NFL this season was the Panthers. The team who rolled through the NFC last year and made it to the Super Bowl with MVP quarterback Cam Newton struggled mightily. Many predicted them to repeat as conference champions, but things changed rapidly. The Panthers finished last in the NFC South with a record of 6-10 and Cam Newton had an extremely inconsistent season, struggling at many moments. They also lost shutdown cornerback Josh Norman to Washington and their stout 2015 defense fell to shambles. This off-season, they have already lost defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who left to become the head coach for the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles lost to the Panthers in 2015 at home and will travel to Charlotte to pick up the series. If the Panthers team that showed up this season plays that way for this game, the Eagles should have great success. If the 2015 MVP Cam Newton Panthers team shows up, it could be a long day.
Kansas City Chiefs
In another very difficult road game and long travel distance, Philly will square off against old head coach Andy Reid and the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are another complete team with a very talented offense and defense. They are led by quarterback Alex Smith and running back Spencer Ware. Their defense led the NFL in forced turnovers with a whopping 33. The Eagles are hoping that this game is not late in the season, where the temperature can drop into the low 20’s in Kansas City. The Chiefs should be just as good as they were this season and compete as one of the best teams in the NFL in most categories. Carson Wentz should have trouble passing on their stacked secondary and their upfront defenders will cause problems running. This game and the one in Seattle will be rough road games.
NFC East Opponents
This season the Eagles went a disappointing 0-3 on the road against NFC East opponents, only winning one road game overall on the year. They went into overtime against Dallas in “Jerry World”, but the other two division games were not as good. Anything could happen next year though. The NFL has shown time and time again how hard it is to stay atop your division each year. Bad teams can jump to the top and good teams (Arizona and Carolina) can fall to the bottom. It is very possible the Eagles rapidly improve and Dallas, New York, and Washington change. Philadelphia has the capability to win any division matchup, so these games are anyone’s guess.