With the Philadelphia Eagles reaching the halfway point for their 2017 NFL regular season, the general consensus around the league is that even though some people may have predicted them to be good this year, no one picked them to be this good. Even now, with a record of 7-1, their fan base is split on how to react. There are some fans that want to plan their trip to this year’s Super Bowl and then there are fans that are waiting for the bubble to burst on this surprising start. Recognizing these mixed feelings coming from experts and fans alike, with respect to how good the Eagles really are, this is the best time to review the original bold predictions for the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and make a few new mid-season predictions for the rest of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles Midseason Predictions Review
Doug Pederson Will Call Plays Past Their Bye Week
Of all the bold predictions made at the beginning of the season, the one that will absolutely not be happening is head coach Doug Pederson giving up play calling. Pederson has not only adjusted how he calls a game from his first year as a play caller, but he also has given quarterback Carson Wentz a bit more control of the offense in changing plays when out on the field. The combination of these two changes has contributed to the Eagles philosophy under Pederson to change from extremely pass heavy to a more balanced offense.
The biggest contributor to the play calling staying with Pederson is the most obvious one: the Eagles have been winning. Winning cures everything and that is never more prominent than when ineffective plays or unwarranted risk-taking does not lead to a shift change in a game leading to a loss. Depending on which half of the glass, full or empty, that is analyzed, it could be said that Pederson’s play calling has been the reason they have only one loss, or their one loss comes in spite of his play calling. Either way, the chances of him giving up play calling by the end of the season, let alone by their bye week, is almost nonexistent.
Sidney Jones May Be Activated by the End of the Year
Very little has been truly said about where rookie cornerback Sidney Jones is in his rehabilitation, especially since the initial date where he could begin practicing has come and gone. The Eagles have a few more weeks until they have to activate him from the non-football injury (NFI) list, and then three weeks after that to add him to the roster once he is activated. If he is not activated or is not added to the roster, he will be placed on Injured Reserve and shut down for the year.
With little information to go off of, it is not yet known if Jones playing this season is a real possibility. His return may depend on the continued effectiveness of the Eagles defense as well as the performance of injured cornerback Ronald Darby when he inevitably comes back.
All Eight Offensive Linemen Started a Game This Season
This is the only prediction that has already come to fruition and actually occurred by the start of their week six matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Due to the ineffectiveness of the first week’s starting left guard Isaac Seumalo, both Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski had started a game at that position by week four of the season. With a concussion keeping right tackle Lane Johnson out of a game in week six, Halapoulivaati Vaitai found himself starting in that game, giving all eight offensive linemen that started the season on the Eagles 53 man roster at least one start this season.
Unfortunately, they may find themselves starting yet another lineman at some point this season with starting left tackle Jason Peters tearing his ACL and MCL in week seven against the Washington Redskins, thus needing to rely on Vaitai for the rest of the year. If he cannot step up and keep Wentz’s blindside protected, the Eagles may need to see who else they can get to fill that spot, which would almost definitely not be any one of the original eight.
Fletcher Cox on Double-Digit Sack Pace for the First Time
Fletcher Cox has been the heart and soul of a revitalized defense for the Eagles this season which has made this prediction very possible to happen. Although he has been more of a factor when stopping the run, fighting through double teams allowing his other defensive linemen make plays, he finds himself with four and a half sacks. With missing one of the eight games this season, he is almost halfway to the double-digit mark for sacks in only seven games. If he can stay healthy, Cox should be able to come close to setting a new high for sacks in a season on his career with at least ten sacks.
Smallwood Trails Blount by Only One Rushing Touchdown
At the beginning of the season, there were some who thought Wendell Smallwood would get more touchdowns than LeGarrete Blount. The reasoning behind this prediction could not have been any more wrong, but that still does not change the fact that there is still an outside chance of this coming true. In a season that looked like the running game would be ineffective at the start of the year, the Eagles have found their groove, leading to being one of the top rushing offenses in the National Football League. Blount has been a huge part of the rushing attack with a little bit of Wentz, Smallwood and Corey Clement sprinkled in.
Even though Blount finds himself with 62 more carries and 324 more rushing yards than Smallwood, the fact remains that the Eagles only have four rushing touchdowns, two of which has been by Blount and one of them by Smallwood. The recent addition of former Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi can complicate things as the running back rotation may find itself more of a two-back rotation between Blount and Ajayi, minimizing Smallwood’s chances to get more touchdowns. Despite the Ajayi factor, if Blount loses out on goal-line carries to Ajayi, Smallwood may find himself scoring in garbage time or in a meaningless game at the end of the season to beat out Blount in the rushing touchdown category.
Alshon Jeffery Will Lead Team in Catches, Yards and Touchdowns
In order to add a bit of intrigue to the predictions for the second half of the season, here are two more predictions for the second half of the season. Though second on the team in receptions, targets, and receiving yards and third in touchdowns, Eagles fans have found themselves a bit disappointed with the numbers put up by wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. With the skill set and label of a number one wide receiver, Jeffery has been expected to do more in spite of the success of the team for the season.
Being a huge part of the success of those around him as he demands attention from the opposing team’s defense, Jeffery has been a more effective decoy than actual target. As the season wears on and the Eagles need more explosion in their offense, expect Jeffery to be a focal point as teams begin to try to keep Wentz’s favorite target, tight end Zach Ertz, from beating them. There is a long road for Jeffery to lead the statistical receiving marks; he is 15 catches, 112 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns behind Ertz, who is the leader in all categories. A few monster weeks will be the difference maker, catapulting Jeffery as the team leader in all three.
Jake Elliott Will Set Record for 50+ Yard Field Goals Made
After only playing in seven of the Eagles eight games this season, kicker Jake Elliott has kicked himself into the record books, twice. Not only did Elliott kick a 61-yard game-winning field goal against the New York Giants, which set a franchise record for longest field goal, but he also successfully kicked his fifth 50+ yard field goal this year, a franchise record for most in a season. The roll that Elliott is on should give him multiple more opportunities at these long field goals throughout the season.
With all things being equal, he should attempt another five to six of these field goals by the end of the season that would put him in the mix for the record of the most 50+ yard field goals made in a season for any team. This record is a total of ten made, currently held by both Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and Blair Walsh as a rookie for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. If enough opportunities present themselves to Elliott, he could absolutely become the NFL’s sole record holder of 50+ yard field goals made in a season.