While some may be quick to coin the 2013 Eagles season as a "rebuilding" year, it's not crazy to think they could be competitive right away. The Eagles still have talent on their team and they play in a weak division. Furthermore, I'm not alone in this thinking.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland wrote an article featuring the 10 teams who were 6-10 or worse in the NFL last year. As you know, the Eagles were one of those underachieving teams. Barnwell ranked them in order of likelihood to be improved and make the playoffs.
Perhaps to some surprise, the Eagles are listed number 2 on his list, right behind the Detroit Lions at 1. Interestingly enough, Barnwell listed Andy Reid's Chiefs as a spot behind the Eagles at 3. Here are the arguments he listed for and against the Eagles chances of a comeback in 2013:
Arguments in favor: Coaching voice change, massive turnover differential, fumble recovery rate, hidden special teams bounce back
Arguments against: Uncertainty related to coaching change, quarterback play
I would say these are reasonable arguments. The coaching impact figures to be significant as Chip Kelly appears to be a bright football mind. It remains to be seen how Chip looks when the action starts though so this is a little subjective.
What's not subjective is the turnover differential. It's no secret that the Eagles have struggled with turnover differential in recent years. Between the offense turning the ball over too much (of which Michael Vick among others share responsibility), and the defense unable to force a turnover for it's life... well, it just hasn't been pretty. Part of the poor differential is due to a lack of talent, but the other part is simply luck. As Barnwell notes, the Eagles only recovered 35% of fumbles in their games, which is below the average rate. Progression to the mean can improve the Eagles turnover differential, which in turn could help them win more games.
The special teams bounce back factor is interesting. Here's what Barnwell had to say about that:
As for the "hidden" special teams numbers, that's a Football Outsiders statistic that encapsulates how teams were impacted by special teams performance out of their control, including such obvious ones as how reliable field goal kickers and kickoff artists were against them. The Eagles were the fourth-most impacted team in football last year by those figures, with kickers notably going 27-for-29 on field goals against them in 2012
You know that feeling how kickers kicking against the Eagles never miss? Well, it's not just a feeling. It's been true. This is another area where the Eagles luck could change in their favor.
As for the arguments against a comeback, I already touched on the Chip Kelly factor. While I'm ready to say I feel confident in Kelly - as I'm sure many others are - it's still too much of an unknown to talk about objectively. However, the quarterback play is a legitimate concern. We know that the job is an open competition up for grabs, but we don't know that just because someone steps up and wins the job means that they will fare well in the season.
It's reasonable to expect improvement from the Eagles this year. The extent of that improvement remains up for debate, but I think a safe bet is somewhere to a record around 6-10, 7-9, or 8-8.
Whether you see the Eagles making a competitive jump this year or in the future, it's fun to think of them as a team on the rise instead of one on a decline.