The 2013 Philadelphia Eagles season was the story of a rebound. The franchise finished last in the NFC East at 4-12 in 2012 and decided to start from scratch by firing Andy Reid and replacing him with new head coach Chip Kelly. The revitalized Eagles would go on beat the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale to win the NFC East division crown. Just like that, the Eagles went up from worst to first.
Due to the parity in the NFL, it's not all that uncommon of an occurrence. But, in the interesting of moving forward, the opposite is just as true: moving from first to worst can happen sooner than expected. Will that be the case for the 2014 Eagles? ESPN, via Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, recently posted an article on this subject (In$ider). Schatz projects the Eagles to have a 12.4% chance of finishing last in the NFC East, which ranks 4th out of the 8 division winners from last year.
4. Philadelphia Eagles, 12.4 percent
Here's another team in which the opportunity for collapse is primarily based on the idea of regression toward the mean in team health. The Eagles led the league in AGL last year. The odds of them being as healthy as they were in 2013 are very small. But how many players would have to get injured before Chip Kelly's plug-and-play offense would be unable to overcome the losses? This roster has much more depth than its division rivals in Dallas and Washington.
Plus, the fact that defense and special teams tend to be less consistent than offense is a huge plus for the Eagles, who ranked third in offense but 23rd in defense and 25th in special teams last year in Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ratings. Even if the offense declines, the other two units are likely to improve.
Even though the Eagles may take a step back, it doesn't seem likely that they will fall all the way back to the bottom. Philadelphia is in much better shape than a team like the Carolina Panthers, who at 30% are the most likely division winner to fall to the bottom.
As far as flipping the script from worst to first goes, the Washington Redskins are given the 4th best chance (out of 8 teams) to win their division in 2014.
4. Washington Redskins, 15.2 percent
Washington was 23rd on offense and 21st on defense in 2013, but finished 29th in overall DVOA thanks to historically bad special-teams play. Even historically bad special-teams units tend to be close to league average the next season, so it's easy to see this team improving on that account alone.
Our projection is for Robert Griffin III to do better in his third season than he did in his second, though we only have him playing at a league-average level rather than above-average, as he was in his rookie season. If new head coach Jay Gruden can improve Griffin even more than that, Washington will be well-poised to step in if the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants falter.
Now we turn it over to you. Where will the Eagles finish in the NFC East? Is it more likely that they finish worst or Washington finishes first?