If Football Outsiders' projections are any indication, the Philadelphia Eagles will not finish first in the NFC East in 2015. In fact, they might not even finish in second place.
Aaron Schatz of FO recently released some early win projections for the 2015 season, via ESPN In$ider. These early models project the Eagles to go 9-7, with a 8.7 mean wins figure. Here's how the entire NFC East shapes up:
"Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (11.2 mean wins, SOS: 18)
New York Giants 9-7 (9.4 mean wins, SOS: 24)
Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 (8.7 mean wins, SOS: 23)
Washington Redskins 5-11 (5.0 mean wins, SOS: 17)
Last year, these projections had the Cowboys way too low, with a mean forecast of just 7-9. This year, our projection looks too extreme in the other direction. How can Dallas be the second-best team in the league despite the loss of DeMarco Murray? History says that losing a top running back doesn't tend to have a strong impact on overall offensive quality. The passing game and the offensive line simply have much more importance in the modern NFL. The Cowboys are likely to have more injuries on offense (No. 2 in our adjusted games lost metric) but better health on defense (No. 28 in AGL) should help improve that unit to league average. (The Cowboys are also the only NFC East team that will not have to face the suspended Tom Brady).
Improved health is also a big reason we have the Giants projected to improve, but there are clearly some issues in the Giants' training room. Big Blue has led the league in adjusted games lost for two straight seasons. So while this projection assumes some regression toward the mean, it doesn't assume as much as it would with other teams. And if the Giants have another season as the most injured team in the league, this forecast is clearly going to be too high.
Just as there are subjective reasons to believe that the Giants' may not get a boost when health regresses toward the mean by improving, there are subjective reasons to believe that the Eagles (and Chip Kelly's sports science program) may not get worse when their health regresses toward the mean by declining. But we do have to penalize the Eagles for introducing a new quarterback to their system, which usually means an offensive step back, all other things being equal."
Last year, early Football Outsiders projections had the Eagles pegged at 10-6 (10.0 mean wins). They obviously nailed that one.
This year, it's not a surprise to see the Cowboys favored over the Eagles considering their 2014 success. It'll be interesting to see if/how they can replace Murray after neglecting to really address the running back position in the offseason.
As for the Giants, however, it's a little surprising to see them above the Birds. Then again, the Eagles are kind of a complete mystery given the massive overhaul they've had.
Las Vegas put the Eagles win total at 9.5 games. It's clear Football Outsiders would take the under. How do you see the NFC East shaping up?