It's only early June but the Eagles hype is already ramping up.
Peter King of The MMQB thinks Philadelphia has the seventh best team in the NFL. USA Today thinks the Eagles are way better than the Cowboys. Will Brinson of CBS Sports has the Eagles winning over 9.5 games.
Now even KC Joyner (AKA "The Football Scientist") is jumping on board. In a recent ESPN In$ider column, Joyner laid out four reasons why the Eagles, and not the Dallas Cowboys, are NFC East favorites in 2015. Here's a quick look at each without giving too much:
1) Sam Bradford is a vast improvement at quarterback
"Bradford should also provide a significant upgrade in the bad decision rate (BDR) area. BDR is a statistic that tracks how often a quarterback makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team. Upper-tier passers will end the season with a BDR of one percent or less. Average quarterbacks will post a BDR between one to two percent, while mediocre field generals will rack up a BDR of two percent or higher.
Bradford did a superb job in BDR in 2013 (0.7 percent) and had a solid showing in 2012 (1.7 percent). As long as he stays anywhere near either of these levels, it will be much better than the BDR rates posted last season by Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez, who both posted a 2.6 percent BDR in 2014. This should help to cut down the Eagles league-high 21 interceptions last season."
Turnovers were obviously a major issue with Philadelphia in 2014. Not only did they kill offensive opportunities but they put a lot of pressure on the Eagles' defense. Ball protection was likely a big reason Kelly targeted Bradford this offseason.
2) The makings of the best rushing attack in the NFL
Worried about the Eagles offensive line? While there are some fair concerns to be had, Joyner doesn't seem all that worried even when it comes to depth.
"Last season the Eagles fared quite well in my good blocking rate (GBR) metric. GBR measures how often an offense gives its ball carriers good blocking (very roughly defined as not allowing the defense to disrupt a rush attempt) and the Eagles' 40.5 percent mark here ranked third.
That Philadelphia was able to do this despite using seven different offensive line combinations last season speaks volumes for just how well Kelly's system can keep the ball moving on the ground even in less-than-perfect conditions. Better health here alone could put the Eagles into contention for the top GBR spot."
The Eagles arguably have the NFL's most talented group of running backs with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, an Darren Sproles. Kelly broke offensive records in 2013 when he had an elite running game. After getting away from the run a little bit in 2014, the Eagles are trying to get back to pounding the rock.
3) Pass defense should be much improved
Nothing too fancy here. Joyner essentially just cites the improvement the Eagles made by getting rid of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher and replacing them with Byron Maxwell and whoever else is starting at cornerback from the group of Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, etc. Then again, he kind of glosses over the fact that the Eagles don't even have a clear starting safety next to Malcolm Jenkins.
4) Dallas will not be able to lean on the rushing game as much this season
This is an interesting one. The Cowboys haven't done much to replace DeMarco Murray's raw talent at running back, instead seemingly content to rely on their strong offensive line. Can Dallas stick just about anyone behind their blockers up front and have rushing success? If so, they'll be a good team. But if not, things could fall apart quickly. The Dallas defense can't hide if the run game isn't controlling the clock. Tony Romo could be forced to pass more, which isn't necessarily what the Cowboys want to rely on considering his injury history and how effective he was in limited throw attempts (23rd out of all QBs) last year.
Joyner believes the ultimate key to Philadelphia's success is keeping Bradford healthy. That much is obviously easier said than done at this point.
Joyner's science isn't always right. He once insisted Mike Wallace was better than Calvin Johnson. But there are other times where he's been spot on. Most interestingly, he's the one who said the Giants were NFC East favorites back in 2011. Eagles fans made fun of him at the time, but he ended up looking pretty smart when New York went to win the Super Bowl. Will he be right about Philadelphia this year?