Football Outsiders released some early win projection totals for the 2017 NFL season and there’s some good news and bad news for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The bad news is that the Eagles only project to be one win better than their 2016 record. The good news is that the Eagles are the only team in the NFC East to take a step forward while the rest of the division takes a step back. Via ESPN In$ider:
1. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 (9.5 mean wins; SOS: 1)
2. New York Giants: 8-8 (7.8 mean wins; SOS: 7)
3. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-8 (7.6 mean wins; SOS: 5)
4. Washington Redskins: 7-9 (7.2 mean wins; SOS: 2)
This is the strongest division in the NFL, where last season all four teams finished in the DVOA top 10, but an arduous schedule might leave three of the four teams out of the postseason. The problem isn't just these teams beating up on each other for six games. The NFC East also draws the two West divisions, which means facing many of the league's top defenses.
We end up with Dallas repeating as the most likely scenario, although our projections might underrate the importance of its defensive losses, because there could be a compound effect from losing so many players at the same position (defensive back). The Eagles were better than their record in 2016, but our system expects regression to the mean from their defense. The same goes for the Giants' defense; but their offense should improve with the addition of Brandon Marshall. Washington will have to weather the loss of two starting receivers and an offensive coordinator, but the Redskins are still more likely to be an average team than a bad one.
If history’s pattern holds up, the Cowboys will not repeat as the NFC East division winners in 2017. There hasn’t been a repeat winner since 14 years ago when the Eagles won three times in a row from 2001-2003. Dallas obviously had a promising season in 2016 and there’s reason to believe they’ll be good again, but they might not be a 13-win kind of team. I’m really interested to see how Dak Prescott holds up in Year 2.
As for the Giants, I’ve previously written how I feel they overachieved last year. The defense ended up being legit, yeah, but the offense was bad. And it was largely bad because of the quarterback: Eli Manning. At age 36, Manning’s best days are likely behind him. I could easily see the G-Men being worse than their 2016 record in 2017.
The Eagles are in an interesting spot. It’s nice to see Football Outsiders echo what I’ve been saying all along about the 2016 team being better than their record indicated. In this sense, I think they’re bound for some kind of improvement. But the Birds also still have a lot of roster holes, namely at cornerback. The Eagles might be able to fill some of those in the 2017 NFL Draft, so we’ll see how that goes. But the make-or-break factor here anyway is the development of Carson Wentz. The Eagles really need him to take a significant step forward this year. If he does, they should be in a good spot. If he doesn’t, things won’t be so pretty.
Speaking of not so pretty things, hey there, WASTEAM! There’s no other way to say it: Washington has been a mess this offseason. They finally had two of their best seasons in recent history (which is sad because it’s not like they even won anything) and then they decided to oust the man responsible for their turnaround. Oh and their quarterback doesn’t even want to play for them. So I’m sure that’ll work out just fine. Or maybe Washington’s winning streak against the Eagles is actually in jeopardy.
Overall, this prediction model looks fairly accurate to me. I’d say the division is up for grabs, except for Washington. The Cowboys are obviously the favorite for now but they’re not unbeatable.
Hopefully the Eagles will do a better job of taking care of business in the division this season after finishing 2-4 in NFC East games last year.