Why I have the Eagles 23rd: So many things about this team I like right now, including the drafting of cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round though he’s coming off Achilles surgery in March, and no one knows if he’ll play this year or at what level. This franchise is being built for the long term, with smart two-year pieces like Chris Long plugging temp holes. On offense, Carson Wentz will have more help from a motivated Alshon Jeffery and deep threat Torrey Smith, and Wentz has to progress or the whole program is in trouble. The defense will miss Bennie Logan, and the secondary had better hope Schwartz’s front can bring some pressure; the corners can be attacked. But improvement from Wentz is the key.
Most important factor to this team this year: The development of Carson Wentz. It’s paramount to everything this franchise has done since Chip Kelly got whacked a year and a half ago. After a strong start last year, Wentz was less than mediocre (last 12 games: nine touchdowns, 13 picks) for the final three months of the season. The Eagles are convinced he’s better than that. Time to show that what EVP of football operations Howie Roseman paid for Wentz was worth it.
Eagles prediction of 10 words of less: Daunting December slate knocks Eagles out of playoffs.
Since power rankings are clearly very important, I’d be remiss not to mention that King’s ranking seems a little harsh to me. By now I’ve explained a billion times how the Eagles were better than their 7-9 record indicated in 2016. Historically, teams like Philadelphia that under-perform their point differential are poised to bounce back the next year. I think the Eagles are a top 20 team at worst.
With that said, I think King’s explanation is fair. He hits the nail on the head when he says Carson Wentz is the most important factor to this team’s success. That’s really the interesting thing about this year, too. You can talk about the free agency and draft additions and how some of those will help Wentz. But the quarterback also has to do his part in taking a step forward this year. The jump from Year 1 to Year 2 is typically significant in terms of a player’s development. Wentz obviously showed some promise as a rookie but there’s a lot of room for improvement as well.
King further explained his Wentz skepticism in an appearance on SportsRadio 94WIP this week.
“To me, I separated them and I divided them — in many cases — by the quarterback. I like Carson Wentz long-term, but I was worried about Carson Wentz the last whatever, 10, 12 games of the year last year. And I think he holds the key. If Carson Wentz comes back really strong and plays 16 games this year the way he played the first three games last year, I think I’ll be proven wildly wrong and they could be third and not 23rd.” [...] “I like Carson Wentz for the next five years, I just don’t really know whether I love him this year. I like him, but I gotta see it first.”
And now for a look at how the other NFC East teams stack up.
At No. 22, Washington is only one mere spot ahead of the Eagles.
Such a hard team to read. Kirk Cousins had another very good year with some great moments, topped by a 42-24 rout of the Packers on Nov. 20, but he was MIA in a must-win finale against the Giants, putting up a season-low 10 points. There’s some disconnect between Cousins and the front office, to be sure, which leads me to wonder if he’ll ever sign a long-term deal, and if Allen will even want to pay him top quarterback money. I’m not worried about the offense, though. The defense was gashed early and often, giving up 24 points a game, and surrendering 4.5 yards per rush and allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 66 percent of their passes. The loss of Trent Murphy (nine sacks last year) to a PED ban for the first four games will put more pressure on Ryan Kerrigan to carry the pass rush. First-rounder Jonathan Allen has to be a factor early, particularly with the loss of Baker.
Yeah, Washington’s had a weird offseason. They’ve seemingly made some good acquisitions but they’ve been underscored by organizational dysfunction (firing Scot McCloughan) and coaching turnover. Oh and the starting quarterback doesn’t even want to play for the team (beyond this year, at least). I don’t think Washington will be flat out terrible but I don’t think they’ll be a legitimately good team.
Second in the NFC East? That’s the New York Giants at No. 10.
I am bullish on these Giants, with an asterisk. Eli Manning has desperately needed a reliable tight end for so long he probably forgets what a good one plays like. Engram should get 80 targets as a rookie; the Giants want to use him in-line and split out. Even though he’s 33, I love the acquisition of Brandon Marshall for this offense. Simple reason: He’s averaged 155.5 targets in his 10 starting seasons, and even in the quarterback-limited Jets offense the last two years, he put up 2,290 yards and 17 touchdowns; Manning will love his production. But here’s what worries me, a lot, about this team. The Giants did nothing significant to improve the offensive line. A tackle group of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart (or D.J. Fluker) puts immense pressure on Manning to get rid of the ball quickly. I understand that a GM can’t solve every problem in one off-season, but this offensive line carousel keeps turning with no sign of the line improving. That’s the one thing that could stand in the way of a second straight playoff berth.
New York’s offensive line is exactly why I’m not super scared of all the weapons the Giants added. How are they going to protect Eli Manning? And how much good football does Manning have left, anyway? The 36-year-old passer ranked 20th out of 34 quarterbacks by Football Outsiders last season. He was 27th in QBR. Pro Football Focus also had him 27th out of 34. And really, the Eagles just own the Giants. So for as good as that defense might be, I’m just not really scared of them.
Dallas (sucks) is the top NFC East team in these power rankings. The Cowboys finished at No. 7.
I don’t believe in the sophomore slump. If Dak Prescott fails, it will be because some cracks are starting to show in the offensive line, or because of an injury to a big skill player like Dez Bryant or Ezekiel Elliott. But Prescott has the mental approach to not sit back and think it’ll be the same in 2017 as it just was. And the things he did last year, you can do for a game or two or three, but not for a season … unless you’re legit. He completion percentage (67.8) was two percentage points better than Aaron Rodgers. His four picks in a season: 11 fewer than Drew Brees, nine fewer than Andrew Luck. You think of Prescott as a dink-and-dunker? His 7.99 yards-per-attempt was half a yard better than Ben Roethlisberger. I think it’s not Prescott I’m worried about. It’s the rest of the team.
Agreed, Peter. There’s absolutely no way this Dallas team takes a step back. There’s just no way. The Cowboys will have another really good season. There’s nothing that could possibly go wrong. At all. Dak Prescott totally won’t turn into Nick Foles. (Did the jinx work yet?)
We’ll how Dallas does in 2017. They shouldn’t be a bad team by any means but they’re bound to regress from last year’s 13-win season. I think we’ll see a pair of really good Eagles-Cowboys games this season.
So how do you feel about these rankings? Is King too low on the Eagles?
Peter King ranked the Eagles are the 23rd best team in the NFL. Too low, too high, just right?
This poll is closed