Spoiler alert: it’s the Philadelphia Eagles.
I mean, who would’ve guessed the winners of the Vince Lombardi Trophy are still viewed at the top of the league?
Except for the team members, including Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, that are going to receive championship rings this offseason, of course.
Here’s what media outlets are saying about the Super Bowl champion Eagles.
1 - The defending Super Bowl champs get the No. 1 spot because: They’re the defending Super Bowl champs. They actually managed to get better
The Eagles beat the Patriots in February despite losing Carson Wentz three weeks before he likely would’ve finished the 2017 regular season as MVP. Now he’ll return in 2018 to a team that added Dallas Goedert and Mike Wallace to his list of offensive weapons, and Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to an already great defensive line.
It’s scary (for other NFL teams) to think the Eagles could be even better than they were in 2017. Between their offseason additions and getting key players back from injury ... the Birds have the potential to be a force once again.
Nothing is guaranteed but you have to feel optimistic, at least.
1 - The reigning champions drafted Dallas Goedert in Dallas one spot ahead of Dallas. It was one of just five Eagles picks (and the only one in the first three rounds), but it was an effective troll job and a useful choice, as Philly likes its tight ends. No team had more receptions by tight ends last season.
History shows that tight ends typically take longer to adjust the NFL than some other positions. Still, Goedert is talented and he adds a new dimension to the Eagles offense. It’ll be really interesting to see how Doug Pederson employs two tight ends sets.
The impact of the Goedert addition could be felt on third down and in the red zone, two key areas where the Eagles will look to maintain their 2017 success.
The Eagles have the potential to get very big down near the end zone by lining up with the likes of Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Mack Hollins (6-4) at wide receiver with Goedert (6-5) and Zach Ertz (6-5) at tight end.
After the money flurry of free agency followed by the draft, you can bet the front offices for all 32 NFL teams now think they are better than they were a year ago.
That’s true for some, but it won’t play out for others.
After all the moves, one thing is the same as it was after the 2017 season: The Philadelphia Eagles remain the best team in the league.
The team that won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, without their starting left tackle and starting middle linebacker, has improved from the group that beat New England. Not only will they have those players back, led by the return of Carson Wentz, but they’ve also added some talented players to the mix, which is why they sit at No 1 in my latest Power Rankings.
Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager, has done a masterful job this offseason of making his team better. He’s added some defensive help up front in Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett, and then added a nice pass-catching tight end in the draft in Dallas Goedert to replace Trey Burton as the primary backup to Zach Ertz.
But the reason the Eagles will be better is simply getting Wentz back. Nick Foles did a nice job in leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl victory, but he isn’t Wentz. The Eagles are much better with a healthy Wentz – even if the Eagles fans might not feel that way once he struggles for a quarter or so this season.
The Eagles are the targeted team now, but I think coach Doug Pederson will do a great job of having them focused come the open of the regular season. They dealt with a lot last year overcoming the major injuries, which might have crippled other teams, so they seemingly can handle anything thrown at them.
The other good thing is Pederson insists he won’t change his aggressive approach, which I love.
Well said by Pete Prisco.
If I have to identify one of the biggest concerns with the 2018 Eagles, it might be Wentz’s health.
It’s not that I think he won’t be ready to start the season; I’m pretty convinced he’s going to play in Week 1. It’s just that I wonder how much the injury will impact his on-field performance. To what extent will his mobility be limited? Will he be rusty after not having a real offseason to fully prepare for the regular season?
I’m confident in Wentz’s ability to overcome such obstacles in his path. It’s just a matter of when he’ll be fully effective. Given that he’s a freak of nature, it could be sooner than expected.
1 - Ah, who needs to lift a finger in the draft when you’re sippin’ wine and enjoying some brie? Or a greasy, dripping cheesesteak. Anyone seen the end of “Trading Places”? Well, not only should the Eagles be enjoying their status as the reigning champs, but they didn’t need to panic this past weekend. Thought it smart to trade out of the first round and pick up extra picks, because they didn’t have a second-rounder (well worth the loss, considering it was partially responsible for bringing Carson Wentz to Philadelphia) heading into the draft. General manager Howie Roseman used the second-rounder acquired in the Day 1 trade (No. 52 overall) to maneuver into the 49th overall spot (via a swap with the Colts), where he nabbed TE Dallas Goedert -- whom Philly can team with Zach Ertz -- one slot before that TE-needy team in Dallas could land him. Also value the pick of CB Avonte Maddox (Round 4, No. 125), who should help when it comes to replacing free-agent departure Patrick Robinson. Can’t wait until Philadelphia plays No. 2 below in Week 15.
This write-up just made me hungry for the best cheesesteak in Philly.
While we’re here, let’s take a look at how other NFC East teams stack up in the power rankings. Another spoiler for you: the Eagles are way out in front of their rivals.
SB Nation: 13th
CBS Sports: 17th
ESPN: The Cowboys didn’t address pass-catchers until the third round, and while they had other needs, the weapons around quarterback Dak Prescott are looking pretty light. Dez Bryant was released, and Jason Witten is headed to the broadcast booth. Those two rank first and third on the Cowboys’ all-time receiving touchdowns list.
CBS: They will look like a different team with no Dez Bryant or Jason Witten. The good news is there is no suspension pending for Ezekiel Elliott this year.
NFL.com: All of the post-draft roar in Dallas right now is about whether the Cowboys were caught off guard by tight end Jason Witten’s thoughts about hanging ‘em up and heading for the booth, and Why, oh why didn’t they make the deal for Earl Thomas? Listening to local sports radio (which is always a tenuous undertaking), it seems that, even if second-round pick Connor Williams (No. 50) starts right away, fans in Big D wanted Thomas. Reportedly, Seattle wasn’t buying Dallas’ offer of a third-round pick -- they wanted the 2 -- which makes third-round pick Michael Gallup’s (No. 81) rookie year at receiver more interesting. Most interesting: Rico Gathers’ development in camp and preseason. He’s the new TE1 around these parts. Uncle Rico. Memo to David Akers: At least the Cowboys won a Super Bowl at some point.
SB Nation: 23rd
CBS Sports: 25th
ESPN: Alabama has been the gold standard in college football under Nick Saban, so you can’t fault the Redskins for trying to replicate that success. They’ve selected four Crimson Tide defenders in the past two drafts, including defensive tackles Jonathan Allen (2017) and Da’Ron Payne (2018) in the first round. That should help fix a league-worst rush defense.
CBS: They will battle with the Giants and Cowboys to be the second best team in the division. I can’t see much more than that.
NFL: The Redskins went all 1942-ish in this year’s draft, attempting to assemble a stronghold against the run and create a running game. First-round pick Da’Ron Payne (No. 13) was part of the former effort. Derrius Guice was drafted in the second round (No. 59) to provide the latter. Ditto Geron Christian (Round 3, No. 74), an offensive lineman out of Louisville. Two rounds later, Washington took another defensive tackle ( Tim Settle, Round 5, No. 163). Then came Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (Round 6, No. 197). Makes sense, with Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and the Eagles’ third-ranked running attack all in the NFC East.
SB Nation: 22nd
CBS Sports: 30th
ESPN: Say what you will about the Giants’ draft strategy, but they did walk away with the player many believe was the best prospect in the class: running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2012 (Ahmad Bradshaw), and their running backs ranked 27th in yards per touch last season (4.4).
CBS: Adding Saquon Barkley as a running back and Nate Solder and Will Hernandez up front will help Eli Manning. But are they ready to be a playoff team?
NFL.com: Big Blue could be back, sooner rather than later. In terms of winning right away, the Giants had themselves a draft. As penned in my post-draft omnibus on Saturday, the only issue with their rookie class was passing up on a quarterback early. (Developmental QB Kyle Lauletta was a Day 3 pick.) Which was less an indication that Eli Manning will struggle and more a commentary that when teams hit on a quarterback early, they save immense salary-cap capital for years. It’s like “Battleship” -- hit your opponent’s PT boat on the first try, and you’re dancing on his head for hours. Also consider that New York might not be in the position again to snag a promising passer so high for awhile. Still, with the talented group of rookies the Giants grabbed, including Saquon Barkley with the second overall choice, many fans are suggesting that New York could go at least .500 if not contend for a playoff spot, especially in a division that is not so strong (minus the Eagles, of course). On another note: A gaggle of teams could’ve used G Will Hernandez (Round 2, No. 34).