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Why the Eagles are a team to watch among failed playoff repeats (lol)

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Happy July!

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, it was Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller who thought that the Cowboys had a good chance to win the division. Today it’s CBS Sports’ Will Brinson who sees the Eagles as a potential outside-looking-in team of the 2018 playoffs.

The post—five 2017 playoff teams likely to miss the 2018 playoffs—also included the Bills, Titans, Chiefs, and Panthers. Only one of those squads made it beyond the first round of the playoffs (which the Eagles did not play in, as they had a first-round bye as the #1 overall seed). That was the Titans, who beat the Chiefs in a sloppy game en route to a 35-14 drubbing at the hand of the Patriots (who lost to the Eagles in the Super Bowl).

All joking aside, I don’t take too much umbrage with a writer completing the content assigned to him by an editor in this, the wonderful July dead zone. If you want to make a case for the Eagles missing out on the 2018 playoffs—or really, any of the 32 teams in a highly volatile NFL—go for it.

But if you’re going to take the plunge, really take it for Philly. When I think of the reasons that Philadelphia misses the 2018 playoffs, I consider the three minds behind the NFL’s most balanced and resilient offense as the foremost issue to solve. Philadelphia also fails to replace the loss of their leading rusher (173 carries, 766 yards) and fourth- and fifth-most productive pass catchers (59 receptions, 678 yards combined). They can’t find a fit at nickel corner or defensive tackle as well, in light of the combined Beau Allen departure and Timmy Jernigan injury. Their stellar 3rd down conversion numbers regress, as does Wentz’s luck with some turnover-worthy play.

That Timmy Jernigan injury is important as a note: the Eagles have a slew of players returning from surgery/injury: Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Alshon Jeffery, Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham. And the case for Philly’s failure made in the article emphasizes that point:

Jason Peters is returning from an ACL injury at the age of 36. Darren Sproles is coming back from a broken arm and a torn ACL. Jordan Hicks is coming back from an Achilles tear. Alshon Jeffery is returning from shoulder surgery after battling through to play the entire year. Timmy Jernigan is suddenly dealing with back issues, no easy issue for a big man who battles in the middle. Philadelphia was 13th in adjusted games lost last year, so it’s not like it dealt with tons of injury issues overall.

But claiming that the Eagles are likely to miss the playoffs in 2018 because they dealt with a ton of injury last year, and could again this year is not only logically questionable; it’s futile. Every single team in the NFL could deal with massive injury issues next year—it’s the nature of the game. And as Brinson notes, the Eagles weren’t even dreadfully affected in AGL last season, so—in order to have debilitating injury luck that would preclude them from playoff contention, they’d need to lose even more players even earlier than last season, and fail to replace them as handily and creatively as they did last season.

It’s tough to substantiate the claim that the Eagles are more likely to miss the playoffs due to terrible injury luck than, say, the Vikings or the Saints. I’d even return with the argument that Philadelphia clearly has the most breathing room of all NFC division winners, in terms of divisional strength. But hey—it’s July! We’ve gotta have takes on something.