Prior to the start of every Eagles season, I engage in a bit of tomfoolery.
I sit down, put fingers to keyboard, and try to come up with 10 bold predictions for the upcoming year. Usually half of them are optimistic, the other half predicting a bit of doom and gloom. We are, after all, talking about the Philadelphia Eagles, a team upon whom gloom visits with some regularity.
One thing they have in common: they’re almost always all wrong.
But after an off-season in which Howie Roseman traded for a true No. 1 receiver in A.J. Brown, pulled off a solid draft, and signed James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson among other highly effective moves, I was feeling exceedingly good about things. So much so that my 10 bold predictions were universally positive, bordering on the nonsensical.
As we look back on those predictions, with one month left in the Eagles’ 12-1 season, it’s pretty clear they were all actually pretty much right on the money.
There is no way all of these things should be happening at the same time, and yet they are, which is one of the reasons this team is putting a season together that could go down as not only one of the greatest in Eagles’ history, but one of the greatest single seasons in the history of the entire league.
Eagles Passing Offense Finishes Top-5 in Efficiency
After the Birds’ 48-22 shellacking of the Giants yesterday, Hurts now ranks 3rd in EPA, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. The Eagles also lead the NFL in points per game (29.7), and Hurts has the top QB rating in the NFL (108.4) as well.
The Eagles had 10 meaningful drives against New York, and scored on eight of them, with six touchdowns. Their first two drives spanned 15 plays & 13 plays, both ending in touchdowns, but the Birds also continue to make the splash plays, too, as evidenced by A.J. Brown’s 33-yard score and Miles Sanders’ 40-yard TD run. Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen’s offense is inevitable. It’s literally shocking when they start a possession and don’t at least score a field goal on it.
Jordan Davis Wins DROY
Unfortunately for Davis, he simply hasn’t gotten enough snaps and played quite enough to be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s been impressive when in there, stout against the run and an important member of the defensive tackle rotation, but this prediction will certainly fall short, as Jets’ cornerback Sauce Gardner is likely to take this one home. But still, a solid rookie showing from Davis, when healthy.
A.J. Brown Leads Receivers with 12 TDs
This was Brown’s 10th of the season yesterday.
3 POSSESSIONS, 3 TDS— Bally Sports (@BallySports) December 11, 2022
Jalen Hurts' 33-yard TD pass to A.J. Brown gives the Eagles a 21-0 lead over the Giants@NFL | #FlyEaglesFlypic.twitter.com/Jp8qhPckxB
Brown does lead the team with those 10 touchdowns (DeVonta Smith has 5), and he’s on pace to reach at least 12 over the next four weeks, although if the Eagles clinch the top seed in the NFC, we’ll have to see how much he plays in the last couple games.
DeVonta Smith & Brown Go Over 1,000 Yards
With a month left to go, Brown has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark (1,020). Smith has 775 yards left to go, and if he averages 57 yards per game in the final four, he too would cross the 1,000-yard mark. Again, should the Birds clinch early, he may not get that opportunity, so he needs to pile up some big games the next couple weeks to ensure he joins his teammate in the 1,000-yard club!
Miles Sanders 1,000+ Total Yards
Welp, Sanders did even better than this prediction, thanks to another incredible performance on Sunday. His 144-yards rushing was a new career-best, topping the 143 he put up against the Packers two weeks ago. With that, he crossed 1,000 rushing alone (1,068) and has added a team-high 11 touchdowns on the ground this season. What a contract year for Sanders, who is making the Eagles think long and hard about re-signing him, or putting him on a franchise tag, this off-season.
Jalen Hurts Joins 3,750+ Passing/500+ Rushing Yards Club
I initially wanted to go 4,000+ yards passing and 750 rushing for this one, but thought if fanciful, as only Josh Allen had ever pulled that off (2021). I then considered the 4,000/500 club, but thought twice as that feat had only been done 11 times.
Even for this list, it felt like too much.
Hurts has already blown past those rushing totals (686) and with 3,157 passing yards, he’s only 593 short of 3,750. He’d need to average 149 passing yards per game over the last four to hit that mark, and 297 in his next two games to get there. As for 4,000 passing yards, he’d need to average 211 passing yards over the last four games to hit that milestone, 281 over three games, and 422 over two games to do it.
Either way, he’s clearing my initial prediction with ease.
At Least One Linebacker Makes the Pro Bowl
This one may not come true, although middle linebacker T.J. Edwards has a shot. He’s 6th among all defensive players in tackles (115), and he currently ranks 3rd among all linebackers in terms of PFF grading, behind the Rams’ Bobby Wagner and Alex Singleton of the Broncos. The chances are decent he could be named to the NFC roster, and will almost certainly be an alternate if he doesn’t make the initial roster. Kyzir White has been fine in Jonathan Gannon’s defense, if perhaps not quite the playmaker we were expecting. Nakobe Dean, when he gets on the field eventually, could be “the guy.”
Haason Reddick Notches 12+ Sacks
For the third year in a row, Reddick has double digit sacks.
Former Temple star Haason Reddick is the 1st NFL player in 40 years with 10+ sacks in 3 consecutive seasons with 3 different teams@Haason7Reddick pic.twitter.com/TWSyoZph8z— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) December 11, 2022
He became the first Eagle with at least 10 sacks since Fletcher Cox’s 10.5 in 2015, and no one has reached 12 since Connor Barwin’s 14.5 in 2014. He only needs two in his final four games to hit that number. Feels like a “W” either way.
Defense Finishes Top-5 in Takeaways
The turnover blitz we saw early in the season has slowed down, but during this slowdown, the defense has actually played even better. Still, all those early interceptions and fumbles have given the Birds’ 24 on the season, tops in the league, one more than the Ravens’ and Cowboys’ 24. Top-five is a lock, pretty remarkable seeing as how they had just 16 last season, 5th-fewest in the NFL.
Eagles Advance to the NFC Championship Game
Again, an overly optimistic bold prediction that now feels light. Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance would be a disappointment, and winning one playoff game (provided they maintain their hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC) almost feels automatic.
Of course, nothing is for sure in the NFL postseason tournament, but this Birds team is playing at such a high level, it’s hard to envision them losing in the early rounds of the NFC playoffs.