In my last article, I analyzed 31 NFL experts and their playoff predictions. Twenty-eight of the 31 experts predict the Philadelphia Eagles to make the playoffs. Ninety percent of the sample of experts thinks that the Eagles will build off their NFC Championship run and additions during the offseason to make another playoff run.
I must be missing something, because I see a very difficult road for the Eagles to make the playoffs.
Before I get into my reasoning for them not making it, I will look at some positives. The Eagles have the positive fact going for them that since the NFL went to 32 teams; half of the NFC Wild Card teams have come from the East. The Eagles home schedule is very manageable, with them facing the Chiefs, Saints, Bucs, 49ers, and the Broncos.
They definitely have the potential to go 6-2 at home (assuming they go 2-1 at home in division and 4-1 out of division) and have three games in a row at home including a bye. The Eagles have added some dynamic players on offense. I see 10 reasons that trump the positives above on why the Eagles will not return to the playoffs.
10. Road Schedule – I know it is tough to predict how teams will be from year to year, but the road games they face look to be really challenging. Luckily they get the Cowboys on the road in January, when Dallas usually has fallen apart for the year. The rest of the road games are all tricky.
They play in Carolina, Oakland (long trips are always risky), San Diego, Chicago and Atlanta. Three stretches of two road games in a row, no bye breaking up any of the road games. Combined, the Eagles have an eight game stretch of games at Washington, vs New York, vs Dallas, at San Diego, at Chicago, vs Washington at Atlanta and at New York.
That is a brutal physical stretch with five division games, one west coast trip and a trip to Atlanta which I’m sure will be fun for reasons listed later.
9. Sports Karma – Sports Karma is a bitch, and so far the Eagles have not received the wrath of negative karma since their horrible crime (well maybe they have, but I’m not going there). In fact they had some really positive karma working for them. The Eagles finished 9-6-1 last year, and needed a series of strange events to even make the playoffs.
The Cowboys had to choke against the Ravens. The Bucs had to blow a lead against the Chargers and then screw up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Raiders at home, and Chicago lost to Houston in the last week of the season.
The one has to come back and haunt them. There is no way the Eagles escape free and clear from the worst game in NFL history last year. That Cincinnati tie was horrendous on so many levels, and to think that the same Eagles team made the NFC Championship only makes the likelihood of a crash much more likely.
The Bengals suffered the wrath by being the Bengals; they’ve done their time for 20 years. The Eagles will not catch the same positive breaks they caught last year.
8. History – Since 2002, only one out of six NFC No. 6 seeds have returned to the playoffs the next year. In the last four years, only 28 percent of teams that missed the playoffs the previous year and then make the playoffs the next year return in year three.
The last four NFC Champion runner-ups have failed to make the playoffs the following year. The turnover rate of playoff teams in the last 10 years has been 53 percent. The last six years the turnover rate of playoff teams in the NFC has been 61 percent.
7. Michael Vick – He’s a backup who will be put into certain formations. His impact will range from little to a few bursts here or there. He might still make an impact running the ball but a big question has to be asked about his speed given his time away from football.
In 2006, he did throw 20 TD’s, but also only completed 53 percent of his passes, and also gave the finger to the Atlanta fans after a game. Bet that won’t go over well in Philly.
Game eight of Philly’s really difficult stretch is at Atlanta, and if any group of fans will backlash over Vick’s return to the NFL, it’s the Falcons fans. At that crucial point in the season, Vick becomes a distraction.
How much Vick plays at quarterback depends a lot on No. 6.
6. Jason Peters – Good luck with all that. Peters came out of college as an undrafted tight end, and with the Bills he showed a lot of athleticism. I’m not sure any other left tackle has a punt block and fumble recovery touchdown on his resume.
He developed into a successful left tackle, and during the 2006 season he played really well. He wasn’t as good in 2007, but he was solid and made the Pro Bowl.
Then the fun began, as Peters held out for a new contract before the 2008 season, and the Bills wouldn’t give in. He finally showed up in time to play for week two, and he came in out of shape. He never really got in shape either, and he was terrible last year.
He tied for the most sacks allowed by a left tackle with 11.5, the Bills offensive line played better the games he wasn’t in there, and yet he still made the Pro Bowl. Please take a moment to remember the JP Losman fumble against the Jets and the left tackle who failed to even lay a hand on the corner that sacked Losman.
That’s pro bowl stuff. He never got in shape last year and has had multiple injuries the last few years and it becomes difficult to believe he will ever get back to his 2006 condition. Why should he? He got his payday from the Eagles by playing mediocre football last year.
I have to wonder if McNabb can take 11 blindside sacks and numerous hits and pressures without an injury.
5. Injuries - The season hasn't even started and the Eagles already have wrath of injuries. Their offense line has been decimated this preseason. Shawn Andrews is hurt, Todd Herramens is injured, Stacey Andrews is as healthy as a 300+ pounder with knee surgery can be, and Peters has been hurt already. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was lost for the season.
Going into the game versus Carolina, the Eagles have 14 players on the injured list. The Panthers have two. A team that is lacking health in September rarely gets healthy in December, especially with an eight-game stretch like the Eagles have this year. Especially since the offense line is really stricken and they have to protect their two stars.
4. McNabb and Westbrook - Football players are not like wine. They rarely get better with age. The Eagles are a mostly young team, except that McNabb and Westbrook have the most mileage on them. Contrary to common belief, Westbrook has played most of the games the last few years, just missing four games in the last three years.
Westbrook was banged up a lot last year, and his productivity was hurt, and he's already hurting before week one. The Eagles were at least smart to draft a backup. McNabb played very well last year, but of course has had many injuries and is a year older and has to deal with Jason Peters allowing free blitzes on way too many occasions.
McNabb will be 33 by the end of the season, which isn't old, and can definitely succeed if he can stand up for all 16 games, but that offensive line has to scare him.
3. Jim Johnson - It was a terrible situation in the offseason for the Eagles. Johnson's cancer came back, and he put up a strong fight, even coming back to practices to give his best effort to coach during minicamp. He had to leave the team as the cancer got worse and ultimately took his life at the age of 68.
What effect that Johnson being gone on the players is unknown, but for sure he is gone, and this is a big hole in the Eagles organization. He was the mind behind an always aggressive defense and will be very difficult to replace.
2. Brian Dawkins - Jim Johnson was the mind of the Eagles defense, Brian Dawkins was the heart. At 35, and with a big contract offer on the table from the Broncos, letting him go might have made sense in terms of long-term dealings.
However, with McNabb at the helm, the Eagles need to be more short term, and Dawkins was the leader of that defense.
He was the energy, he was the energy that brought the crazy Eagles fans off their feet. Victor Harris may be quicker than Dawkins, but Dawkins was Philadelphia, and that's something Harris needs about six years to do.
1. The experts - When five of the 16 ESPN experts have the Eagles going to the Super Bowl, and countless other experts across the country have the same, one has to wonder what the track records of the experts is, and last year the hot team was the Cowboys. They didn't make the playoffs.
In the NFC especially, the further off the radar a team is, the better shot they have to make the Super Bowl. The Cardinals, Giants, Bears, Panthers, Seahawks are perfect examples of that this decade.