Following a 2016 season that began brightly but ended in underwhelming fashion, the Philadelphia Eagles will expect more in 2017.
Through the first three weeks of last year, the Eagles were 3-0, and Carson Wentz had thrown for 769 yards and five touchdowns. Philadelphia proceeded to lose nine of its next 11 games, and Wentz fell back to earth following his hot start.
Before the start of the regular season, most Eagles fans likely would've settled for a 7-9 record, since 2016 was supposed to be more of a rebuilding year. Doug Pederson was in his first year as the head coach, and Wentz was largely considered to be more of a long-term NFL project rather than an immediate hit in the league.
The way the 2017 campaign unfolds will likely determine Pederson's long-term future in the City of Brotherly Love.
|Philadelphia Eagles' 2017 Regular-Season Schedule|
|Week||Date||Opponent||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|1||Sept. 10||at Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||Fox|
|2||Sept. 17||at Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.||Fox|
|3||Sept. 24||New York Giants||1 p.m.||Fox|
|4||Oct. 1||at Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|5||Oct. 8||Arizona Cardinals||1 p.m.||Fox|
|6||Oct. 12||at Carolina Panthers||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFLN|
|7||Oct. 23||Washington Redskins||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|8||Oct. 29||San Francisco 49ers||1 p.m.||Fox|
|9||Nov. 5||Denver Broncos||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 19||at Dallas Cowboys||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|12||Nov. 26||Chicago Bears||1 p.m.||Fox|
|13||Dec. 3||at Seattle Seahawks||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|14||Dec. 10||at Los Angeles Rams||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|15||Dec. 17||at New York Giants||1 p.m.||Fox|
|16||Dec. 25||Oakland Raiders||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|17||Dec. 31||Dallas Cowboys||1 p.m.||Fox|
The Eagles and their NFC East colleagues drew the short straw in 2017 as they face off with the AFC West—arguably the conference's toughest division.
Philadelphia did receive some good fortune in that it plays the AFC West's two best teams, the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, at home. A road game against the Kansas City Chiefs isn't ideal, but it's better than the alternative.
Outside of the division, the Eagles' toughest road trip will come on Dec. 3 against the Seattle Seahawks. Assuming Eddie Lacy will be closer to his 2014 self, the Seahawks will have a more balanced offense than they did a year ago to complement what remains one of the league's best defenses.
Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar outlined how he sees Lacy fitting into Seattle's running game:
Instead, I see Lacy at his hypothetical best having an effect on Seattle’s offense not unlike the one LeGarrette Blount had on the Patriots offense last season. New England wanted to re-establish its power running game, using a fullback in a two-back set on about a third of its total snaps (fullback James Develin was on the field for 30.8% of the Patriots' plays in 2016, per Pro Football Focus), and Blount had the power and foot speed to make that work to the tune of 1,161 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns on 299 carries. Blount wasn’t a transcendent part of the offense, but he was a force multiplier when asked to be.
Run defense was an issue for the Eagles in 2016. They allowed 103.3 yards per game, 15th in the NFL, and ranked 13th in run defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), compared to second in pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
Should Lacy find a comfort zone in the Pacific Northwest, he'll be a handful for Philadelphia.
The Eagles' six NFC East clashes are obvious choices when pinpointing the team's most important games. Philadelphia went 2-4 against the teams in its division last year, and repeating that in 2017 would almost certainly doom the franchise's hopes of returning to the playoffs.
None of the 12 teams that reached the postseason in 2016 finished with a division record below .500. Especially with the AFC West on the docket, the Eagles can't afford to drop too many divisional matchups.
The Panthers have had a busy offseason, adding Matt Kalil, Julius Peppers, Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams. While Carolina is unlikely to match its 15-1 record from 2015, it will be an improved team over last season.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are still reeling from the departures of Tony Jefferson, Calais Campbell and D.J. Swearinger. They retained Chandler Jones, though, and their aging offensive core should have one more year of playoff contention left before full-scale changes are needed.