In the Philadelphia Eagles’ second season with both head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz, expectations are running high. While there are plenty of questions about Pederson (just ask Mike Lombardi), there’s near unanimous excitement over Wentz’s potential. General manager Howie Roseman has definitely added more talent to the roster, which is a good thing. With a difficult schedule that features some difficult stretches on the road, that talent might not translate into a better record. With that in mind, here’s our guess at how the Eagles’ season will play out.
Week 1 (9/10) @ Washington Redskins
There’s a good chance that the Eagles are actually a better team than Washington. With the way that Pederson handled the preseason, however, it’s hard to imagine them coming out of the gate fast. Wentz barely played with new wide receiver additions, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The starting offensive line hardly played together. The starting corners, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, are young, and in Darby’s case still learning the defense. That’s a bad recipe against Kirk Cousins.
Result: Washington 27, Philadelphia 17
Week 2 (9/17) @ Kansas City Chiefs
Pederson gets the chance to catch up with his mentor, former Eagles’ coach Andy Reid. Kansas City had far more turmoil during the offseason than Reid probably would like. They fired GM John Dorsey and brought in Brett Veach to fill that role. Then they moved up in the first round to draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes, which didn’t thrill incumbent signal caller, Alex Smith. All of which is a long way of saying that we don’t know what the Chiefs will be this year. The Eagles will struggle to cover Travis Kelce, but otherwise, there are some favorable match-ups. What’s safe to say is that the team won’t want to face the Giants 0-2.
Result: Philadelphia 21, Kansas City 17
Week 3 (9/24) vs. New York Giants
This is where we’ll really start to get a read on Jim Schwartz’s defense. New York’s offensive line is a mess, which should favor Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and the rest of the Eagles’ defensive line. Unfortunately, Philadelphia isn’t going to be able to cover Odell Beckham. If they try to have Darby shadow the Giants’ star, then Eli Manning will be able to pick on Mills. The Eagles have to have pressure all day on Manning to keep Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard from killing them.
Result: New York 31, Philadelphia 21
Week 4 (10/1) @ Los Angeles Chargers
There will be prop bets all season long on how many times network announcers mess up and call the Chargers “San Diego.” In their final season in their home of 35 years, the Super Chargers ended up with a 5-11 record. Philip Rivers is always dangerous, especially against a weak secondary. The Eagles, though, have to hope that by the fourth game Darby is getting comfortable. Philadelphia will most likely give up too many yards to Melvin Gordon, but that should be manageable. The biggest danger for the Eagles might be getting distracted by how small the StubHub Center, where the Chargers will play their home games, is compared to normal NFL stadiums.
Result: Philadelphia 35, Los Angeles 24
Week 5 (10/8) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia will not be able to stop David Johnson. Of course, you could say that about almost every defense in the NFL. While Johnson should be able to gash the Eagles’ defense, the pass rush of Graham, Vinny Curry, and rookie Derek Barnett should equally be able to slam into Carson Palmer on a regular basis. Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, but he’s manageable at this stage of his career. Arizona’s All-Pro cornerback, Patrick Peterson, will probably make life miserable for both Wentz and Jeffery. Even so, Philly should be able to make Palmer feel his age.
Result: Philadelphia 24, Arizona 21
Week 6 (10/12) @ Carolina Panthers
Thursday night games are rough on everyone. The result, as we’ve seen in recent years, is that the quality of play normally suffers. Who really knows what Carolina will be by Week 6? The key question is just how healthy will Cam Newton be? Will the Panthers’ defense rebound to what it was in 2015? The wild card is rookie running back, Christian McCaffrey. If he translates into the regular season what we saw in the preseason, he’s the player who could give the Eagles’ defense fits. That scenario opens up the possibility of Newton finding Greg Olsen repeatedly. Since Thursday games tend to favor the home team, that’s how we’ll learn.
Result: Carolina 17, Philadelphia 10
Week 7 (10/23) vs. Washington Redskins
The schedule maker takes, but also gives. Playing a Monday night game after a Thursday game means that the Eagles will have 11 days to prepare for their second meeting with Washington. Fans of the Redskins have to hope that there’s a decent start to the season. If not, everyone will be parsing every statement from Cousins will be parsed to see where he plans to play next year. A national game on ESPN seems like a fitting coming out party for the Wentz-to-Jeffery connection, even if Josh Norman is on hand.
Result: Philadelphia 28, Washington 24
Week 8 (10/29) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia’s schedule does not have many soft spots. Getting the rebuilding, West Coast dwelling 49ers at home on a 1 p.m. start is one of them, though. Many NFL observers have the Niners penciled in for a terrible season and a high draft pick. The guess here is that Kyle Shanahan is going to pull off enough surprises to keep things interesting. One deciding factor will be if journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer is still able to stand upright by this point. Shanahan is a good offensive coach but trying to construct an offensive game plan with rookie C.J. Breathard under center is asking too much of anyone.
Result: Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 14
Week 9 (11/5) vs. Denver Broncos
Maybe Trevor Siemian really is Denver’s answer at quarterback. Maybe Brock Osweiler will recapture his old Mile High touch. Perhaps Paxton Lynch will come back from injury and perform like a first round draft pick. Then again, maybe the Broncos offense will still struggle to get the ball to Demaryius Thomas. If the Eagles offensive line is as good as some people think they’ll be, then they’ll be able to keep the vaunted Denver defense away from Wentz. Playing at home should provide just enough of a difference.
Result: Philadelphia 24, Denver 21
Week 10 Bye
Week 11 (11/19) @ Dallas Cowboys
The NFL is praying that Dak Prescott and Wentz are at the outset of a rivalry that will go on for years to come. One way or the other, Ezekiel Elliott should be playing by this point and that makes a giant difference with the Cowboys offense. The Eagles tasked Schwartz with coming up with a defense that can handle Elliott, Dez Bryant, and, perhaps surprisingly, Cole Beasley. The Eagles struggled last season with the shifty slot receiver, allowing Prescott to keep drives going. Philadelphia is better prepared to deal with it this year and they’ll be coming off of their bye. It still won’t be enough to overcome the Cowboys home field advantage.
Result: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 17
Week 12 (11/ 26) vs. Chicago Bears
The second gift that the NFL bestowed on the Eagles was coming home from Dallas to face the Bears. The guess here is that Chicago will have already mostly packed things in by this point, and No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky will be under center. Putting a rookie quarterback against Graham, Cox and Malcolm Jenkins is a recipe for disaster. It’s just as likely that Jeffery will be looking to prove a point against his former team.
Result: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 10
Week 13 (12/3) @ Seattle Seahawks
It feels as though the Seahawks’ championship window is getting close to an end. However, that demise isn’t at hand just yet. Going back to the previous regime, quarterbacks like Seattle’s Russell Wilson have given the Eagles fits. While it’s unclear how well the Seahawks will be able to run the ball, the combination of Wilson and Doug Baldwin is still a tough cover for young corners. The Seattle defense is still stout, although not invincible. If Philly’s defensive line can simultaneously get pressure and keep Wilson from getting outside of the pocket, then they have a chance. Those West Coast trips are killers, though.
Result: Seattle 21, Philadelphia 14
Week 14 (12/10) @ Los Angeles Rams
One way to combat the downside of travel is not to do it. After playing in Seattle, the Eagles are planning to stay out west for the week of the Rams game. The match-up features the top two picks in the 2016 draft with Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff and Wentz. L.A.’s potential franchise signal caller has probably gotten more criticism to start his career than he really deserves. There’s no denying, though, that his supporting cast isn’t as strong as what Wentz has at his disposal. Goff will probably play better in his second season, especially with offensive whiz Sean McVay taking over the team, but there’s still a long way to go.
Result: Philadelphia 24, Los Angeles 14
Week 15 (12/17) @ New York Giants
For the second time this season, the Eagles have to face the Giants coming off of back-to-back road games. This time, they have the added burden of coming back from Los Angeles and heading straight to MetLife Stadium. Even if Darby and Mills have settled into their roles in the defensive backfield, they still don’t have anyone who can cover Beckham. If the circumstances were different, the Eagles would probably be able to harass Manning into making a couple of mistakes. After three weeks on the road, however, Philadelphia is going to be worn down.
Result: New York 27, Philadelphia 21
Week 16 (12/25) vs. Oakland Raiders
Look what Santa is bringing Philadelphia for Christmas – the Raiders! Oakland’s Derek Carr is the template for what the Eagles hope that Wentz will become. If the Eagles offense is firing on all cylinders, the Raiders will have a tough time stopping them. Unfortunately, Philadelphia will probably have just as much trouble handling Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree. Fittingly for a city that has never lived down pelting a halftime Santa Claus with snowballs, the Raiders will represent a lump of coal in the Eagles’ collective stocking.
Result: Oakland 34, Philadelphia 31
Week 17 (12/31) vs. Dallas Cowboys
After spending Christmas with the Raiders, Philadelphia gets to close out 2017, literally, with the Cowboys. A whole lot is going to depend on what this game means for the participants. It’s an either, neither, both proposition. Both teams might have something to play for, the game might only have playoff implications for one, or the fate of each team may already be set. No doubt, FOX is hoping that the game is as meaningful as possible. Our guess, though, is that it’s more likely that things will be mostly decided by this point. If Dallas isn’t playing for anything, then they’re probably also going to be more interested in keeping Prescott, Elliott, and Bryant safe. The Eagles might just be playing to avoid a losing record, but that’s better than nothing.
Result: Philadelphia 27, Dallas 20
Final record: 8-8
Even though this would only be a one game improvement over last season’s record, it would still be a step in the right direction. Philly fans would be disappointed with another finish outside of the playoffs, but as long as Wentz continues to develop, .500 isn’t a horrible thing. In fact, it could serve as a giant springboard for a breakout in the quarterback’s third season.