By Connor Thomas
As we slowly draw closer to the NFL Season, and the offseason wraps up with more rosters taking shape, the Eagles sit in an interesting spot when it comes to their projected win total for the 2021-2022 season. Coming into this offseason, you would have been hard pressed to find Philadelphia fans who would’ve predicted the Eagles to be close to .500. The team is very clearly in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and by no means are they expected to compete this year. Their win total echoes that. When you take a look at most sportsbooks, the line for wins for the Eagles this year sits at 6.5. There are only 6 other teams with a win total of 6.5 or worse: the Bengals, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Raiders, and Jets. It’s a who’s who list of dumpster fire franchises in the NFL, and unfortunately, this year the Eagles fit right in. And yet, 6.5 may be a light line for the win totals of a team of the birds’ circumstance. I’ve already broken down the ease of the Eagles schedule this year, and the NFC East is still in rough shape. But there is more to the argument for 7 wins or more than just the strength of schedule point. On paper, the Eagles may simply be underrated. First of all, to reiterate the schedule point, the Eagles play 3 of the 6 teams that have equal or worse projected win totals this year. Those games alone could get you almost halfway to your number. Also, the Eagles got lucky with their extra 17th game added to their schedule, drawing the lowly New York Jets. That extra game could cause a little bit of an issue for the perception of how difficult it would be to reach 7 wins. 7 wins is the new 6-10.
Not only are the Eagles opponents weak, but again, the team itself is possibly underrated thanks to something I’ll refer to as “rebuild bias”. The knowledge of the Eagles rebuilding is not a narrative that only exists inside the city limits of Philadelphia. The rest of the league saw the Eagles stockpile 1st round picks for the 2022 draft this offseason, and Vegas noticed too. Yet, despite this not being a win now scenario, there are pieces in place that are usually indicators of success in the NFL. First, let’s take a look at the trenches. The Eagles are returning a very strong offensive line, that when healthy, is easily one of the top units in the NFL. Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Jason Kelce, while aging, all have All-Pro capability. Throw in extremely raw but immensely powerful Jordan Mailata and a serviceable Left Guard and you have yourself a strong pocket for Jalen Hurts. That is not a 6 win offensive line, plain and simple. On the defensive side of the ball, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the last decade in Fletcher Cox is still anchoring the Eagles DL, while Brandon Graham can still get the edge and has a new veteran teammate in Ryan Kerrigan that still has some juice as an above average edge rusher. If Josh Sweat continues to progress, that unit can be dangerous as well. Yes, there are fairly evaluated weaknesses with the Eagles.
The linebacker core is still bottom 3rd of the league, and that might be generous. The secondary did not get the top draft target that many believed it needed in order to hold up against some of the receiving threats in the NFC East. Those units have received fair criticism, and they will be the reason the Eagles go under 7 wins if that does end up being the case. But Jalen Hurts is being treated like a rookie QB, when actually he has 4 games of NFL experience and a full year already in the league. Patrick Mahomes had less when he took over the league in his 2nd season. I am not by any means saying that Hurts is Mahomes; he is almost definitively not. But his experience level is being underrated by many, especially considering his familiarity with new #1 WR DeVonta Smith. The rest of the receiving threats and backfield players on the Eagles have varying degrees of questions surrounding them, but the framework of a successful offense is there.
Now I’m not being blindly optimistic. This team could absolutely fall apart and be a 4 win team if injuries strike like they have in the last couple years. It just seems that it would not take much of a stretch for the Eagles to win 7 or 8 games this year. 8 games would still be 1 game under .500, and make them a bad team. If I were a betting man (and I am), I would be firmly on the over side of 6.5 games. It won’t be an easy ride, and they won’t be a good team, but Vegas is underrating the Eagles as a whole with their win total. A good reward for a 7 win year would be to at least put some money in your pocket because of it.