The Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the more successful teams in terms of their win-loss record over the past 15 years. Since 2000, the team has fallen below the .500 mark just three times, with the most recent coming in 2015 as they finished 7-9 overall. While the Eagles haven’t been bad by a long shot, they also haven’t found much playoff success.
Over that 15-year span, the Eagles made just one Super Bowl, losing back in 2004. The start of the 2016 season marks a new era for the Eagles though, as they threw in the towel on Chip Kelly, and turned things over to former Kansas City Chief’s offensive coordinator Doug Pederson.
Things weren’t always great for Kelly, but as their head coach, he managed to lead them to a 27-21 record, with a finish no worse than second in the NFC East. So, with Pederson now running the show in Philly, and a strange quarterback situation in the making, what will the upcoming season look like? Let’s get bold with three predictions about the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2016 season.
1. Ryan Mathews hits double-digit rushing touchdowns
In Kansas City, one thing Pederson had no issue with was getting the most out of his running backs. With DeMarco Murray now long gone in Tennessee, it will be Ryan Mathews’ chance to shine this season.
The running back is coming off a season in which he was surprisingly productive, but hardly received the ball. Mathews totaled just 106 carries for 539 yards (5.1 yards-per-carry) with six touchdowns. He caught 20 passes for 146 yards and an additional score as well.
With Pederson’s strong track record with running backs, as well as the uncertainty at the quarterback position, expect Mathews be heavily involved in the offense this season. We’re talking 1,000-plus yards, probably somewhere around 1,200, as well as topping double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his NFL career.
To this point, Mathews’ best season came in 2013 with the San Diego Chargers, when he ran the ball 285 times for 1,255 yards and six scores.
2. Philadelphia finishes fourth in the NFC East
Since 2000, the Eagles have finished fourth in the division three times; one of those times they did it with an 8-8 record (2007). This year, it will happen once again, but it won’t be with an 8-8 record. A new coach is nice and all, but there is still a massive amount of questions for this team.
Yes, they have quite a bit of defensive talent, but they also allowed 430 points last season. As for the offensive side of things, it’s either Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, or Carson Wentz running the show. To be honest, none of these quarterbacks really get anyone too excited about the passing game.
Wentz has a bright future in this league, but it will take him time to adjust. Bradford is in a situation where he’s never really done anything to warrant being considered a franchise quarterback, which is obvious. Daniel is a real unknown, but actually might be the best option.
Regardless, the Eagles can’t run the ball all game, and with the improvements in the NFC East, including the Washington Redskins improving, there’s a real possibility that this team finds itself in last place in the division.
3. Sam Bradford gets benched, but it’s for Chase Daniel
There’s good news and bad news for Bradford and the Eagles. The good news is that they start off with games against the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears. The bad news? They start off against the Browns and Bears.
If Bradford struggles against those two teams and can’t get the Eagles two wins early, it will spell trouble. Their third game is against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then comes that dreaded early-season bye week. Now, this is where it gets interesting.
Imagine if the Eagles are 1-2 going into the bye week; Bradford has played poorly, but the team doesn’t believe that Wentz is ready for in-game action. Fortunately, that’s why they handed Daniel a three-year, $21 million deal. He may not be the long-term answer, but this is a way for the Eagles to avoid having to throw Wentz into the mix too early, while also pleasing the fans (to an extent).
Now, if Daniel gets in and struggles, then Pederson will face a real fun situation, as Philly will clamor for the rookie quarterback from North Dakota State at that point. Overall, we see this being an interesting, and potentially tough year for the Eagles.