Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Last We Met
To call 2020 a disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles would be an understatement. Heading into the season, the expectations were for another deep playoff run, considering the team had made the playoffs in three straight seasons and won the Super Bowl three years prior. NFL betting lines and sportsbooks alike tell us the Eagles are underdogs entering the 2021 season.
Last season featured a complete meltdown at the quarterback position, play-calling gone stagnant, and injuries piling up at key positions.
In all, the season ended with a 4-11-1 record and a changing of the guard. Quarterback Carson Wentz, a year removed from signing a big contract extension, was shipped out to Indianapolis while head coach Doug Pederson was fired.
It was a sudden fall from grace for Philadelphia, which heads into the 2021 season with a new head coach and Jalen Hurts at quarterback.
The disarray in 2020 felt like it got started before the season even began, when the Eagles selected Hurts with their second-round draft pick despite having Wentz on the team.
Whether the pick eroded Wentz’s confidence or not is unknown, but by all measures and statistics, Wentz was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 28th in total QBR, 25th in passing yards, 20th in touchdowns and led the league in interceptions with 15.
Wentz’s poor performance led to his benching in Week 13 and Hurts started the final four games of the season.
Despite the erratic quarterback play, Philadelphia was still very much alive in a mediocre NFC East as it headed into a Week 9 bye with a 3-4-1 record. The Eagles then lost four straight games and seven of eight to wrap up a bitterly disappointing 4-11-1 campaign.
Beyond the regression of Wentz, the other factors in play for the poor season were offensive line injuries, lackluster playmakers on offense and a struggling secondary.
When healthy, Philadelphia has an elite offensive line. Unfortunately, the O-line never had the opportunity to deploy their top five players, starting 14 different combinations throughout the season.
This lack of cohesion stunted the offense. Wentz was the most-sacked quarterback in 2020, taken down 50 times. A good chunk were self-inflicted as he often looked indecisive in the pocket.
His indecisiveness was in part due to the struggling supporting cast.
First-round wide receiver Jalen Reagor had a lackluster rookie season, missing a handful of games and not surpassing 400 receiving yards. Philadelphia’s leading receiver was Travis Fulgham, who finished the year with 539 yards, most of which was accumulated in a four-game stretch.
Tight end Dallas Goedert was in and out of the lineup, but still finished second on the team in receiving with 524 yards.
Running back Miles Sanders struggled in the passing game, but was the lone player on the offense to show explosiveness with the ball in his hands. In 12 games, Sanders ran for 867 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns.
There was a noticeable spark when Hurts entered the lineup, despite middling statistics, offering a glimmer of hope for the Eagles moving forward. In limited action, Hurts finished with 1,061 yards passing on 52.0 percent completion, six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Where Hurts shines is with his legs. Hurts carried the ball 63 times for 354 yards and three scores.
The Eagles’ offense ranked 24th in yards per game and 26th in points per game. Pro Football Focus graded the Philly offense 30th in the NFL and Football Outsiders had the Eagles down as 28th.
On the defensive side, the lone bright spot for Philadelphia was once again its defensive line, which was third in the NFL in sacks with 49. Pro Football Focus graded the Eagles’ pass-rush unit as the second-best in the league.
Defensive end Brandon Graham led the team in sacks, with 8.0, followed by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s 6.5. Linebacker Alex Singleton was a rare bright spot on the back seven, finishing the season with 120 tackles.
The secondary was a major issue for Philadelphia, often getting torched by the opposing team’s top receiver. By both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders’s metrics, the Eagles coverage graded out as a bottom-10 unit.
Philadelphia’s defense allowed the 14th-most yards per game in 2020 and the 13th-most points per game.
To Miss the Playoffs (-300)
Based on the odds, the Philadelphia Eagles are projected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams again in 2021. NFL Playoffs odds tell us the Eagles are likely to miss out on the playoffs.
This is logical thinking. The 2020 version of the Eagles could not move the ball thanks to a weak group of receivers. You can’t win in today’s NFL without being able to throw the ball.
Philadelphia misses the playoffs again in 2021 if it continues floundering on the offensive end. New head coach Nick Sirianni is making his play-calling debut with the Eagles, as Philly has installed a completely new set of offensive coaches.
Even if the change of coaches does bring new plays and wrinkles, one shouldn’t expect the changes to happen overnight.
This will be a massive year for Jalen Hurts. The Eagles have accumulated first-round picks for the 2022 draft, a contingency plan if Hurts doesn’t pan out. Based on his poor accuracy numbers throwing the football, there’s reason to be hesitant with Hurts as the starter.
Hurts is a great runner but needs to take massive strides with his throwing abilities to keep the Eagles from missing the playoffs.
What is really going to keep the Eagles from being successful in 2021 is their atrocious secondary. Last offseason, the Eagles acquired former All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions. Slay had a good, not great, season and now is 30 years old.
Slay is the only proven commodity at the corner position. The projected starter on the outside, according to the team’s depth chart, is Michael Jacquet, who was torched by the Dallas Cowboys at the tail end of the 2020 season. The slot corner is Avonte Maddox, a small player who has struggled to keep up with more physical receivers.
Teams passed all over this Eagles defense in 2020 and it doesn’t seem they’ve done enough to address their most glaring weakness. Without a strong secondary, it seems it will likely be more of the same for Philadelphia in 2021.
It doesn’t help the Eagles case that the other teams in the NFC East all seem to be in more enviable positions. We’ll dig into that in a moment.
To Make the Playoffs (+240)
Philadelphia can make the playoffs in 2021 despite the causes for concern.
Their success hinges on their biggest new addition: rookie receiver DeVonta Smith from Alabama. Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, was selected 10th overall in the draft and comes into a Philadelphia as the team’s top receiver.
Smith put up monster numbers for the best college team in the nation for four straight years and brings a work ethic and track record that should catapult this offense out of mediocrity.
Smith and Hurts briefly overlapped at Alabama, so there is an existing rapport that could help Hurts improve as a passer. With Smith slotting in as the top guy, things should ease up for Reagor, who has the tools you look for in a deep threat and should be more relaxed with fewer expectations.
The rest of this offense does have promise and if the Eagles can shake the injury bug, they could surprise people en route to a playoff appearance.
This offensive line is strong across the board and all five of the top players are healthy heading into 2021. If they can stay on the field, things get a lot easier for Hurts and Sanders.
Goedert enters the season as “the guy” at tight end, with Zach Ertz not expected to play again for Philadelphia. Our NFL predictions like the tight end position to produce in fantasy this season.
An intriguing mix of weapons make the Eagles a team to keep an eye on. Aiding their cause for a rebound in 2021 is the fourth-place schedule they’ve drawn. The Eagles have very winnable games on their schedule, against Detroit, Atlanta and the New York Jets.
To Win the NFC East (+500)
Tthe other teams in the NFC East have more positive momentum building. Washington won the division at 7-9 on the back of a strong offensive line and defensive line, pillars for success in the NFL.
Dallas is getting its quarterback back from injury and has as strong of a trio of receivers that you’ll find. The New York Giants have a strong defense and plenty of offensive playmakers to push Daniel Jones’s growth.
Philadelphia does have some reason for optimism in 2021, but it is going to need a big jump from the 4-11-1 campaign in 2020 to get back in the mix in this division. Still, the NFC East is notorious for its parity. It seems that every year all four teams are in the mix as the season’s end approaches.
If the division stays tight, the Eagles have as good of a chance as anyone. Their success hinges on Hurts’ development as a passer. He should keep defenses honest with his legs, but needs to expand his game. The NFL Division odds are not in the Eagles’ favor, but they have a chance.
To Win the NFC (+2500)
A first-year head coach, a young quarterback, and vulnerable secondary is a tough recipe for an NFC championship. It’s unrealistic to expect the Eagles to not only make the playoffs, but make the Super Bowl after a 4-11-1 season.
Philadelphia would need someone from their secondary to step up, as most players on the depth chart are relative unknowns. As we stand, conference odds tell us the Eagles winning the NFC would be a major longshot.
General Manager Howie Roseman shipped a sixth-round pick to Jacksonville for cornerback Josiah Scott, and the team drafted corner Zech McPhearson in the fourth round of the draft.
Philadelphia shocks the league and makes a run at another Super Bowl if one of these young defensive backs emerges as not only a viable, but above-average starter.
To Win the Super Bowl (+6600)
The Eagles current Super Bowl odds sit at +6600. DeVonta Smith is the X-factor for this Philadelphia season. The Eagles have sorely lacked a dominant receiver since the brief stint of Terrell Owens, and the team is hungry for someone to come in and take over games with route-running and yards after the catch.
Smith has all the intangibles of a star in this league, though his size has concerned some teams, causing him to slide to10th in the draft. When Super Bowl betting, it’s important to find a guy that could make all the difference.
Philadelphia is in a retooling phase for the franchise and thus should not be considered a smart online bet to win the Super Bowl in 2021.