Now that the 2016 NFL regular season is over, let’s take an early look ahead to the Eagles’ 2017 schedule. We already know which teams Philadelphia will play thanks to the league’s formula.
The Eagles finished the 2016 season with a 7-9 record. After finishing second in the NFC East in 2015, the Birds dropped to last place in Doug Pederson’s first season as head coach.
Owning a last place schedule is never enviable, though it can certainly help a struggling team rebound the next season, which is designed to increase the NFL’s parity. But does the Eagles’ 2017 schedule really shape up as an easy slate?
Not quite, according to an early look at 2017 strength of schedule via Blogging The Boys. The Eagles are actually tied with the Cowboys, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, for the 10th toughest schedule in terms of opponent win percentage (.531). The Eagles rank 13th when it comes to opponent point differential (+64).
As far as the rest of the Eagles’ NFC East opponents are concerned: the Giants have the ninth most difficult schedule and Washington ranks seventh in opponent win percentage. The Giants have the 10th most difficult schedule when it comes to point differential, while the Cowboys rank ninth and Washington ranks seventh.
So at least the Eagles have the fact that their schedule ranks as the the easiest in the division going for them.
It’s obviously way too early to know exactly how the Eagles will fare next season. The team is expected to undergo a lot of changes during the upcoming offseason. Philadelphia has a lot of roster needs to address.
In turn, some of the Eagles’ upcoming opponents might end up being tougher than they currently appear. The opposite is true for teams that might fall off after having a good season in 2016.
The Eagles will play seven games against teams that made the 2017 NFL playoffs. They will play nine games against teams that finished the 2016 season with winning records.
Pederson said he believed the Eagles are”very close” to being contenders. While his comment was scoffed at by some, he does have a point. Philadelphia ranked 10th in point differential and fourth in DVOA in 2016. The Birds went 7-9 with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback despite facing the NFL’s toughest schedule.
If this early look at 2017 strength of schedule is any indication, the Eagles will face more tough challenges next year. Once again, that’s why this offseason will prove to be very critical. The Eagles have a lot of work to do and they don’t have a large margin for error.
EAGLES 2017 OPPONENTS
HOME: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos
AWAY: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers
WHAT YOU MISSED
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The Eagles may have to spend more money again this offseason if they want to sign Bennie Logan and DeSean Jackson.
“I’m just looking forward to him getting better and continuing to grow like all of us in our jobs.” Howie Roseman evaluates the Eagles’ 2016 NFL season.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Planning on spending most of the season on the bench, rookie offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai both gained early experience by playing throughout the season, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
Back in the beginning of the season, Seumalo and Vaitai spent the first few weeks on the Eagles’ inactive list before Lane Johnson’s suspension, other injuries and Brandon Brooks’ bout with anxiety changed the plan.
With all the issues the Eagles had on their line this season, fifth-round pick Vaitai ended up playing 423 snaps (37.3 percent) and third-round pick Seumalo ended up playing 335 snaps (29.6 percent) this season.
“It gives us versatility,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said in December about the young linemen’s growth. “It gives us depth; gives us options with those guys. And, like you said, Isaac (Seumalo) can play tackle; he can play guard; he can play center. These guys and Stout (Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) and Eugene (Eagles assistant Eugene Chung) do a great job of cross training them all, and they really feed off each other. So, they are getting better all the time.”
Head coach Doug Pederson said before the season finale that Stefen Wisniewski would start in place of injured Allen Barbre, but he changed his mind and started Seumalo in the spot instead, which made a ton of sense. And while normally very critical of his play, Seumalo said he thought minus a few plays, he played pretty well at left guard against the Cowboys.
Roseman’s past tenure as the Eagles general manager is a concern for the team’s future, opines Bob Brookover of the Inquirer.
All the Eagles need now, at least according to their chief decision maker, is to put the proper pieces around [Carson] Wentz on offense and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on defense and they will finally be able to follow the instructions of their fight song again.
“Being able to move up from 13 to two and get Carson Wentz was something we were really excited about,” Roseman said. “We understood with the amount of resources we put into that trade that it was going to be hard to do a lot else. But we also felt there was value in free agency and the draft at the O-line position.”
Imagine how excited the Dallas Cowboys must have been, then, to be able to wait until the fourth round and the 135th overall pick to draft Dak Prescott, who is 23 years old and clearly coming off a better season than Wentz. That, of course, is after they selected superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott two picks behind Wentz. The Cowboys also acquired rookie starters in the third and sixth rounds in defensive tackle Maliek Collins and cornerback Anthony Brown.
None of this is to say that Wentz was a bad selection. He had a solid rookie season with an obvious lack of weapons and handled the heat of his position and his new city with remarkable aplomb. You can argue that he would have been just as good or better than Prescott if he had stood behind center in Dallas. You just cannot argue that he had a better season than Prescott.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.