NFL Pick: 2023 Philadelphia Eagles Over 11.5 Wins (+108) at BetRivers
The Philadelphia Eagles were a drive short of greatness last year, losing the Super Bowl 38-35 to Kansas City. It was the most points ever scored by a losing team in Super Bowl history.
It is always a difficult task to return to the Super Bowl the year after losing it, but we saw the Bengals, the 2021 Super Bowl runner-up, make it to the final minute of a tied AFC Championship Game last year only to also be outdone by Kansas City at the end.
That seems to be the theme here as the Eagles have the best Super Bowl odds in the NFC this year at the top-rated sportsbooks, but the Chiefs still have the best odds of anyone to repeat. Philadelphia’s over/under 11.5 wins is also tied for the highest number in the NFL this year.
But the Eagles have quite a schedule that should have them more battle-tested for this year’s playoff run after winning the NFC in a cakewalk last year. No team has repeated as NFC East champions since the Eagles did it in 2001-04, so that is another status they are looking to keep up this year as they battle with Dallas again.
Nick Sirianni will have new offensive and defensive coordinators for the first time, but the Eagles should be fine here. In fact, the defense could be better this year.
The Offense Should Keep Rolling
With the Eagles having such a successful offense in a Super Bowl season, it only made sense that other teams would start poaching their coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen joined the Colts where he will try to shape Anthony Richardson into an MVP candidate like Hurts.
The Eagles promoted quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator, so he will already be familiar with the offense and players. This is a common in-house promotion, and oddly enough, Johnson has been friends with Hurts’ family since Hurts was in preschool. This should be a smooth transition.
New Additions, Health Concerns, and Unstoppable Tactics
The offense remains mostly intact, though there will be a new leading rusher after Miles Sanders went to the Panthers. The Eagles added D’Andre Swift, a back who never reached his full potential there and is a better receiver than Sanders. They also added Rashaad Penny from the Seahawks where he has shown talent but not durability. Kenneth Gainwell and Boston “Giant Killer” Scott return for what should be even more of a committee approach this year.
The only real concerns on offense are health. If A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith get into the injury list, then you can talk about concerns with the lack of receiving depth. The other one to watch is Hurts, who became the first quarterback ever to run the ball 200 times in a season (playoffs included) last year. After nearly losing him to a shoulder injury in Week 15, they may want to dial that back a little this year to keep him fresh through the end of the season.
But the quarterback push sneak can stay. That was almost unstoppable, and the NFL did not pass any rule changes to eliminate it yet.
Is This Defense Better?
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon took the head coach job in Arizona, leaving after a 2-year stint for Sirianni that had its pros and cons. Sean Desai is the new coordinator, a position he held with the Bears in 2021 before assisting Pete Carroll’s defense in Seattle last year. Not the greatest results, but you have to consider the upgrades in talent he will have in Philadelphia.
Everyone knows the Eagles had 70 sacks last year, but there was some blame on the turf in Arizona for the Super Bowl for why they struggled to get after Mahomes. But setting that aside, despite all the talent up front and in the secondary, the Eagles were only No. 5 in yards per drive, No. 11 in points per drive allowed, No. 14 in 3rd-down conversion rate, and No. 12 in red zone touchdown rate.
With 70 sacks and the No. 1 pass defense, it sure felt like those other rankings should have been higher than they were. The Eagles got a great year out of Haason Reddick, who led the team with 16 sacks. Reddick was one of 4 Eagles with at least 11 sacks. They lost Javon Hargrave to the 49ers, but they upgraded for the future in a big way in the draft.
Risks, Steals, and Challenges Ahead
Many considered Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter to be the biggest prize on that side of the ball in this draft, but some off-field issues scared teams away. He was a passenger in a car that was street racing, and a fatal accident happened. There is concern about his motivation to be great. Not the biggest red flags for a draft prospect, but the Eagles accepted them to take him with the No. 9 pick, and it could go down as the steal of the draft.
Carter can learn from Fletcher Cox and be a valuable part of the pass rush this year. The Eagles also used a 1st-round pick on Nolan Smith, who can learn behind Reddick and grow into becoming a starter down the road.
It will be interesting to see if the Eagles can slow down what should be a tougher schedule of opposing quarterbacks this year. A knock on Gannon’s scheme was that top quarterbacks usually sliced and diced it with short completions, beating the pass rush by getting rid of the ball quickly to open receivers. Mahomes did it well in the Super Bowl, and Prescott, despite taking 6 sacks on Christmas Eve, shredded the Eagles last year in his lone game against them.
You can count on the Eagles having fewer sacks this year, but if they allow fewer points and do better against top quarterbacks, then you have a defense that can be better suited for a Super Bowl run than the one that beat up on a weak schedule last year.
2023 Schedule Analysis and Pick
Outside of a terrible run of injuries that can happen to any team, it is hard to imagine the Eagles will not be an elite team again this season. The 2020 Chiefs and 2021 Bengals both lost the Super Bowl and were in the AFC Championship Game again the following season. We can tone down the “Super Bowl loser’s curse” rhetoric.
But there is at least more valid concern in the NFC, a conference that has become infamous for teams that get really hot for a season only to not follow it up with anything special. The 2013-14 Seahawks are the only NFC team in the last 25 years to go to back-to-back Super Bowls.
The Eagles at least feel a little different, because they are built so well in the trenches, Hurts looks legitimate at quarterback (unlike Carson Wentz in 2017), and they have really good receivers and corners too.
But the schedule did help the Eagles cruise to 14-3 last year, and the schedule should undoubtedly be harder this year unless the Eagles luck out again and catch teams when their starting quarterback is injured.
The schedule looks light early, but the Jets with Aaron Rodgers could be a good test in Week 6. In Weeks 9-14, the Eagles have one of the toughest slates of any team this year when they face the Cowboys, bye week, Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys again.
If you want to know where the Eagles stand against the elite teams or if they have improved at holding leads against elite quarterbacks, then watch what happens in that stretch. It should be a great preview for the postseason.
It is not like the Eagles will go winless during that stretch, and a 3-2 record would be perfectly respectable, but with the schedule before and after that, the Eagles have a solid shot at finishing 12-5 this year. Maybe that is not enough to win the NFC East again given what Dallas does, but it is enough for this over at the NFL odds board.
NFL Pick: 2023 Philadelphia Eagles Over 11.5 Wins (+108) at BetRivers
2022 Recap: The One That Got Away
You can split Philadelphia’s season in half last year. First, there was the 8-0 start when the Eagles destroyed teams in the 2nd quarter and rarely faced a challenge or threat after halftime. The Eagles never trailed in the 2nd half during their 8-0 start.
The schedule absolutely helped here. The Eagles caught all the teams who finished 9-8 after a 2-6 start early when they were playing lousy football like the Lions, Jaguars, and Steelers. They played the Vikings on a Monday night, which is like Kryptonite for Kirk Cousins. They played the Cowboys in Week 6 a week before Dak Prescott returned from injury, so they roughed up backup Cooper Rush.
The Eagles were impressive, but we were waiting to see them face some adversity. It came in a form few expected when Washington came to town as a double-digit underdog on a Monday night in Week 10. The Commanders started 12-of-18 on 3rd down that night, forced 4 turnovers, and got away with a facemask on one of those plays before winning 32-21 in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Hurts’ Resilience and Minshew’s Impact
The Eagles did not lose another game with Jalen Hurts at quarterback until the Super Bowl, but they did start to look more vulnerable after the Washington loss. They needed a late rally in Indy before holding off the Packers in a wild 40-33 game that saw Aaron Rodgers leave injured.
Hurts injured his shoulder in a cold, sloppy game in Week 15 against the Bears, threatening his season. That led to Gardner Minshew starting the big rematch in Dallas, so each team beat the other’s backup quarterback last year. Minshew played well, but the Eagles turned it over 4 times again and gave up a third-and-30 conversion in the 4th quarter on a Dak Prescott bomb.
A week later, Minshew threw a pick-6 in the 4th quarter in a 20-10 loss to the Saints. The Eagles did not have any traditional weaknesses in 2022. They can handle the run and pass on both sides of the ball. When you look at their losses, it always came down to turnovers, 3rd down conversions on defense, and bad 4th quarters.
Hurts returned for the season finale against the Giants, who played backups, and the Eagles finally clinched the No. 1 seed with a 14-3 record. They ended up drawing the Giants for a 3rd time in the wild-card round, and that game was decided quickly in a 38-7 rout.
Overcoming Quarterback Woes
The 49ers came to town for a highly anticipated NFC Championship Game with San Francisco on a 12-game winning streak. Brock Purdy had not yet lost since taking over, but he was lost to an elbow injury just 6 snaps into his opening drive. The 49ers also lost Josh Johnson to a concussion early in the 3rd quarter, so they played much of the game without a quarterback who can throw. The Eagles won 31-7 in a game where Hurts did not even have to play well against the No. 1 defense.
This made you wonder how Hurts and the Eagles would fare in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs, the No. 1 offense led by Patrick Mahomes. But Mahomes was coming in with a high-ankle sprain, which he aggravated in the title game against the Bengals. How mobile would he be against a pass rush that had 70 sacks in the regular season and only allowed 14 points in 2 playoff games?
Well, things were looking solid except for a bad fumble by Hurts that was returned for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. But the Eagles still won that quarter, their dominant one all year, 17-7, and they led by 10 points at halftime with Mahomes aggravating the ankle just before halftime.
The expected rally from the Chiefs came, and the Eagles badly blew a couple of coverages on touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Just like that, the Eagles were down 35-27. Hurts led a game-tying touchdown drive, but Mahomes answered with a key 26-yard scramble that set up the game-winning field goal. The Eagles would have had a good 100 seconds to answer the field goal, but a questionable defensive holding penalty on James Bradberry on a 3rd down gave the Chiefs an automatic first down and the ability to run the clock more.
By the time the field goal was kicked to give the Chiefs a 38-35 lead, the Eagles had 8 seconds left and not enough time to do anything. Game over. Season over.
Including the playoffs, the 2022 Eagles were +126 in scoring differential in the 2nd quarter, but they were only +4 in the other quarters combined. The offense had a turnover returned for a touchdown in 3-of-4 losses.