I think it's going to be a long winter in Philadelphia. The 76ers are going to be terrible again, although at least it appears they finally have a plan around potential superstar Ben Simmons. The Flyers missed the Stanley Cup playoffs last season and likely will again.
And then there are the Eagles. If I was an NFL owner or athletic director of a Power 5 program, I'd want Chip Kelly as my head coach. But the Eagles couldn't shove Kelly out the door soon enough last year, firing him after a Week 16 loss to the Redskins after Philly was eliminated from the playoffs. Kelly definitely made some personnel mistakes, but I would have just taken that power away from him.
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So this offseason, new/old GM Howie Roseman, the guy Kelly originally ousted in a power struggle, got rid of as many Kelly guys as he could. He traded linebacker Kiko Alonso (whom Kelly had traded for the prior offseason), overpaid cornerback Byron Maxwell and the 13th pick in the 2016 draft to Miami for the No. 8 pick. Moving up five spots would prove important as it allowed the Eagles to package that as part of a haul to Cleveland for the No. 2 overall pick. There, the Eagles took the QB of the future in North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Only they hope he doesn't play a snap this season as they already invested big money in re-signing Sam Bradford and adding free agent Chase Daniel, the former No. 2 in Kansas City and a pupil of new Eagles coach Doug Pederson. So Bradford's the guy for now.
I thought the Eagles would have one of the NFL's best backfields in 2015 in DeMarco Murray (a Kelly signing), Ryan Mathews (ditto) and Darren Sproles. But it didn't work out that way. Murray bombed and was shipped off to Tennessee this offseason in basically a salary dump (the Titans and Eagles swapped fourth-round picks; and that Philly fourth-round pick also went to Cleveland).
It's hard to understand what this team is doing. Well, that's not true. It's trying to contend -- i.e. keep fans interested -- and rebuild at the same time, which rarely works. My guess is that by December and with this club well below .500 that Wentz will start to play and the Eagles will start looking toward the future. The Browns certainly will be rooting for the Eagles to stink as Cleveland owns their 2017 first-round pick. Why do I have the feeling that the Browns will be a powerhouse in three years and the Eagles stuck in mediocrity?
Philadelphia was 3-5 at home last season, 3-5 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Eagles host four 2015 playoff teams this season. I project another 3-5 mark. Philly has a wins total of 7 at BetOnline this year with the under at -145. I'm forecasting a 5-11 record. Overall, the Eagles' strength of schedule ranks as the seventh-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .469. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 vs. Browns (-6.5, 44): At least the Pederson era should get off to a good start. Rather interesting that these teams open against one another as it could hugely affect the top of the 2017 draft. Maybe the best result for the Browns is a tie? Cleveland didn't end up taking a guy at the No. 8 spot but traded back to No. 15. Key trend: Eagles 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home as a favorite of at least 6.5 points.
Sept. 25 vs. Steelers (+3): Philly on a short week as it visits Chicago the previous Monday. It's also ahead of the Eagles' bye. Bit of a sandwich game for Pittsburgh as it hosts Cincinnati in Week 2 and then hosts another 2015 playoff team, Kansas City, the week after this one. Steelers won last meeting vs. Eagles at home 16-14 in 2012. Key trend: Eagles 5-5 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Oct. 23 vs. Vikings (+1.5): Philadelphia is at Washington the previous Sunday. Minnesota comes off its bye week. Eagles have lost two straight in series, last 48-30 in Minneapolis in 2013. Key trend: Eagles 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC North.
Nov. 13 vs. Falcons (-2.5): Eagles off a trip to the Giants in Week 9. Atlanta is off a Thursday game in Tampa and ahead of its bye week. The Eagles lost in Week 1 in Atlanta last year, 26-24. Bradford threw for 336 yards, but it took him 52 attempts and he was picked off twice. Philly was down 20-3 at halftime but took a 24-23 lead with 8:37 left. The Eagles couldn't stop Julio Jones in the game. Key trend: Eagles 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC South.
Nov. 28 vs. Packers (+3.5): Monday night game. Philly off a trip to Seattle in Week 11. Green Bay is off a Sunday night home game vs. Washington. Pederson was a long-time backup QB with the Packers. The Eagles have dropped four of the past five in the series, last 53-20 at Lambeau in 2014. Key trend: Eagles 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home dog of at least 3.5 points.
Dec. 11 vs. Redskins (-2): Eagles off a trip to Cincinnati the previous Sunday. Washington is in Arizona in Week 13. Kelly's last game was the Eagles' 38-24 home loss to the Redskins in Week 16 last year. DeAngelo Hall returned Murray's fumble 17 yards for a momentum-changing TD in the third quarter. Bradford was 37-for-56 for 380 yards and a TD as Kelly totally abandoned the run game. Key trend: Eagles 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 22 vs. Giants (-2.5): Thursday night matchup. Philly is in Baltimore the previous Sunday. New York is off its home finale in Week 15 against the Lions. The Eagles beat the visiting Giants 27-7 on a Monday in Week 6 last year. You don't win often turning the ball over four times as the Eagles did, but they forced three Giants turnovers and returned one for a score. The Eagles also outgained New York by nearly 200 yards. Murray had one of his best games with 112 yards and a TD. Key trend: Eagles 5-5 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Jan. 1 vs. Cowboys (TBA): No Week 17 lines posted early with too much potentially up for grabs. Short week for Dallas as it plays the final Monday night game of the year in Week 16 at home vs. Detroit. Philly lost 20-10 in Week 2 last year at home to Dallas but ruined the Cowboys' season by breaking Tony Romo's collarbone. Bradford was 23-for-37 for 224 yards with a TD and two picks. Murray had numbers I could literally surpass: 13 carries for 2 yards against his former team. Key trend: Eagles 0-4 ATS in past four at home in series.
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