The Eagles have yet to beat an elite quarterback in the brief stint of the Nick Sirianni era and in only his second year here they are the talk of the NFL. Many believe that Sirianni’s Eagles, the Sigles, his team, with its deep, talented roster, can be Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.
They do, however, face one major stumbling block before they begin thinking of playing in the NFC Championship: Getting out of their own division.
It’s easy to forget the Eagles were 3-3 in the NFC East last year. It’s easy to forget that the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys smoked the Eagles twice in Sirianni’s inaugural season by a combined score of 92-47!
A lot has changed in Dallas.
For one, the Cowboys’ offensive line took a hit this offseason, when they lost starting left guard Connor Williams to Miami in free agency and starting left tackle Tyron Smith is 31 and entering his 12th NFL season. He has not played a full season since 2015, suffering myriad injuries, from nagging ankle, neck, and back setbacks. Receiver Amari Cooper is gone, traded to Cleveland, after combining to catch eight passes in two games against the Eagles last year for 105 yards, averaging 13.1 yards a catch. Tailback Ezekiel Elliott is not the threat he once was, sharing time with emerging Tony Pollard.
So, there are some cracks in the Dallas’ facade.
In Tampa Bay, Tom Brady is back, though who will be out in front to protect him? Injuries to center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs during training camp have ruined the cohesion of the offensive line, and the season-ending ACL/MCL injury to starting left guard Aaron Stinnie throws Tampa Bay’s offensive line problems into more chaos. The Green Bay Packers lost Davante Adams in a trade with Las Vegas, and future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers is already complaining about his new receiving corps, going public about their drops and route running. The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams are a star-driven, top-heavy team that could break over a 17-game NFL regular season. All-planet defensive tackle Aaron Donald and quarterback Matt Stafford will still be tough to get around, but by the time the NFL playoffs begin, who’s to say who will be around them? The Rams’ spending on top talent won them a Super Bowl in 2021. It could translate into disaster in 2022.
As for dark horses in the NFC, the Eagles will find out fast where they stand. In Week 2, they host the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, and though the Vikings finished 8-9 last season, they were, and remain, a team capable of beating anyone in the NFL. New Vikings’ head coach Kevin O’Connell has a history with Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. O’Connell comes from the Rams, where he helped build a formidable Super Bowl-winning offense. With O’Connell’s innovative offensive mind, he could be the mad scientist that can somehow draw the talent in Cousins that sometimes lies dormant. The Vikings certainly have the weapons for a dynamic offense in running back Dalvin Cook and receiving star Justin Jefferson.
And if Carson Wentz could recapture the magic, he held in his hands in 2017 with the Eagles, who’s to say what Washington can be, with its stellar defensive line?
The addition of A.J. Brown and the young talent around him make this the deepest receiving group the Eagles have had in a long time—possibly ever, if paper talent transforms into results. Defensive additions in linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry will make a great impact on a dubious unit that could use a dose of aggression. The Eagles will and should be in contention for the NFC championship in 2022.
So should Dallas.
The Eagles are the sexy choice by gamblers to win more than 9.5 games.
It’s now up to Sirianni to turn names on a sheet of paper into something real.