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The Eagles were one of the most active NFL teams this offseason. Will this be enough for them to log a second-straight playoff appearance? NFL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi is here to discuss the best way to approach Philadelphia's win total.
ANALYSIS

2022 NFL Prediction: Will Jalen Hurts and the Eagles Build on their 2021 Success with Another Playoff Berth?

Heading into the 2021 NFL season, many expected the Eagles to be among the league's worst teams. By being active on the trade front, the Eagles had accumulated a surplus of capital in the upcoming draft, making clear their front office's view that 2021 was to be a rebuilding year. However, Philadelphia won nine games, landing them a wildcard playoff spot. The Buccaneers then eliminated them with ease, but that was a surprise to no one — the Eagles were a year or two ahead of schedule.

With the 2022 NFL season on the horizon, the Eagles may be positioned to do some legitimate damage. This offseason, they upgraded their roster via all available channels — trading, the draft, and free agency. Will those upgrades be enough to get the Eagles over the hump and secure their third NFC East title in the last six years? Let's dive in.

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2022 NFL Prediction - Philadelphia Eagles

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The Easiest Schedule in Football

Last season, a common critique of the Eagles was that they relied on a 'cakewalk' schedule to sneak into the playoffs. That argument held water — all nine of their wins came against non-playoff teams. They played six games against playoff teams, losing them all (their two other losses came against NYG and LAC). In other words, Philadelphia did not have a good team, as expected. They snuck into the playoffs because they were able to beat up on bad teams, not because of the merits of their own roster.

Now, some have used this point to argue that the Eagles' 2022 win total is inflated and that the value is therefore on the under. There's just one problem with that claim: the Eagles have an even easier schedule in 2022 than they did in 2021. For starters, none of the other teams in the NFC East are world-beaters. The Giants are entering a rebuild, the Commanders have a solid defense but a mediocre, Wentz-led offense, and the Cowboys lost multiple key pieces during the offseason. The Eagles will play each of those teams twice. I feel comfortable saying that Philly will have a good chance to split or better with all three.

Next, let's take a look at the other teams on the Eagles' schedule. They will play each AFC South team once — the Titans, Colts, Jaguars, and Texans. As I discussed, the Titans are poised to regress this season, making that a winnable game for the Eagles. The Colts are solid but unremarkable, and the Jaguars and Texans are both likely to be picking near the top of the draft once again. For Philadelphia, all four teams in this division are beatable — I see them winning two or three of these four at least.

The Eagles will also play each NFC North team once. The Packers and Vikings both project as playoff teams, but the Lions and Bears do not. Two wins out of a possible four seems like the most likely outcome for a capable but limited team like Philadelphia.

Finally, the Eagles round out their list of opponents with matchups against three other teams — the Steelers, Saints, and Cardinals. The Steelers have a bottom-tier quarterback room, the Cardinals' defense is set to massively regress, and the Saints are a fringe wildcard team.

Putting all of that together via my expected wins model, Philadelphia's opponents have an average expected win rate of just .461. That is the lowest of any team, meaning that the Eagles are projected to have the easiest schedule in the NFL this season.

2022 NFL Prediction - Philadelphia Eagles

An Upgraded Eagles Roster

Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles' front office entered the offseason with a clear plan: improve the roster, top to bottom, for 2022 while securing enough 2023 draft capital to trade up for a new quarterback (with a fresh rookie contract) if Jalen Hurts doesn't pan out.

Their execution of this plan was, in a word, flawless. First, they made a trade with the Saints that essentially allowed them to flip one of their 2022 mid-first rounders into a 2023 first, a 2024 second, and a 2022 third. Then, they pulled off the heist of the draft, trading that New Orleans third along with the 18th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans for wide receiver A.J. Brown. Brown is a certifiable star, having produced at an elite level on a per-route basis since 2020, but he has never received the requisite volume of targets to truly flourish. If the Eagles properly utilize his talents, Brown could unlock their offense in ways that their fans haven't witnessed in years.

Speaking of the draft, the Eagles made some selections of their own. In the first round, they grabbed Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis at 13th overall. Davis was considered by some to be the most talented player in the entire 2022 class, but he slipped to No. 13 due to positional value concerns (defensive tackles are generally replaceable). He may end up as an exception to that rule — he was an absolute force in college and hasn't missed a beat since training camp began.

In the third round, the Eagles doubled down on defense, adding another Georgia standout by the name of Nakobe Dean. Dean was projected as a late first/early second-rounder, but slipped down draft boards due to injury concerns. Those injury concerns have since been dismissed, meaning that the Eagles landed a high-end talent in the third round who may start from Week 1. That's a tidy piece of business, to say the least.

In free agency, the Eagles upgraded their starting roster on more than one front. They signed cornerback James Bradberry, who will form one of the better cornerback duos in football with Darius Slay. They also secured pass-rusher Haason Reddick, who logged 11 sacks on 18 quarterback hits with the Panthers in 2021. Reddick was a vital signing — the Eagles had a glaring weakness on the edge last season, and Reddick will look to alleviate that issue. His signing, combined with the fact that Brandon Graham is returning from injury, means that the Eagles could flip their pass-rushing unit from being one of the league's worst to an above-average group. Finally, Philadelphia signed linebacker Kyzir White, who had an underrated season with the Chargers in 2021. He and Nakobe Dean will look to form a fierce tackling duo in the middle of the Eagles' defense.

Final Thoughts on Philadelphia's 2022 Potential

We haven't yet addressed the elephant in the room: Jalen Hurts. Hurts had a solid if unspectacular 2021 season, but his inconsistencies as a passer may limit this team's upside. Still, I'm relatively bullish on this offense — they have the best offensive line in the league, and they added an outstanding talent in A.J. Brown to help carry the pass-catching load. Beyond him, wide receiver DeVonta Smith had an excellent rookie season that flew somewhat under the radar, while Dallas Goedert remains one of the league's better tight ends. Hurts also offers a fair bit of value on the ground — opposing defenses have to respect the possibility that he can break a long run at any time.

The other reason that I'm not overly worried about Hurts as far as Philly's win total is concerned is that, for all of his faults, he will be the better quarterback in a large share of his games this season. The Eagles' opponent list includes WAS x2, NYG x2, PIT, IND, HOU, JAX, CHI, DET, and NO. As it stands (pending a breakout year from Trevor Lawrence and/or Justin Fields), I would take Hurts over the quarterback of every one of those teams except maybe the Saints (Jameis Winston). In other words, I'm comfortable saying that the Eagles will not have a distinct disadvantage at QB in the majority of their games. When you then factor in the advantages that the Eagles hold over many teams at other positions, the picture becomes clearer still.

I'm not arguing that the 2022 Eagles will compete for a Super Bowl. It is remarkably difficult to win a championship in this sport without a franchise quarterback leading the way, and I don't see Jalen Hurts as a quarterback of that tier. That being said, I do think that the Eagles should be the narrow favorites to win the NFC East, and I also think that they will cash the over on their win total. It's currently set at over/under 9.5 wins, but I opted to take an alternate total at plus-money.

2022 NFL Prediction - Philadelphia Eagles Pick

Pick: Philadelphia Eagles O10.5 Wins (+180) (Bet $100 to win $180)

*Odds available at Caesars at time of publishing*

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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