Photo: Karl Schultz, used via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The Eagles are back, which means Quick Picks are back!
Each week, defending champion Joe and John, who is not the defending champion, will theoretically give some insight into the Eagles’ upcoming matchup before predicting how the game will unfold. In practice, John will most likely make some thoughtful points while Joe will just crack jokes and somehow only miss the final score by a field goal.
The season opener is Sunday, with the Birds headed to the A-T-L to take on the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As the reigning champion – the frequent mention of which should clue you in on who writes the intros to these posts – Joe will go first; moving forward, the previous week’s winner will have the honor.
Joe: It’s me who writes the intros, in case that wasn’t clear.
We’re nothing if not honest here at Frenetics HQ, so I’ll ‘fess up: I saw less of the Eagles preseason than you saw of Ben Simmons shooting three-pointers this season. And the Eagles’ starters barely saw more of it than I did.
The Eagles were bad last season. They’ve made some additions to the team that should improve them, the biggest one being wide receiver DeVonta Smith. “Regression to the mean” is often understood as a negative thing, but you can have positive regression as well; for instance, if you dealt with an abnormally preposterous amount of injuries in 2020, you’ll likely have fewer in 2021 simply due to regression to the mean. I expect the Eagles to be healthier this season, in large part because it would be nearly impossible for them not to be.
Unfortunately, the two biggest question marks are the head coach and the quarterback. Nick Sirianni’s hiring is reminiscent of Doug Pederson’s in a lot of ways, but I don’t know that the Eagles can strike gold twice in five years in that regard. Jalen Hurts is…fine? Nothing I saw last season made me think he’s anything special. The entirety of this season should be dedicated solely to figuring out if he’s The Guy moving forward, and if Sirianni is The Coach. I’m not getting my hopes up.
As such, I expect this to be a rough season; on this week’s pod, I predicted seven wins for the Eagles, which, to be fair, could win them the NFC East. To that end, don’t expect me to pick a lot of victories this season.
::Stephen A. Smith voice:: HOWEVER!
Doesn’t this just feel like a game that a team like the Eagles goes out on the road and wins? The Falcons aren’t any good either, and also have a new coach. They have a better quarterback, but what does Matt Ryan have left in the tank? Can he still lead a winning team? Will he be traded next offseason, a la Matthew Stafford? Should he probably have been traded this past offseason? I don’t know, I don’t know, maybe, and probably.
I don’t think the Eagles win a lot of games this year, but if ever there was a good opportunity to start off what is expected to be a rebuilding year with a new coach and a young quarterback in a strong manner – think 2016 against Cleveland – this is it. I think the offenses play to a standstill for the most part, but the Eagles defense will win the turnover battle to give Jake Elliott some short field goal attempts, and the Birds will fly out of Megatron’s Butthole with a win. Eagles 23, Falcons 17.
Offensive Standout: Miles Sanders
Defensive Standout: Darius Slay
John: This is the Eagles’ chance (possibly their only one) to steal an early win. Despite needing reliability from a young quarterback and coach in their first road game together, they’ll beat a rebuilding Falcons team in their season opener.
Rookie QBs tend to rely on the tight end, so look for Zach Ertz to be the safety valve for Jalen Hurts. In theory, the Eagles should rely on the run and let their young receivers grow. In reality? Nick Sirianni probably didn’t get the job by diagramming an off-tackle sweep on a napkin.
DeVonta Smith will make an impact in his first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as a pro. In his last game in the venue, he torched Florida’s defense to the tune of 184 yards and two touchdowns last December.
On the flip side, the Eagles’ defensive line will establish its presence early. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargarve will be a dynamic duo on the inside. Eagles 28, Falcons 20.
Offensive Standout: Zach Ertz
Defensive Standout: Fletcher Cox