September 08, 2020
It may look a little different — there won't be any fans in the stands and the players on the opposing sideline won't have a team name on their jerseys — but Eagles football will officially return on Sunday when the Birds travel down to Maryland to face Washington in their first-ever game as simply, "Football Team."
It's been a strange offseason, one that featured precisely zero preseason action and was even further limited in practice time due to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to ravage the nation. But, after some big changes at key positions over the summer, a big season awaits the Eagles, as Carson Wentz and the Birds have much to prove after an early playoff exit back in January.
Each week throughout the season, we'll provide some unique over/unders for the Birds' upcoming matchup, but before getting into the game-specific numbers, we figured it was as good a time as any to take one last step back and look at the big picture. Like, what are the expectations oddsmakers have set for some of the Eagles' biggest names, and will they surpass them or ultimately come up short?
With that in mind, we've rounded up a handful of Eagles season over/unders from TheLines.com and will provide some analysis of each to help you get ready for the 2020 season. Let's get to it...
As we mentioned in a recent What They're Saying, people are high on Miles Sanders in Year 2. Like, really high. Over at The Athletic, Sheil Kapadia's bold prediction about the Eagles was that the Penn State product would total over 2,000 yards on offense this season for the Birds. That certainly makes us think Sanders is capable of hitting the over here — as was the success he found after Jordan Howard went down with a shoulder injury midway through last season.
Sheil is hardly alone in his belief that this could be a breakout year for the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year finalist. There's been talk all offseason about Sanders being treated like a team's feature back, a departure from the Eagles' recent strategy of running-back-by-committee that they've employed since Doug Pederson arrived. That talk carried over into training camp, where it became obvious that the team was planning on using Sanders in a variety of different ways, lining him up all over the field and looking to take advantage of the receiving skills he showed last year.
That number above comes from Bet Rivers, which has Sanders' rushing total projected to be 1,000.5 yards, or roughly 62.5 per game. That rushing total, given Pederson affinity for the passing game, might actually be tougher to reach than the projected total of 1,375.5, especially when you consider Sanders was third on the team with just over 500 receiving yards in his rookie year.
If he's able to match that number in Year 2, which he should given his involvement in the offense should only increase, he'd only need to get 876 yards on the ground to hit the over here. Sanders finished with 818 rushing yards last season... and 1,327 total yards from scrimmage, just shy of his projected number for this season. And, just like last season after Howard went down, there aren't any big mouths to feed behind him on the depth chart. In his seven straight starts to end the season, Sanders carried the ball 103 times for 482 yards (4.68 YPA), which projects out to 1,102 yards over a 16-game seasons.
Sanders missed a lot of training camp with a lower body injury, but he's expected to be ready to go on Sunday. If he can manage to stay healthy for the entire season, there's absolutely no reason to believe he can't top his 2019 totals — and this projected total for 2020. If he starts all 16 games this season, look for the 23-year-old running back to finish with somewhere around 600 receiving yards and 1,000 rushing yards. And even that might be conservative.
The Eagles got some new weapons for their quarterback this offseason, like first-round pick Jalen Reagor. They'll also be getting a healthy DeSean Jackson back (for now, at least) and hope to be getting Alshon Jeffery back before too long. But is it really enough? Especially since he'll be playing behind an offensive line that has as many question marks as it's had at any point during his previous four years with the team.
At first glance, this number, which is the same at both FanDuel and Bet Rivers, may look way too low for Wentz, as it equates to just 1.72 TDs per game. It certainly feels like the Eagles QB has been putting up better numbers than that throughout his career. Not so fast.
In fact, Wentz has only thrown more than 27 touchdowns in a season once in his career — during his MVP-caliber season in 2017 that was cut short due to injury.
Sure, he's only started 16 games twice in his four-year career, but he didn't top 27 TDs in either season. And, yes, one of those seasons was his rookie year, but again, that's part of the concern here. Wentz has struggled to play a full season ever since, and we'll all be waiting with bated breath this year to find out if a healthy 2019 regular season was the new rule, or simply an outlier exception.
The expected total for Wentz isn't all that out of line with his career numbers (1.73 TDs per game) and he's averaged 28 TDs per 16 games played, so this one may come down to whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season. And the state of the offensive line, as well as the fact that Wentz was already forced to miss time during camp with a hamstring injury, isn't inspiring a ton of confidence.
If the Eagles are able to stretch the field on offense more this season after slow trudge through 2019, perhaps Wentz recaptures some of the magic he found during the 2017 season — Wentz was a force in the red zone but the Eagles lacked those long TDs that made their offense so explosive back in their Super Bowl season. Unfortunately, we think Wentz comes up just short of this total, finishing with something like 25 or 26 touchdowns.
Speaking of the Eagles stretching the field, the return of Jackson should help with that. But so will the addition of Reagor... once he's healthy, this is.
Wentz and Reagor seemed to be building a nice rapport during training camp before the first-round pick went down with a lower-body injury that will keep him sidelined until at least Week 2 and possibly longer. With an already abbreviated offseason, that's not exactly the situation you want for your rookie wideout, but he seemed ready to contribute on offense before he went down, and should be plugged right back into a starting spot once he returns.
But is surpassing 650 yards too much to ask of the rookie? Probably not, considering there were six rookie wideouts in 2019 who finished with more than 650 receiving yards. And Reagor has the skills to do that this season. Some of it comes down to simply having enough opportunities, which could be tough in a passing game that also heavily features the tight ends and running backs. But the Eagles like throwing the ball, and that should favor Reagor.
If he can stay healthy, especially if some of the other Eagles wideouts can't, he shouldn't have a ton of trouble eclipsing this number, which averages out to 43.4 yards per game (over 15 games, if we assume he's going to miss the opener). Should he miss another, he'd only need to average 46.5 yards over 14 games.
This is definitely doable for the rookie.
This is the consensus line from TheLines.com, with FanDuel and Bet Rivers being split on how many TDs Ertz finishes with this season. The former has Ertz' total at 7.5 TDs while the latter has it at just 6.5 TDs. And it's not hard to see how they came up with these numbers.
For all the targets and receptions that the Eagles star tight end gets, he's never really put together eye-popping numbers when it comes to receiving touchdowns. In fact, he's only ever surpassed six touchdowns in a season twice, in back-to-back years in 2017-18. Last season, Ertz finished with just six touchdowns and his lowest catch percentage since 2014, his second in the league.
However, the 29-year-old tight end has been one of the Eagles most consistent players in recent years, and has played in at least 14 games in each of his seven NFL seasons. Over the last three seasons, Ertz has been selected to three straight Pro Bowls and has averaged eight touchdowns per 16 games. Sure, Dallas Goedert is continuing to develop and is an ever-growing threat to vulture some TDs away from his teammate, but there's no questioning the relationship between Wentz and Ertz. And with Ertz currently trying to get a new deal from the Eagles, there could be some added incentive for his quarterback buddy to look his way this season. Of course, there was already plenty of reason for Wentz to be looking his way...
After two straight seasons of 9-7 football, both of which ended with the Eagles in the playoffs, FanDuel currently has the Eagles projected to win 9.5 games this season, while Bet Rivers has them with a somewhat surprising total of 10.5. But we're going to go with the smaller number here, and that's not a cop out.
Here's why: I'm still taking the under.
This season is going to be a crapshoot, and no matter what all experts (including the players and league) try to tell you, the lack of fans is going to have a huge impact on the Eagles this season. They were one of the teams in football that had a true home-field advantage in the past, and will not be having one this year as fans are still not permitted inside of The Linc.
Beyond that, there's just so much unknown about this team with no preseason games and an abbreviated window in which training camp was open to the public. It's hard to get a read, so I can only go with what I've seen on paper and what's been reported by the beat writers. And, unfortunately, this team doesn't seem any better than the one that limped its way to nine wins a season ago. Of course, I'll still probably wind up taking the Eagles every week in our staff picks (which return on Thursday) because I'm a sucker. But let's get this one on the record before it gets too late...
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