Going into the 2014 NFL regular season, the Dallas Cowboys biggest rivals are considered to be the Philadelphia Eagles. Last season, under new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles soared through the NFL, ending the year at 10-6 and capturing a playoff berth. This was especially surprising considering Philly finished the 2012 season with a record of 4-12.
But one longtime NFL expert believes the Eagles will regress in 2014, giving the Cowboys yet another opportunity to win the NFC East crown. In a recent article published by Gil Brandt, NFL.com’s Media senior analyst and former Dallas executive for 28 years, the 81-year old thinks the Bird’s offseason losses and young quarterback will cause this team to take a step or two back this upcoming season.
“Can Nick Foles have another season like he did in 2013, when he threw 27 touchdowns passes and just two interceptions? Unfortunately, I think the laws of gravity are against the young signal-caller, who will, of course, be without playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson. What will Philly’s much-lauded offense be able to accomplish without Jackson, who was released in March, in the fold? I think you’ll see opposing defenses stopping this vaunted attack much more effectively than they did last season.”
Brandt went on to mention Kelly’s excellent translation from the college game to the NFL last season and the additions of safety Malcolm Jenkins and running back Darren Sproles as positive offseason moves. Still, you have to consider the fact Kelly’s unusual play-calling style will be heavily dissected by every NFL defensive coordinator. The Eagles opponents, including the Cowboys, will have a much better plan stopping what some consider to be the most innovative offense in the league.
You can be certain that the Cowboys new defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, will have something special planned to stop this high-powered offense that the team will face twice this season. In fact, the Eagles touted young quarterback, Nick Foles, had his worst game as a professional against our Dallas defense last year. In their Week Seven matchup, Foles threw for a mere 80 yards on 11 of 29 passes in three quarters. After suffering a concussion late in the third, Foles was replaced by rookie quarterback Matt Barkley. The first year player went on to throw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, sealing the Cowboys 17-3 blowout victory in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, the Eagles got their revenge by defeating the Cowboys for the NFC East crown in Week 17, denying Dallas a post season appearance for the fourth straight year in a row. Despite his prediction for the Eagles 2014 regression, Brandt still thinks the Birds might have enough gas to get themselves into the playoffs once again.
“Here’s an interesting wrinkle to consider: Since 1989, teams that have improved their record by five or more wins from one season to the next have tended to regress a bit going forward, suffering, on average, 2.4 additional losses in the follow-up campaign…If that holds true, we can expect the Eagles to drop to eight wins — though I think they have a good shot to buck this particular trend and land a postseason berth.”
Despite this claim, I think we can all agree that the NFC East race is wide open in 2014. And the Cowboys have been knocking on the door for the past three seasons straight. But is this the year Dallas finally walks through it?