A closer look at Eagles non-divisional 2017 opponents: Home Edition

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2016 has come and gone and with a record of 7-9 some would say that the Philadelphia Eagles were an underachieving team. It can be argued that the team were never destined for playoffs in their first year under Pederson. So winning 7 games, including one’s against playoff teams the Pittsburg Steelers, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas cowboys could be considered quite impressive.

Whatever side of the coin you believe to be true, one fact remains. The NFC East is from top to bottom filled with potential powerhouses. From the emergence of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas, to the surging defense of the New York Giants and a high-flying offense in Washington. The East seems to be back amongst the best in the NFL.

2016 saw the return of the home field advantage for the Eagles (6-2) and with the addition of some fresh faces, could be even better this year. Facing the NFC West and the AFC West, two divisions full of talent, along with the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears, the Birds’ have their hands full. Here’s a closer look at the opponents who will be traveling to the Linc next season.

 

San Francisco 49ers 
2016 record: 2-14

Currently looking for their 3rd head coach in as many years since Jim Harbaugh opted for greener pastures in Ann Arbor, one would say the 49ers are in a transitional period. Thought to be at the ground floor of a rebuild this year, the Niners parted ways with Chip Kelly and are yet to take their first steps on an almighty climb.

They will need to figure out the quarterback position sooner rather than later. The good news is that they have pieces in place. The offensive line is better than average across the board and they seem to have a few weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Tight ends Vance McDonald, and Garrett Celek (younger brother of Brent Celek), a tough, but often injured RB in Carlos Hyde, and deep threat Torrey Smith tick the boxes for the front office..but there’s no guarantee that things will stay that way.

Defensively, they have a few players to game plan for. Safety, Eric Reid has at times been a playmaker, and young players like Jimmie Ward, Tramaine Brock, rookie Rashard Robinson, Arik Armstead, and 1st round pick Deforest Buckner serve as a glimmer of hope.

Last season obviously did not go as planned for Jed York and company. But the San Francisco 49ers organization has always been a proud one. So it is only a matter of time until they are back on top again.

 

Arizona Cardinals:
2016 record: 7-8-1 

Led by 2-time NFL head coach of the year (2012, 2014) Bruce Arians and coming off of a 2015 NFC West championship, expectations were high in Arizona. So to say the Cardinals season was a huge disappointment could be putting it mildly. Quarterback Carson Palmer didn’t seem to have the same magic he did during the previous two seasons and the defense that had been so dominating didn’t seem to have it either.

Still, with injuries mounting up and the team a shell of its 2015 form, the Cardinals would collect big wins against divisional rival Seattle Seahawks and a blow out victory over the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So the talent, and potential to be a dangerous team had showed its face a few times last season.

Going into 2017, they will need to start grooming Palmer’s replacement. With former 1st round pick Michael Floyd now in New England; and potential Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald in the twilight of his career, the need to add to their dwindling receiving core has jumped to the top of their to-do list. They have the potential to keep defenses honest against their stout running game (David Johnson) and along with a dominant defense, the 2017 Cardinals have a chance to run the west again.

 

Chicago Bears:
2016 record: 3-13

2016 was a tough one for the Bears. Starting off slow with three straight losses, the Bears lost Jay Cutler to injury in a week 2 bashing by the Philadelphia Eagles. This Set the tone for a rocky year, as it led to him sitting and former Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley eventually taking the reins.

If you put the bad season aside, the Bears have talent. They are young on defense and have pieces that look the part. If pending free-agent Alshon Jeffery is retained, they will have a true number one threat to go along with fifth round steal RB Jordan Howard. Whom, if it wasn’t for Ezekiel Elliott’s amazing season, has his own argument for Rookie Of The Year.

Owner Virginia Halas McCaskey will do everything in her power to make sure her city has a team to be proud of once again, but it won’t be an easy road. The Eagles will look to shatter hopes once again when they meet in 2017.

 

Oakland Raiders:
2016 record: 12-4

The question in Oakland right now isn’t “Are we moving to Vegas ?” It’s, ” If Derek Carr doesn’t get hurt, are we heading to the AFC Championship?”. Opinion’s aside, the 2016 Oakland Raiders were dangerous. With weapons on the outside like, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Clive Walford, Carr was a happy man having an MVP campaign of his own.

The Raiders were the popular pick for the new up-and-coming team in the NFL and for good reason. With defenders Khalil Mack, and newly signed Bruce Irvin wreaking havoc on opposing QB’s, the Raider’s seemed to take a page out of division rival Denver Broncos book and invested heavy in their defense. Bringing in CB Sean Smith and Safety Reggie nelson to help man the defensive backfield, the Raiders made it clear they are a team that will be around for a while.

Question’s about Carr’s health will be on the tip of every Raider fans tongue. What to do at RB, with starter Latavius Murray hitting free-agency will also be something Head coach Jack Del-Rio needs answered. All-in-all, the expectation’s of the Oakland Raiders are sky high going into 2017.

 

Denver Broncos:
2016 record: 9-7

Fresh off a Super bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos were flying high. Even with the retirement of Peyton Manning and no true heir to the throne, they were still able to turn heads. The national consensus was they did it with defense last year, so they can do it again.  That was the case early on as 2nd year QB Trevor Siemian beat out first round draft pick Paxton Lynch and did enough to keep the team a float, while it was the Defense that pushed them to safety.

Needless to say things unraveled quickly. Siemian started to struggle down the stretch , as so their defense. Public altercations and missed assignments on field left much to be desired of the 2015’s top defense. Despite these flaws, the Broncos were competitive in every game and were in the playoff hunt until a few weeks left in the season.

Now, with a fresh face heading the team (Vance Joseph) he will need to figure out who will quarterback the team. He still has a defense he can lean on in tight situations, not to mention offensive weapons that can change a game on any play. With a bevy of young talent across the board including players like Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Demaryius  Thomas, Chris harris, Emmanuel Sanders and Derek Wolfe, the 2017 Denver broncos will be a safe bet as one of the top teams in the AFC.

 

 

 

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