Today's absurd prediction:
Donovan McNabb actually makes it through a season.
For the first time in his career, Donovan McNabb is fighting to keep his starting job. He's never had to deal with his home fans clamoring for a new starter. The Eagles have never before done anything to indicate that his future with the club is in jeopardy. And here they are, having drafted Kevin Kolb, who is not the kind of guy you spend a pick on to keep as an insurance policy. It'll be interesting to see how McNabb handles this as the season goes on.
Here's the breakdown for the Philadelphia Eagles:
Coaching Changes: N/A
Like in Washington, no change is good change. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg returns in his fourth year with the team, his second as coordinator. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has worked with Andy Reid since 1999. That's good continuity, and is certainly a factor in the Eagles' sustained dominance in the NFC East. The team knows what they're in for, the coaches know how each of the others work, and this gives them a huge edge.
Free Agency: C
Budget constraints forced some changes in Philadelphia, and they lost some players who will be missed. Jeff Garcia wanted one last starting job, understandably. Stallworth got an offer to play with Tom Brady, which is hard to turn down (he didn't know Randy Moss would be there soon at the time). Safety Michael Lewis, defensive tackle Darwin Walker, and linebacker Shawn Barber are also gone, and will be missed. But the Eagles have lost starters on defense before, and seem to survive. They brought in Montae Reagor and Takeo Spikes, which should help alleviate the losses of Walker and Barber. Kevin Curtis was picked up, and is expected to become the #1 receiver. Kelly Holcomb became part of the three-man fight to take over in case of McNabb injury. So it appears that no positions were upgraded in free agency, but all the losses were patched at a slight downgrade.
This isn't my point originally; I believe I heard it from Dr. Z first. But it's worth mentioning. The Eagles gave up their first round pick in a trade that didn't hurt them, per se, but it was way too good for Dallas. The Cowboys traded out of the first round to take advantage of the Browns' desperate moves to get Brady Quinn, and traded right back in, three picks down, to get the guy they wanted anyway at a lower price tag. I also don't see why they drafted two running backs, when they already have Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, Ryan Moats, and Thomas Tapeh.
The Eagles should enjoy beating up on the NFC North - and, like Washington, Chicago is a home game, which makes it that much easier. The playoff stretch will be rough, with road games against New England, Dallas, and New Orleans in the final six weeks as well as a home match vs. Seattle. But I expect that going into those games, they'll have one of the best records in the league, and winning one of those, along with beating the Giants and Bills at home should be enough to clinch the division as well as a first round bye.
Many are asking "Who is McNabb going to throw to?" They contend that Kevin Curtis is not a good #1 option at receiver. And they're right. But I've always liked Reggie Brown, and I think he is primed to be a classic third-year breakout receiver. By the end of training camp, he'll be their go-to guy. And he and Curtis should be enough, with spot help from Hank Baskett & co., especially with Westbrook and tight end L.J. Smith as solid targets as well. The line has some depth, with sophomores Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gilles hopefully ready to see more playing time. The defense might not be as dominating as in years past, but it will remain solid. And returning to the prediction above, I think that McNabb is going to protect himself a little more this year. He knows he may well be auditioning for work elsewhere, and can't afford to miss time. And with the team drafting his potential replacement, he might not be as inclined to sacrifice himself anymore. He's too much of a competitor to have a completely me-first attitude-he'll demand wins-but at the same time he'll take care of his body.
The Record: 11-5
Their grades aren't great, but that will have more to do with their future than what happens this season. The Eagles, particularly McNabb, consistently play better against the people they've faced more often. They tend to win the division games, and that's why they tend to win the division. It's a make-or-break season for their quarterback, and McNabb will not be broken.