2021 NFL Betting and Fantasy Team Preview: Philadelphia Eagles
Now with a clean slate following the Carson Wentz era, the Eagles will look to develop Jalen Hurts behind what they hope will be far better offensive line play than they had in 2020. Doug Pederson was shipped out of town at the end of the season and the Eagles replaced him with Colts assistant Nick Sirianni, who they hope can help spark an offense that struggled mightily to move the ball down the field last year. While they did move down in the draft to acquire another first rounder next year, Philadelphia was still able to add a blue-chip receiver in Devonta Smith who will ideally grow alongside Hurts in an emerging offense. An improvement on their 4-11-1 season seems very possible, but a lot of that will be determined by whether or not Hurts takes the next step forward behind a healthy offensive line.
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Philadelphia Eagles Team Betting Preview
Win Total (over): 6.5 (-140)
Games Favored: 2
Games as a TD Favorite: 0
Games as a TD Underdog: 2
The Eagles are one of the tougher teams to handicap this year. Opinions on Hurts’ ability as an NFL quarterback vary wildly, and he’ll be depending on an aging offensive line with injury histories to stay on the field. Zach Ertz is surprisingly still with the team and his presence gives Hurts two strong weapons at the TE spot, but question marks still loom over the WR position. Can an undersized Smith live up to his draft position early in his career? Will Jalen Reagor show any consistency? Is Travis Fulgham a dependable weapon? With multiple first round picks next year, the success of this offense likely has a huge bearing on whether or not Hurts lasts as a starter in Philly beyond this year.
A 6.5 win total is low – remember we have 17 games this season – but it is a very tough number to argue with, even in what will likely once again be the poorest division in football. They are expected to be favorites in just two games, home matchups with the Giants and Chargers. Even as an Eagles fan, I’m not bullish enough to pull the trigger on their over and the state of this division makes me hesitant to play the under. Something I noticed about the Eagles schedule was that they play a road game in Dallas in Week 3 and then do not play another divisional matchup until Week 12. While the Philly offensive line should enter the season healthy, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks are both in their mid 30s and couldn’t stay on the field last season while Lane Johnson was constantly in and out of the lineup. I don’t trust this group to stay healthy through the season, and would expect the tail end of the year to be particularly tough on Hurts in terms of protection. The Eagles divisional win total – games against divisional opponents – sits at 2.5, with the under priced at +100. They should be underdogs in Dallas in Week 3, and then would have to win three divisional games at the tail end of the year to topple that under.
Pick – Eagles Divisional Wins Under 2.5 (+100)
Philadelphia Eagles Team Projections Preview
Projected Offense Rank: 28
Projected Rush Offense Rating: Average
Projected Pass Offense Rating: Below Average
Projected Points Earned: 375 (Rank 27)
Projected Difficult Rush Defenses Faced: 7
Projected Soft Rush Defenses Faced: 6
Projected Difficult Pass Defenses Faced: 5
Projected Soft Pass Defenses Faced: 7
Team Defense Rank: 22
Projected Rush Defense Rating: Average
Projected Pass Defense Rating: Below Average
Projected Points Allowed: 431 (Rank 6)
It’s hard to put too much stock into 2020 numbers when trying to analyze this team for 2021. Hurts and Wentz split time, the line play was horrific, and there was too much lineup turnover. The Birds are expected to have the 28th ranked offense in the league – not great. They are projected to be particularly poor in the passing game, but I do expect them to be better than people think in that area. If the offense does struggle, it’ll likely carry over some to the defensive side of the ball, where Philly is expected to be below average as well. It’s not going to take a dominant effort on both sides of the ball to get things done in the NFC East, so even a mild improvement on these projections could have the Eagles in the hunt at the end of the year.
If the offense does improve, it won’t be Hurts doing all of the heavy lifting. Miles Sanders still looks to have a lot left in the tank and the addition of Kenny Gainwell in the draft gives the Eagles another dynamic back that can contribute via the air. The early development of Devonta Smith will play an important role and if he’s able to emerge, hopefully the pressure lifted off of Jalen Reagor will allow him to settle in as a dependable weapon. Zach Ertz wasn’t expected to be with the team following last season, but he’s still in an Eagles uniform and if it stays that way, he won’t need to do a ton to outproduce a pedestrian 2020 season. Regardless, it should still be Dallas Goedert atop the target count among Philly TEs.
The Eagles did add some defensive help in the offseason – safety Anthony Harris and linebacker Eric Wilson being the biggest names – and via the draft, where they spent six selections on that side of the ball. Steven Nelson was brought in to help solidify the other side of the field opposite Darius Slay at corner, but the team did little else in free agency to add depth defensively.
Philadelphia Eagles Fantasy Football Preview
Noteworthy Depth Chart
QB: Jalen Hurts – Underdog Rank: QB6 (ADP QB8)
RB: Miles Sanders – Underdog Rank: RB18 (ADP RB19)
RB: Kenneth Gainwell – Underdog Rank: RB71 (ADP RB59)
WR: DeVonta Smith – Underdog Rank: WR42 (ADP WR32)
WR: Jalen Reagor – Underdog Rank: WR59 (ADP WR61)
WR: Travis Fulgham – Underdog Rank: WR89 (ADP WR95)
TE: Dallas Goedert – Underdog Rank: TE8 (ADP TE7)
What’s New?: Devonta Smith, Kenny Gainwell
The Eagles skill position players remain fairly intact from last season. Nothing really changed at tight end or running back, although the addition of Gainwell gives the Eagles something they desperately needed – someone other than Sanders who can catch the ball out of the backfield. It’s unlikely he plays much of a role early on, especially given that Boston Scott still figures to eat into some of the passing down work. Smith on the other hand should be involved from the get go. He should lead Eagles receivers in targets – the team has a ton invested in him and he already has a relationship with Hurts. The lack of talent at the position also helps his cause in that regard. Tight ends and backs are still expected to play integral roles in this passing game, but it won’t be even mildly surprising if Smith leads the team in targets, catches and/or yards at the end of the season if he stays healthy. His current frame may make that a bit more of a challenge. Smith isn’t projected to be a top 40 WR for fantasy purposes, so even leading this team in receiving may not make him a viable fantasy play on a regular basis.
What’s Uncertain?: Can the offensive line stay healthy? Is Hurts enough of a passer to support multiple pass-catchers on a regular basis? Will he run as often? Will Quez Watkins be able to hold down a starting job?
We’ve already touched on how fragile the offensive line is, and their success (or lack thereof) clearly goes a long way in determining the success of this offense. We have not seen a full season of Hurts, and it’s probably worth keeping in mind that he entered last year with limited offseason preparation and no expectation that he’d be playing meaningful snaps if Carson Wentz was healthy. He entered this offseason working with the starters and that rapport should make things easier when the games count. Hurts was an above average fantasy QB as a starter, but a lot of his damage was done with his legs. That figures to remain steady this year, but improved offensive line play and a year under his belt may lead to the new coaching staff wanting to keep him upright more often. With Smith now in the fold, it’s not clear if he’ll provide enough volume as a passer to support multiple pass-catchers regularly. While Smith should lead the receivers in targets, Reagor will command looks out of the slot while Quez Watkins operates on the outside as a deep threat. Travis Fulgham isn’t currently projected to start, but he also could emerge again as an option on the outside that provides size. John Hightower would also be a beneficiary if Watkins struggles or gets hurt.
Top Fantasy Play(s): Jalen Hurts, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, Devonta Smith