The oddsmakers post the Eagles over/under at eight this season. Ahh, what does Vegas know? Here’s a better way to predict how many they’ll win. For each of these 16 questions, tally a “yes” answer as an Eagles victory in 2017, a “no” as a loss:
1. Carson Wentz resembled a Hall of Famer his first four games last season (7 TDs, 1 INT), and, well, a rookie after that (9 TDs, 13 INTs). To be fair, he had inept receivers and likely developed a tired arm throwing 607 passes. Now he’s rested, ready and surrounded by talent. Will Wentz produce that breakout sophomore season like Brady, Roethlisberger (and Kaepernick) before him?
2. Speaking of the supporting cast, newcomers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are coming off disappointing seasons. But each has posted 1,000-yard, 10-TD years in the past. Put together, can we count on them for, say, 1800 yards and 15 TDs?
3. The narrative all training camp is that WR Nelson Agholor has brimming confidence and Stickum hands in the slot. You buying?
4. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Tight end Zach Ertz is going make the Pro Bowl. OK, roll your eyes. But the guy’s had four solid seasons, as long as you don’t include breaking tackles or getting into the end zone. This is really his breakout year, right?
5. The last time the Eagles brought in a bell cow running back, he turned out to be the uproductive waste of money that was DeMarco Murray. Let’s be honest, LeGarrette Blount revived those memories this summer. But spread the carries among Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Can the Eagles have a top-10 rushing game in 2017?
6. Do you agree that future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters has one more solid season in him?
7. All of the offensive optimism only works Peters’ partners on the line protect Wentz and bust open holes for the backs. Lane Johnson, Barrett Brooks, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo won’t get confused for the famed “Hogs” or the “Electric Company.” But are they sturdy enough to get the job done?
8. Just 14 NFL QBs started all 16 games last season, which means there’s better-than-even odds we’ll see Nick Foles. Can he hold down the fort for a few weeks?
9. The Cowboys secondary was decimated this off-season. The Giants blockers cannot protect aging Eli Manning. Washington is a brutal soap opera (football as well as politics). Nothing to worry about in the NFC East, right?
10. First-round pick Derek Barnett impressed with three sacks in the preseason. The franchise rookie record is 9.5 sacks by Corey Simon. Will Barnett surpass that?
11. Fletcher Cox had a disappointing 2016 season. The excuse was that he always faced double-team blocks. Now he’s got Barnett, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and newcomers Chris Long and Tim Jernigan around him. Will Cox show he’s worth that $63 million contract he signed a year ago?
12. Google “Jordan Hicks injury” and you get 415,000 results. Hell, he broke his hand on his honeymoon this summer. When healthy, Hicks resembles an All-Pro. Can we count on him playing at least 14 of the 16 games?
13. Mychal Kendricks played just 26 percent of the Eagles defensive snaps last season, falling out of favor with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Then he asked to be traded. But Kendricks was the defensive MVP this preseason (granted, a dubious title) producing repeated splash plays. Will he be an important part of the scheme?
14. The list of cornerbacks who’ve failed for the Eagles is too long for this article. I’ll just ask: Does Ronald Darby end that string of misery?
15. Caleb Sturgis?
16. The second-most important character to Wentz here is second-year coach Doug Pederson. Do you have faith he can improve on his strengths (creative game plans, aggressive approach) and curtail his weaknesses (clock management, thinking on his feet)?
What’s your count? I go “yes” on 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12 and 14, which means I forecast a 9-7 season. Hmm, if the answer to Question 16 turns into a “yes,” maybe the Eagles wind up in the playoffs.