The Philadelphia Eagles held a fourth quarter lead in the Super Bowl and tied the game with 5:15 remaining, but if the last 20 years of divisional parity are any indication then the Eagles might have a difficult time even winning the NFC East next season. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Eagles 38-35 on Sunday to become Super Bowl champions for the second time in the last four years and many are praising Philadelphia as “just getting started” with quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Need look no further than the 2022 Los Angeles Rams to see that there are no guarantees in life or football.
Early bets for the 2024 Super Bowl have the San Francisco 49ers as the favorites to come out of the NFC, followed by the Eagles, Cowboys, and shockingly, the Lions. Then there’s a tie between the Rams, Packers, and Giants at +3500.
The AFC teams are of course led by the Chiefs, who have the best odds at +550, followed by the Bills, Bengals, Chargers, Jaguars, and then the Dolphins, Jets, and Ravens are in that tie with the Rams at +3500.
It may seem like the L.A. Rams are a unique case to go from Super Bowl champions to long shots, but three of the last four, including the Bucs and Patriots, are ranked even lower: Both are tied at 19th-best odds at +5000 and both dealt with the loss of Tom Brady in losing high expectations.
Of course, the Broncos also fell off after the 2015 Super Bowl win, the Panthers fell off after their 2015 Super Bowl loss, and the Falcons fell off after their 2016 Super Bowl loss, while the Eagles and Rams both had to rebuild after Super Bowl appearances in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The Seahawks haven’t even been back to the conference championship game since Russell Wilson’s game-ending Super Bowl interception in 2014. And the previous four Super Bowl winners to Seattle’s win in 2013—the Ravens, Giants, Packers, and Saints—haven’t been back either.
So why is it safer to bet on Patrick Mahomes making it back next year than Hurts? There’s been a lot of “Jalen Hurts”’s but only one “Patrick Mahomes” and that consistency of five straight AFC Championships and three of four Super Bowls is something not seen outside of Brady. Not since the Eagles in 2003-2004 has an NFC East team even won the division two years in a row, so first Philadelphia needs to prove they can hold off the Cowboys, Giants, and Commanders before thinking about getting back to the Super Bowl.
The Rams, now with much lower expectations and the core of a championship roster mostly still in tact, might have better than expected odds to get further than the Eagles next season.
First off, the Eagles have to rectify a difficult cap situation. Three of their free agents—Javon Hargrave, Isaac Seumalo, and James Bradberry—are accounting for $24.5 million against the cap in void year money even though they aren’t on the roster. Other free agents include Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Miles Sanders, Gardner Minshew, Boston Scott, Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph, Zach Pascal, Marcus Epps, and Andre Dillard, but Philadelphia doesn’t even have enough cap space right now ($8.3 million) to sign their rookie draft picks. They will again have to start pushing money down the line and the Eagles miraculously won the NFC this season despite having over $60 million in dead money against the cap.
And yet fans are also expecting a massive contract extension and raise for Jalen Hurts.
The #Eagles are expected to work out a contract extension with Jalen Hurts early in the off-season, and “know” that the price will likely be $50M per year or more, per @JFowlerESPN. pic.twitter.com/bYBUuNrrpz— Eagles Nation (NFC Champs) (@PHLEaglesNation) February 11, 2023
Many of Philly’s cap issues started with the Carson Wentz extension after their last Super Bowl.
And among the Eagles players who are going to be 30 or older are Darius Slay (33), Lane Johnson (34), Jason Kelce (37), Brandon Graham (36), Haason Reddick (30), and Fletcher Cox (34).
The Eagles were definitely the best team in the NFC this season, winning 14 games and earning the number one seed by ranking third in points and top-10 on defense, including the fewest passing yards allowed. However, the NFC was almost historically weak in 2022: The Rams went through some of the worst injury luck we’ve ever seen, Tom Brady finally fell off and no NFC South team had a winning record, the Packers had their worst season ever with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, and Geno Smith may have legitimately been the best quarterback in the conference.
When it came time to win playoff games, the Eagles got the all-important bye week, then faced Daniel Jones, then faced Brock Purdy for part of an NFC Championship game only to then see Josh Johnson and a hobbled Purdy to close out the second half.
We cant expect the Eagles to have such an easy road in 2023 and that means that Philly has to get better. They can’t keep status quo and not only are they losing offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to the Colts, rumors are that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will follow him shortly if offered the head coaching job by the Cardinals.
The Rams could get healthier and show up in the playoffs with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey again. The 49ers could get a better quarterback. Every team in the NFC South is going to be competing for quarterback upgrades from the AFC with early reports indicating that the Saints are going to go hard after Derek Carr when he becomes a free agent and Carolina already building out an improved coaching staff under Frank Reich. Aaron Rodgers could stay with the Packers and rebound, the Lions could draft a quarterback and take the next step, the Vikings may become a legitimate 13-4 instead of a fluky 13-4. And in the NFC East, the Eagles must hold off the most competitive division in the conference, if not in the entire NFL.
That means that Philly must keep getting better and as we’ve seen with their salary cap situation and their aging stars, that is easier said than done. It’s not even easy to say.
Can the Rams out-duel the Eagles next year? The Super Bowl is over and as we keep seeing every year, that means that the NFL has hit reset. Right now, I wouldn’t even pick the Eagles to win the division. I’d say that L.A. isn’t far behind, if they’re behind at all.