Well, the NFL has made it to the starting line. We’ll find out in five months whether it gets to the finish line and if the Eagles will be there in Tampa for Super Bowl LV.
They open their season Sunday in an empty stadium in Washington against a team with a new head coach, a rookie running back, and a quarterback with a total of seven NFL starts.
“It’s going to be different,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson admitted of playing without fans. “It’s going to be kind of eerie when you step out into a stadium right at kickoff because the crowd, the energy, the electricity in the stadium, is something that we all feed off of.”
As you wait for that eeriness, here’s some significant numbers to get you ready for the game:
--The Eagles are 6-0 against Washington in the last three seasons. They’ve averaged 30.8 points in those six games.
--Carson Wentz has a 5-2 record as a starter against Washington. He has a 103.7 career passer rating against them along with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions, a 67.6 completion percentage and a 7.72 yards-per-attempt average. His passer rating in five starts v. Washington since 2017 (all wins): 111.1.
--Since Dan Snyder bought the Washington Football Team in 1999, his team has made the playoffs just four times in 21 years and has had a grand total of five winning seasons. It has just one playoff win during that period, a 17-10 wildcard win over Tampa Bay in 2005.
--Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin had two 100-yard receiving games against the Eagles last season. Had five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and five more catches for 130 yards and a TD in Week 15. He was one of 10 wideouts who put up 100-plus receiving yards on the Eagles last season. That’s why the Eagles traded for cornerback Darius Slay.
--Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a 121.3 passer rating against the Eagles in Week 15. Completed 67.8% of his passes, averaged 9.3 yards per attempt, and threw two TDs and no interceptions. In his other six starts as a rookie, he had a 68.8 passer rating, with five TDs, seven interceptions, a 57.1 completion percentage, and 6.3 yards-per-attempt average.
--Rookie Antonio Gibson, who is expected to be Washington’s starting running back Sunday, lined up as a slot wide receiver 79% of the time last season at the University of Memphis. Eagles linebackers need to be on their toes against him. Think Christian McCaffrey. Think Alvin Kamara. He was one of just four FBS players to notch 500 receiving yards and 300 rushing yards last season.
--In its six straight wins over Washington, the Eagles have averaged 30.5 rushing attempts per game, but just 3.96 yards per carry. The large number of rush attempts is primarily because they’ve had the lead in the second half most of the time.
--Tight end Zach Ertz has 35 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns in his last six games against Washington. Twenty-three of those 35 receptions have resulted in first downs.
--Carson Wentz had an up-and-down season in 2019. He finished 13th in passing with his lowest rating (93.1) since his rookie year (79.3). He was 17th in completion percentage (63.9), 26th in yards per attempt (6.65) and 17th in touchdown percentage (4.4). But he finished strong. Ten of his 27 touchdown passes came in the last five games. He averaged 6.9 yards per attempt in those last five games. He threw just one interception in the last five games, and that was a Hail Mary on the last play of the game in a disappointing 37-31 Week 13 loss to the Dolphins.
--Wentz finished fifth in interception percentage last season. Threw just seven picks in 607 attempts and just three in the Eagles' last nine games. He heads into Sunday’s game with a streak of 173 attempts without an interception. His plus-20 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential last season was the sixth best in the league.
--While Wentz was exceptional at not throwing interceptions, he wasn’t nearly as exceptional in the fumbling department. His 11 fumbles last year were the second most in the league. Only Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had more (16). He’s made ball security a high priority heading into the season.
--Wentz finished 12th in third-down passing last season (96.0). But his 11 touchdown passes on third down were tied for the second most in the league. The Raiders' Derek Carr had 14. The Rams' Jared Goff also had 11. Wentz has averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt on third down over the last two seasons. In 2017, when he led the league in third-down passing with a 115.2 rating, he averaged 8.8 yards per attempt.
--Wentz threw five third-down interceptions as a rookie in 2016. In the three seasons since, he’s thrown just three in 391 third-down attempts.
--The Eagles' pass defense wasn’t very good last season, which is why they spent so much money in the offseason trying to improve it. They finished 22nd in touchdown passes allowed (27), tied for 22nd in interceptions (11) and 19th in opponent passer rating (90.8).
--The Eagles' pass rush bailed the back end out a lot last season. The Eagles finished with 43 sacks, including 19 on third down. The 19 third-down sacks were the most they had since 2014 when Connor Barwin and Co. had 24. Barwin, now a personnel executive with the team, had nine of those 24 third-down sacks.
This and that
--All of the injuries to the Eagles top wide receivers last season – DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor missed a total of 24 games – forced the Eagles to play more 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) than they had since Doug Pederson became the team’s head coach. They used 12-personnel on 49.2% of their snaps. They passed out of 12-personnel 67.7% of the time. Wentz had a 92.9 passer rating with 12-personnel. Threw 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
--The Eagles had just 15 pass completions of 30 yards or more last season. That was the fifth fewest in the NFL.
--The Eagles scored on their first possession seven times last season, including five times in their last eight games. Just two of those seven first-possession scores were touchdowns. They scored on their second possession nine times. Just three of those were touchdowns.
--The Eagles scored just 172 points in the first half last year. It was the 18th most in the league. Their minus-29 first-half scoring differential was the lowest of any team that qualified for the playoffs last year.