Bill Barnwell's latest offseason examination of the NFL looks at bounce-back candidates for 2013. Bill writes that "better than one in four of the teams that go 6-10 or worse in a given season" reach the playoffs in the following season. So he's taking a look at the 10 teams who finished 6-10 or worse last year and trying to determine which of them has the best chance to reach this year's playoffs. He thinks the Lions have the best chance. He thinks the Philadelphia Eagles have the second-best chance.
Bill bases the Eagles' chances on several factors, including a new head coaching voice (Chip Kelly replacing Andy Reid), last season's poor special teams luck, and the strong likelihood that they'll improve on last season's ridiculous minus-24 turnover ratio:
Kelly's insistence on getting the ball out quickly should reduce the likelihood of fumbles, and some simple variance should help push the Philadelphia offense back toward the middle of the pack. The defense should also deliver more than the eight interceptions it produced last year, so it's not difficult to imagine the Eagles actually winning the turnover battle in 2013.
As for the "hidden" special teams numbers, that's a Football Outsiders statistic that encapsulates how teams were impacted by special teams performance out of their control, including such obvious ones as how reliable field goal kickers and kickoff artists were against them. The Eagles were the fourth-most impacted team in football last year by those figures, with kickers notably going 27-for-29 on field goals against them in 2012.
Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's crazy to say the Eagles should have been better than 4-12 last year, or to assume that they won't be as bad this year simply because they can't be. Bill has statistical evidence to back up those notions, and the odds are decent that 80 percent of the starting offensive line won't get hurt, that they won't fire a well-liked defensive coordinator for no good reason at the bye week, and that they can just about luck their way into more than eight interceptions.
As for the playoffs, it's kind of like what we wrote here last season about the Redskins' worst-to-first chances. The NFC East isn't the toughest division to win anymore. Its champion has averaged 9.7 wins over the past three seasons. Of the teams on Bill's list, few have as short a path back to the playoffs as the Eagles are likely to have in the 2013 NFC East.
But it's the unknowns that hold you back here, right? We assume Kelly's impact will be positive, but it might not be. Even if it is in the long run, it could take some time for the players to learn and/or buy into his schemes and ideas. And looming over all of that is an incredibly shaky quarterback situation that could sink the whole thing even if everything else goes right.
So is it crazy to think the Eagles can turn things around and make the playoffs in 2013? Of course not. Things are bound to break their way this season that didn't last season. The problem is that there's too much uncertainty in too many key areas for anyone to feel real good about picking them.