Which NFC East is the biggest threat to the Eagles' hopes of repeating? Four of our writers weigh in.
No one, really.
But, if pressed, you have to consider the Cowboys, of course.
Let's work backward.
Washington replaced the elite quarterback they'd manipulated for years, Kirk Cousins, with a second-tier technician, Alex Smith, who arrived via trade from the Chiefs; remember, Andy Reid has a great history of recognizing when quarterbacks have reached their expiration dates. Adding running back Adrian Peterson just before the third preseason game changes the scenario a bit, but not nearly enough. Think about it: This team paid corner Orlando Scandrick a $1 million signing bonus — and cut him in the middle of training camp.
The Giants fired their coaching staff and gave the team back to 37-year old Eli Manning, who has an 83.3 passer rating the past two seasons and has been sacked 29.2 times per season since turning 31. Philadelphians might feel some sympathy for their rivals this season. Former Eagles coach Pat Shurmur is the new head coach and Penn State all-America running back Saquon Barkley, from Whitehall, Pa., was their top draft pick. This is nice, because the Giants will need lots of sympathy.
The Cowboys will need less, but they'll need some. Eighty percent their superior offensive line — four of the five starters — missed time during training camp. The defense should once again be respectable, but the offensive line's performance is everything. If it can protect Dak Prescott and clear paths for Ezekiel Elliott, who is league's second-best running back when he's not suspended, the Cowboys have a chance to at least be competitive with the Birds. A very small chance. Because this is an Eagles team that should be considerably better than the 2017 iteration that won it all.
Eagles season preview: The long, arduous countdown to Carson Wentz's comeback | Marcus Hayes: Eagles' biggest hurdle in repeating as Super Bowl champs will be overcoming loss of Frank Reich, John DeFilippo | 50 things to know about the upcoming season | Which Eagle, who didn't play in the postseason, will have the biggest impact? | Eagles' roster reconstruction reveals they have a type: Experienced players on short-term deals | What roster holes should the Eagles worry about? | Previewing the NFC | Previewing the AFC | Bob Ford: Repeat as Super Bowl champs? The Eagles can learn from teams that did. | David Murphy: Do the Eagles have what it takes to establish a dynasty? | Super Bowl carryover – good for this year's Eagles or bad? | Will Carson Wentz return to MVP form? | Nick Foles is starting for now but is OK with eventually stepping into background | Eagles 2018 roster: Breaking down the depth chart | A recipe for repeating: What the Eagles need to do to win another Super Bowl | Mike Sielski: The Eagles won a Super Bowl by being innovative. So what's next?
The Redskins have a good coach in Jay Gruden and a solid quarterback in Alex Smith, who beat the Eagles last year when he played for Kansas City. The Cowboys have regained the use of Ezekiel Elliott, who makes their offense work, and I think their secondary is improved. But for some reason I'm gonna go with the Giants.
One reason is Pat Shurmur, a coach I always respected when he worked with the Eagles. Another is the return of Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver, coupled with the addition of Saquon Barkley at running back. This will take a large burden off the sagging, 37-year-old shoulders of Eli Manning.
Do I think the Giants will be really, really good? No. One reason I believe the Eagles should repeat as division champions – something no team has done since the Birds won the East four times in a row from 2001-04 – is that I don't think any of these teams will be really, really good. This is especially fortunate for the Eagles in that their out-of-division schedule is super-tough. I count the Falcons, Vikings, Jaguars, Saints and Rams as strong Super Bowl contenders, and I don't rate the Panthers and Texans as pushovers. The Colts and the Bucs are the only non-division teams the Eagles play that I can't easily see making the postseason, and even they don't look terrible.
Why not the Redskins or the Cowboys to make a leap forward? In Washington, I just don't see the weapons Smith needs. I was really interested to see what Derrius Guice did. Now he's out for the year. Adrian Peterson, at age 33? No.
Dallas also lacks weapons, after Elliott, and somebody there is always getting suspended for something. On paper, this is the second-best team in the division, but with the Cowboys, something always happens.
Cowboys are obvious answer, but I'm going with the Redskins. It isn't as if their roster has been totally awful, but they lacked some stability and adults in the room. With Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson on board, I look for them to be more consistently competitive.
There's a growing chorus that seems to think the New York Giants could supplant the Eagles. Odell Beckham, Jr. has his mega-contract so that distraction is gone. Ex-Patriots left tackle Nate Soldier was added to a porous offensive line. And Saquon Barkley was drafted second overall to give the Giants some balance on offense. All three were aimed, in part, to help the aging Eli Manning. But nothing can stop Father Time and the quarterback's diminishing skills.
The Cowboys could return to prominence. They ping-pong yearly and this is an even year. But the offensive line – their greatest strength – is banged up.
Of divisional foes, the Redskins have the least number of holes and they have the manpower up front to compete with the Eagles. Alex Smith isn't exactly an upgrade over Kirk Cousins, but he isn't as reckless. But the quarterback won't have the weapons he had in Kansas City. A Paul Richardson-Josh Doctson-Jamison Crowder receiving trifecta isn't going to scare many defenses. Tight end Josh Reed is talented, but he gets hurt far too often. And Washington suffered a blow when rookie running back Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending knee injury. His replacement – Adrian Peterson – has little left on the treads. Ultimately, the Eagles' greatest competition will be themselves. Can they stay healthy? Can they fight off complacency? Can they avoid the unlucky bounces that have plagued Super Bowl winners in past years?
We're about to find out.