Examining the Philadelphia Eagles Historic Collapse and How to Use it to Bet in 2024

Betsided's Wade Snow takes a deep dive into the Philadelphia Eagles' epic collapse and what fans can expect moving forward.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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In trying to find words to describe the Philadelphia Eagles' epic collapse last season, it is hard to find one word that encapsulates the range of emotions that Eagles' fans undoubtedly felt.

A few that come to mind are: catastrophic, monumental, and disastrous.

But there is only one word that truly paints the picture of just how sideways things went for Nick Sirriani and co.: unprecedented.

In all of my years as a football fan and sports fan in general, I struggle to recall a time where I was as shocked as I was watching the 2023 Eagles' meltdown. How is it possible for a team to go from one play away from capturing a Super Bowl and then starting the following season 10-1 to not even having a fighting chance against the 9-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers once the playoffs roll around?

I thought you'd never ask.

We will get into what went wrong for the Eagles, how it went wrong, and whether or not they will be able to bounce back heading into next season. But first, I think it is important to understand what Vegas expects.

Any time a team has as polarizing a season as the Eagles did last year, the talking heads come out in full force. Whether it is with a positive outlook or a negative one, I have found that opinions rarely matter as much as numbers, especially when a team is six plus months away from taking a meaningful snap.

So, what does Vegas project for the 2024-25 Philadelphia Eagles?

As far as Super Bowl Winner futures are concerned, DraftKings has the Eagles ranked eighth overall at +2000.

For the NFC Winner, Philadelphia is tied for third, with +850 odds to win the conference.

For the NFC East, it is projected to finish in second place behind the Dallas Cowboys (+110) at +150 odds to win the division.

And although there is no official line available for the Eagles win total yet, analysts expect it to be set at 9.5. On the player side, Jalen Hurts currently sits at +1600 to win the 2024 MVP.

If you talk to Eagles fans, they will tell you that those expectations are much greater than they should be. Can you blame them after the hell their team put them through?

But, as we have come to learn, a team's fans are rarely the most reliable source in discussing what is to come. While it is certainly understandable that Eagles fans have dropped their expectations to the floor, it is clear that Vegas is not ready to follow suit, and still views Philadelphia as a bona fide threat for both the division and conference, and even the Super Bowl.

Let's see if we agree.

Without further delay, I present to you the "Way Too Early 2024 Philadelphia Eagles Preview."

The Offense

In my previous articles on the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens, I talked in near-repulsive detail about how vital good coordinators are to a team's success.

This was certainly the case for Super Bowl-contending Eagles of 2022-23. Unfortunately for Philadelphia and its fans, most discussions around the team's collapse in 2023 and expectations for 2024 center around the gaps left by great coordinators.

On the offensive side of the ball, it was clear that the Eagles were never able to replace the play calling that former-OC turned Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Shane Steichen provided during the 2022 Super Bowl run.

In an effort to secure some form of continuity, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni promoted quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to replace Steichen. And while there were some positive moments in the first half of the season, the Eagles seemed disjointed when it mattered most, and Johnson was relieved of his duties following the season.

What was missing, and what will newly hired OC Kellen Moore need to do to turn things around for Jalen Hurts and the offense?

For most of last season, Philadelphia looked like a team impersonating the 2022 Eagles. It ran many of the same formations and funneled targets to AJ Brown, Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert like it had the previous season under Steichen, but it was missing the bite that the Super Bowl team had.

Under Steichen, the Eagles ran one of the most simple offenses in the entire league with a alarmingly small number of formations and plays. They continued the trend under Johnson, and defenses started to figure it out. As you will see, everything about the 2023 Eagles offense was a cheap knockoff of the one Steichen ran the year prior.

Looking at Jalen Hurts' 2023 MVP odds is one of the easiest ways to pinpoint when defenses solved the Eagles' offense and when the season started to go sideways for both Philadelphia and Hurts.

Hurts started the season at +1150 odds to win the MVP. Following the Eagles thrilling defeat of the Buffalo Bills in overtime, they moved to 10-1 on the season and Hurts was all the way down to +140 for MVP odds, a near runaway favorite.

After the Eagles three-game skid following the victory over Buffalo, the Eagles were still sitting at 10-4, but Hurts had dropped all the way to +2500 for the MVP.

By Jan. 2, everything had changed.

Following a defeat to the Arizona Cardinals on New Years Eve, Hurts' MVP odds leapt all the way to +20000, effectively eliminating him from the race. Now that you are familiar with the odds, let's take a deeper look at what on earth could cause Hurts' MVP chances to swing by over 20,000 points in less than five weeks.

One of the trends that began with Steichen that continued under Johnson was the lack of passing plays ran from under center. For every play that the Eagles ran under center, only 4% were drop-backs, the least in the league by a wide margin. It is worth noting that the three most explosive passing offenses in the league (Houston, San Francisco, Miami) all saw at least 40% of their drop-backs come from under center.

One of the most effective offensive strategies in the modern NFL is centered around hard play-action fakes from under center. Why did the Eagles run so few when it clearly works around the league?

In theory, Philadelphia's offense is centered around a running quarterback. With a mobile QB, teams prefer to run the ball from the shotgun because of all of the different iterations of a "read option" that it allows. The QB needs to be in shotgun for these type of plays, because he must be able to read the unblocked defender and potentially pull the football.

The issue with that is that the 2023 Eagles were not actually a quarterback-run offense.

"But Wade, Jalen Hurts broke Cam Newton's record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season!!"

Believe me, I know. Bear with me.

Of Hurts' 15 touchdown runs, 13 came from much maligned "tush-push," which the Eagles run from, you guessed it, under center. When you take out the sneaks, the numbers start to paint a much clearer picture of Hurts' struggles and lack of mobility.

Even without the sneaks, Hurts had the third most designed runs of any quarterback in the league. But at only 5.3 yards per carry, he was one of the least successful quarterbacks in the league, at least according to rush yards gained.

His low-40% success rate is also below average, ranking much closer to Jordan Love than Lamar Jackson. These are not numbers synonymous with a mobile QB, and certainly do not justify the Eagles running as much shotgun as they did in 2023.

It is important to remember that all of these statistics come from designed, non-sneak runs. What about when Hurts takes to the ground, but not by design? He ranked 19th amongst quarterbacks on expected points added (EPA). On drop-backs that get outside of the pocket, he ranked 15th in EPA. Neither of these tell the story of a quarterback that threatens defenses on the run.

None of this will come as a surprise to Eagles fans, though. If you watched multiple games this season, you are already aware of the fact that Jalen Hurts was not the same player from the previous year.

While the brace on his left knee was visible for much of the season, the Eagles front office was unwilling to go into details about the extent of the injuries that Hurts was dealing with. But you don't have to be Warren Sharpe to realize that Hurts didn't move at the same speed or fight through as much contact as he did in 2022.

Aside from employing an offense centered around a running quarterback with a QB who was unable to run, the simplicity of the Eagles offense was a huge detriment to the team and especially to Jalen Hurts.

Under Johnson, the Eagles ran nearly half of their plays from spread formations, the highest in the league. They also had the second lowest percentage of plays involving pre-snap motions, and struggled when they did.

Philadelphia's focus on RPO plays from spread formation is far less successful when their quarterback is not healthy, and it does Hurts a disservice by limiting his ability to process routes and defenses. But what exactly does that mean?

The offense's bread and butter is conditional pre-snap reads: Defender does this, quarterback does that. Hurts has suffered form locking in on receivers even when the defense is prepared for them. Even with his struggles, he has the makings of a quarterback who can make adjustments in real time, but has not been given the platform to do so.

Under Kellen Moore, the Eagles will need to make their mind up on what type of offense they want to run. If they want to be a QB-run centered offense, get Hurts healthy and go all in on the run.

If they want to run an offense focused on more motion and receiver matchups, that could very well work, but they will have to commit to it. Given the star power that the Eagles have in Brown and Smith and the concerns over Hurts durability, I am more keen on the latter, even with the shock addition of running back Saquon Barkley/

Time will only tell if Hurts and Moore can right the ship for Philadelphia. I am certain of only two things concerning this unit:

1. The system must change

2. Jalen Hurts at +1600 to win the MVP is far too pricey given the uncertainty facing this team.

Defense

Similarly to the offensive side of the ball, Philadelphia's defense has struggled to replace it's lead man. Since Jonathan Gannon's departure for the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles have been a shell of their former selves and had no answers for the questions opposing offenses have asked.

Sirianni's first attempt to replace Gannon came in the form of Sean Desai, a young defensive mind who had been on Pete Caroll's staff in Seattle.

Things started well for Desai in Philly; through seven games, his defense was allowing only 63 rushing yards per game, good for the best rushing defense in the entire league.

But even over that dominant stretch, there were early signs that this defense was not the same one that led them to the Super Bowl in 2022. Defensive units build off of themselves, and even with the success against the run early on, there were holes in the passing defense that were not present the previous season under Gannon.

Through eight games in 2022, the Eagles had allowed 10 passing touchdowns and 1,575 passing yards to jump out to an 8-0 start. While the 2023 Eagles came out of the gates scorching once again after a 7-1 start, a deeper look at the box scores shows that there were underlying concerns that were being covered up by wins.

Over the same eight game period in 2023, Desai's defense had allowed 16 passing touchdowns and 2,137 passing yards. It is important to remember that the passing defense was already showing holes when everything else was still going well defensively.

You will remember that the 2022 Eagles had the third most sacks all-time with a jaw-dropping 70. Through eight games in 2022, they had 26 sacks. But what may come as a surprise to you given the collapse that occurred is the fact that the 2023 Eagles were right on pace with 25 sacks through eight games.

Philadelphia was both getting to the quarterback and stopping the run to an almost identical level of their league-best defense from the previous season. It was also winning almost as many games, which allowed the organization and its fans to be lulled in a false sense of security when their were clearly holes in the secondary that needed to be addressed.

Typically, a defense as talented and experienced as Philadelphia's is able to overcome one bad area if they are strong in others. It would make sense that the Eagles could still succeed with a weaker secondary because their front was so dominant, both against the run and getting to the passer. But as we came to find out, the secondary was so flawed that it crippled the other areas of the defense that were performing at a high level.

From weeks 9-18, not much changed for the Eagles' pass defense. They allowed only 33 more passing yards and three more passing touchdowns from weeks 1-8, with one extra game played. Where things took a turn was when the injuries started to pile up in the linebacking core, and both the pass rush and rushing defense could no longer make up for the issues in the secondary.

Week 11 was the start of the end for Philadelphia, and they started a four game stretch of allowing opponents to rush for at least 138 yards. In fact, after the Week 10 bye, there was not a single game where the Eagles allowed less than 100 rushing yards.

But still, even as the holes started to widen, it was impossible to know what was to come. After all, Philadelphia had just gone to Kansas City and knocked off the reigning Super Bowl champions. A win as big as that makes it easy for an organization and fans to not look at the bigger issues on display, especially when it brings you to 9-1. They weren't the only ones who got fooled, either.

After starting the season as -125 favorites to win the NFC East, the Eagles moved all the way to -1000 following the victory over the Chiefs. Their only real threat in Dallas was safely behind at +625. Vegas had no doubt about Philadelphia, so why should anyone else have been worried?

But as the rush defense sputtered to a halt, the pass rush followed suit, and the Eagles only got to the quarterback 12 times over the final seven games. You would not be out of line for assuming that it was one of the three of pass defense, rush defense, and pass rush that finally did the Eagles in. While they were all contributors, none were as glaring as the third down defense, and it lead to Desai's demotion following the loss to the Cowboys.

At a 46.14 conversion percentage, the Eagles ranked 30th in the league on the game's most important down. They were bad on third-and-short, but where Desai lost his job was on third-and-medium situations.

In the three games against the Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys, opposing quarterbacks combined for 10-of-11 passing for 171 yards and three touchdowns on third-and-medium situations. That is good for a passer rating of 158.3 out of 158.3.

Sirianni realized that the holes in the defense were unsustainable, and demoted Sean Desai in favor of Matt Patricia following back-to-back blow out losses to the 49ers and Cowboys. In theory, at 10-3, there was still time to stop the bleeding and make a deep postseason run.

After all, they were still comfortable favorites in the division as well. While the number dropped significantly following the loss to Dallas, Philadelphia was still -385 over their archrivals who sat at +285.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the defensive problems proved to be catastrophic and if there was somebody out there who could stop it, it was certainly not Patricia. After a 10-1 start, the Eagles finished the season 1-5 with multiple losses to the struggling Giants and a crippling loss to Gannon's Cardinals.

Following the defeat to the Cardinals, Philadelphia dropped all the way +775 to win the division, while Dallas moved to -1275. Even before the final defeat of the regular season, the Eagles' collapse was all but complete.

They finished the season as the fifth-worst passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and gave up the second most passing touchdowns in the entire league with 35. The Eagles once-best rushing defense dropped to tenth, and their sack total plummeted all the way to 19th.

Someone had to answer for this failure, and neither Desai nor Patricia will be returning to Philadelphia next season. Many fans also wanted to see the back of Sirianni, but he has been given one more chance to right the ship.

The Eagles head coach is committed to bringing in the big guns, as evident by his hiring of veteran defensive mind Vic Fangio to lead the defense next season. If anyone can bring the Eagles' defense back to prominence, it is Fangio, but there are still several key areas that need addressing.

Both the secondary and the linebacking core suffered from injuries, but I am convinced that the struggles were more of an issue of talent than availability.

The secondary is aging, with starting corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry both into their 30s, and each taking a step back last season. Age is not a concern for safety Reed Blankenship, but his lack of improvement certainly is. Kevin Byard was never fully given time to adjust to Philadelphia's system, and will never have the opportunity to do so after joining the Chicago Bears for next season.

Obviously, there are concerns about the secondary, but linebacker is the most prevalent issue for Fangio as he takes over the defense. For the 2022 Eagles, linebacker was the weakest point of the defense, but compared to what they received from the position this year, it seemed stellar.

After allowing T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White to walk in free agency following the Super Bowl, Philadelphia turned to rookie Nakobe Dean and veteran journeymen Nicholas Morrow and Zach Cunningham.

Dean entered into the league with shoulder problems, which contributed to him missing a large chunk of time over the regular season. When Morrow and Cunningham joined him, the Eagles were stuck with undrafted rookie Ben VanSumeren, Christian Ellis, and a shell of Shaq Leonard.

Even if Dean, Morrow, and Cunningham are fully healthy, the jury is still out on how much of a difference they will make to the Eagles front seven.

Fangio has all of the making of a homerun hire, but given the huge question marks that remain, on both offense and defense, I will be staying away from both a NFC Championship and Super Bowl future for the 2024 Philadelphia Eagles.


Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.