The 2011 season, I predict, will have a host of teams bunched together at the top. I don't think any team wins 14 games this season, like the Patriots did in 2010. In fact, I don't think any team will hit the 13-win mark, like the Falcons did a year ago. If my crystal ball is correct, come January's playoffs we'll see a bunch of 11- and 12-win teams.
That means you, too, Eagles.
I don't see a Dream Team. I see four high-profile acquisitions on defense -- Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins -- who haven't spent much time together in the trenches. These guys playing in the City of Brotherly Love aren't brothers yet. I also see a very average linebacking corps, if not worse. And I see two guys, Babin and Jenkins, who had their most productive seasons ever last year (see table), got paid and could be due for a letdown.
Building a club through free agency is sexy. But it's not always effective, at least not when it comes to winning the Super Bowl. The Colts, Packers and Steelers have won four of the past six Super Bowls. They also happen to be the three leading franchises in starting homegrown talent. Coincidence?
Let's address the offense, starting with Michael Vick. No question, Vick is one dynamic football player. But what has he proven? Everyone focuses on his Tecmo Bowl-like stats last year, but don't forget he threw the loss-clinching interception in a wild-card round defeat to the Packers. And prior to 2010, Vick never posted a plus-80 rating as a starter in the NFL. Pre-prison Vick was a player who leaned too much on raw athletic ability. Who's to say that guy is gone for good? So he changed for one season. Let's play two.
If you feel I'm being too critical, and think Vick and the Eagles offense will improve with the development of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and the addition of Ronnie Brown, then may I present another major issue -- the offensive line.
The line didn't play particularly well in 2010, especially in both losses to the Packers. The group allowed a whopping 49 sacks (fourth-worst in the NFL), and that's with the most mobile quarterback this side of Willie Beamon at the helm. The preseason hasn't been much better, with Vick getting hit hard and often in the first two weeks. The line looked better in Week 3 against the Browns, but something tells me the road to the Super Bowl won't be going through Cleveland.
None of this is to say the Eagles won't be solid in 2011. Babin and Jenkins could be productive acquisitions. Asomugha probably is the best cover corner in the league, while Rodgers-Cromartie might be the best nickel corner. Offensively, Vick should play well, as he is a 31-year-old quarterback with eight seasons under his belt, not an immature kid who relies on his feet all the time.
At the end of the day, one year does not a career make. And free agency has yet to win a team a Super Bowl -- at least not in the first season. Philadelphia should be one of the better teams in the league, but unless being a "Dream Team" is synonymous with 11 wins, let's tap the brake on the August anointing.