PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There's an almost-real NFL football game on Sunday night. It's preseason, yes, but it's still football.
The Eagles open their preseason slate in six days (Thursday, August 11th at 7pm) at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here are six bold prediction for the upcoming 2016-17 Philadelphia Eagles season.
6. Jason Peters will not start 10 games
In February, I wrote the Eagles should release Peters to save $6.7 million and I stand by that. Peters is a team leader, a captain, a veteran presence in locker room, and used be a dominant player. But, if he's not on the field and not contributing for the team, he can't be a leader.
And last year, Peters' decline began. We saw it with our own eyes. The 34-year-old left tackle missed two full games and came out of countless others due to injury. Recently, he blamed Chip Kelly's system for his struggles, but that seems convenient.
Already, Peters has hurt himself twice during training camp. He left Thursday's practice early with a quad injury and according to Howard Eskin, Peters could be out one week.
5. Pass defense will rank outside the top 20
Everyone is all gung-ho about Jim Schwartz, and I'm certainly excited to see his aggressive defensive style in action, but let's hold up for a second. The Eagles' pass defense has ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in each of the past three years and their cornerback situation has arguably gotten worse.
Leodis McKelvin, the Buffalo Bills' No. 3 corner last year, looks like the Eagles' top corner. Opposite of McKelvin, it looks like former fifth-round pick Nolan Carroll will get that starting role. The Eagles will have to face the other three NFC East elite passing offenses six times, not to mention Antonio Brown and the Steelers, Alshon Jeffrey and the Bears, A.J. Green and the Bengals, Julio Jones and the Falcons, and Jordy Nelson and the Packers.
I'm pretty sure Brown, Jeffrey, Green, Jones, Nelson, Dez Bryant, and Odell Bechkam Jr. vs. McKelvin or Carroll is not ideal for the Eagles.
Sure, getting pressure on the quarterback -- something Schwartz's 4-3 defense does do well -- will help. But, from 2009 to 2013 as head coach of the Lions, Schwartz's team did not rank higher than 14th against the pass. In fact, the Lions ranked outside the top 20 in three of his five seasons in Detroit.
From 2001 to 2008, as defensive coordinator in Tennessee, the Titans struggled against the pass as well. In Schwartz's first six seasons with the Titans, they ranked 26th, 25th, 30th, 26th, 17th, and 27th against the pass before making a significant improvement in 2007 and 2008.
4. Mychal Kendricks will make the Pro Bowl
One guy I think will make a major leap in Schwartz's defense is fifth-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks, 25, thrives when he gets to play with reckless abandon and doesn't have to think too much. His best attribute is his athleticism, and Schwartz -- I hope -- will release Kendricks.
Kendricks has missed seven games over the last two years. If he can stay healthy, he is poised for a big year.
3. Zach Ertz will lead the team in targets and receptions
In 15 games last season, Ertz was targeted 112 times and caught 75 balls. Jordan Matthews, in one more game, caught 85 balls on 127 targets. Ertz's blocking is also improving, evident by his snap share.
In 2014, Ertz played 53.5-percent of the snaps. Last season, his snap share climbed to 82.4-percent and he just signed a new five-year, $42.5 million contract this offseason. Doug Pederson's old pass catching tight end in Kansas City, Travis Kelce, played 100-percent of the snaps last season and his 22.2-percent target share was 5th best among all tight ends. Ertz's target share, in comparison, was 18.9-percent, 11th among TE's.
Ertz, now entering season No. 4, will benefit from Pederson's offense.
2. Ryan Mathews will rush for 1,000 yards
Mathews is a guy I am targeting in fantasy football because he is incredibly undervalued. Of course, his injury concern is legitimate (he's already hurt), but so is his talent and opportunity in this offense.
Each time Mathews has received at least 200 carries in a season -- which has happened just twice in his career -- he has rushed for over 1,000 yards. His 5.0 yards per carry last season was 9th in the NFL. Out of college, Mathews recorded a 4.45 40-yard dash metric (89th percentile) and 112.2 speed score (92nd percentile).
He can catch too. For his career, Mathews has caught 166 of 213 passes (77.9-percent). He has at least 20 catches in every season where he has played 12-plus games.
If healthy, Mathews is in store for a monster year.
1. Carson Wentz will start the final four games of the season
Week 14 - Sunday, December 11th at home against the Washington Redskins at 1:00 p.m. It just screams: "Eagles are out of playoff contention and the fans need a reason to get excited."
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