Will the Super Bowl carryover have a positive or negative impact on the Eagles' play this season?
Four of our writers weigh in.
Just two teams have managed to win back-to-back Super Bowls in the salary-cap era: Denver in 1997-98 and New England in 2003-04. So, clearly, there are significant challenges to repeating. There will be no sneaking up on anyone this season. The Eagles will have the proverbial target on their back against every team they play.
One of the most successful aspects of their offense, particularly in the second half of the season, was run-pass options. They caught a lot of teams off guard with them. They weren't the only team that used them, but they were more effective with them than anybody else. The league's defensive coordinators spent a lot of time in the film room in the offseason trying to find an antidote for RPOs. We'll find out soon enough what that antidote is and what new wrinkles Doug Pederson has added to the Eagles' RPO game to counter it.
The biggest year-after challenge for a championship team is complacency. Every team in every sport that wins a title insists that complacency won't be a problem.
And then it is.
The Eagles, though, are in a unique position to combat any complacency. They won the Super Bowl last year without a lot of their top players. They won it without Carson Wentz and Jason Peters and Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos, who all suffered season-ending injuries at various points. All five of those players are team leaders. It killed them when they couldn't play in the Super Bowl. They all are back, and they damn sure aren't complacent. And if they get a single whiff of complacency in the locker room, they're going to stamp it out.
In and of itself, the carryover from Super Bowl LII will likely have a negative impact on the Eagles. The grind of winning just one championship has proved a formidable obstacle for any team to overcome. Just seven teams have repeated as Super Bowl champions in NFL history, and the Eagles are now the kingfish in an NFC that will be stronger this season (on paper, at least) than it was last season.
The upshot of winning the Super Bowl while missing so many important players, of course, is that those players – Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, et. al – will be hungry for a taste of glory, and that hunger could counteract any complacency. The bottom line, though, is that any team that wins the Super Bowl, including last season's Eagles, has to have an awful lot of things go right. It's rare that it happens, and it's rarer still that it happens in consecutive seasons.
Let's establish this from the start: It's hard to win the Super Bowl, even harder to win in back-to-back years. It hasn't been done since the 2004 season. If the Eagles fail to win the Super Bowl, it's not because of a Super Bowl hangover. It's because it's really hard to win the Super Bowl.
With that preface, there will be lingering effects from last year that could hurt the team. The Eagles had a truncated offseason and a lot of injuries, so there are players who are going to be spending the early portion of the season easing back into the lineup (Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Graham are examples). Also, as much as they want to embrace being the hunted, that's a challenge. They're not sneaking up on any opponents, and opposing coaches had the offseason to prepare for the Eagles. Every week, their game is circled on the schedule.
Additionally, last year's team had an intangible quality that is hard to duplicate. They were extraordinarily talented, but they were also tough-minded and resilient. Every team is different, and it's not a given that this year's group will have those qualities. They'd look foolish in underdog masks this season. They can't act like they're being counted out – they're one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. So that shift is a change, and it's a result from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. There are positives that will carry over from last year, such as being tested in big games. The stage won't be too big for them. But ultimately, if they fail to repeat, it won't be because of a carryover from last year. It will just be because it's really hard to win the Super Bowl.
This is one of those questions that is impossible to predict beforehand, and only slightly less difficult to assess in hindsight. The outcome of an NFL game is so situationally and match-up dependent that attributing success and failure to abstract themes is oftentimes a fool's errand. Case in point: What kinds of questions would we be asking about the 2018 Eagles had Julio Jones come down with that pass in the end zone on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line with 1:05 left in the playoff opener?
If the Eagles go 9-7 and miss the playoffs, half the country will see a hangover, while the other half will see a team that was never that good to begin with (Cris Collinsworth, it goes without saying, will continue to see an incompletion.)
From a physical standpoint, the Super Bowl run can't help but have a negative impact. With a month less time to recover from last season and an early start to 2018, the impact of February football is unavoidable. Psychologically, one would think that the same holds true. As a wise philosopher once said, hungry dogs run faster.
One thing that should help the Eagles is that a number of key contributors will enter 2018 having yet to play in a Super Bowl. The presence of guys such as Carson Wentz, Jordan Hicks, and Jason Peters is one of the more interesting dynamics of this team. I will say this: Two years into the Wentz/Doug Pederson era, the Eagles have answered every question they've faced.