By Joseph Santoliquito

Barring a major catastrophe, the Eagles will repeat this season as NFC East champions, becoming the first team to win consecutive NFC East titles since the Eagles last did it in the 2003 and 2004 seasons

It’s the rest of a loaded NFC that the Eagles have to goad their way through.

And the team that stands the best chance to dethrone the Eagles—at least on paper—seems to be the star-studded Los Angeles Rams. Their defensive line now features not only Aaron Donald, but Ndamukong Suh. Their secondary now features Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and now the speedy, field-stretching Brandin Cooks joins Todd Gurley and Jared Goff on an offense that averaged an NFL-high 29.9 points a game last season.

The Rams are scary on both sides of the ball. Keeping all of that ego in check will be the responsibility of the NFL’s new wunderkind, Sean McVay. When the Eagles go back to Los Angeles in Week 15 of the season, Sunday, Dec. 16, in the Sunday night nationally televised game. At stake could be home field throughout the NFC playoffs and certainly proof as to what may be the No. 1 team in the NFC.

This is a one-shot deal for the Rams, and they know it. It’s a team that can’t stay together after this season simply because it wouldn’t work out financially. Some major salaries would need to be jettisoned, or some of these stars will have to be willing to take a pay cut, and no one is willing to do that, especially with Donald in the final year of his rookie contract.

The next threat will be the Minnesota Vikings, whose 275.9 yards a game average led all NFL defenses last season, received an upgrade at quarterback in Kirk Cousins over Case Keenum. Plus, the Vikings will get back tailback Dalvin Cook, after he experienced season-ending ACL tear. If the Vikings have an issue, it may be protecting Cousins.

Aaron Rodgers is healthy, and if Rodgers can stay healthy, the Green Bay Packers will always be a formidable team. Rodgers has a new contract and a new tight end, Jimmy Graham. Mo Wilkerson bolsters the defensive line, but it’s hard seeing the Packers get by Minnesota in the NFC North, won by the Vikings in two of the last three years.

Drew Brees remains one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. Give him some defense, and the New Orleans Saints as a whole become a more dangerous team. The Saints were ninth in the NFL with a plus-7 in giveaway/takeaway in 2017. In 2016, they were a minus-3, and ranked 23rd. Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore was a huge addition and this is a team still carrying the angst of Marcus Williams’ blown coverage on Stefon Diggs that sent Minnesota to the NFC title game.

They are capable of dethroning the Eagles, who will get to see Brees and Latimore, and second-year sensation Alvin Kamara up close at the Linc on Nov. 18.

Nothing will be easy about repeating.

It’s a matter of how quickly the Eagles—and their rabid fan base—are willing to put 2017 behind them.

Joseph Santoliquito