The week of preparation has arrived. By week’s end, the Eagles will take the field for the first regular season game of 2014.
The preseason and training camp only furthers what happens during a long offseason. There is a lot of time to think about the possibilities and predict the future. All of that gets thrown out with the opening kickoff.
Still, this is the final week to use the past offseason and camp as a scale of evaluation and try to make those predictions. Here is a week-by-week look at the Eagles schedule.
Week 1 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars are in rebuilding mode and some of those rebuilding pieces will not start in the season opener. There will be no Blake Bortles under center. Instead, Chad Henne starts. The Jaguars have a nice core forming, but it’s too early for any impact to be felt. The Eagles open the season at home with a win.
Week 2 at Indianapolis Colts – The Eagles first meeting with Andrew Luck and the Colts will be the first major test for the defense. Luck’s versatility in and out of the pocket can cause nightmares for the defense that took several weeks to solidify. When it all comes down to it on this Monday night showdown, Luck probably gets the best of the defense as the Eagles lose.
Week 3 vs. Washington Redskins – It’s one of the early-season highlights. DeSean Jackson returns as the Eagles play their first of six games against division foes. The Eagles handled the Redskins last season and there’s no reason to think otherwise this season. Again, the Eagles started to figure things out at home late last season. Their first two wins of 2014 come on their home field.
Week 4 at San Francisco 49ers – This was one of the daunting games on the schedule upon its release but after a preseason filled with distractions, the 49ers need to gain focus in a hurry. The fact the Eagles get this meeting so early is definitely an advantage. I still consider this a loss for the Eagles, but it could be much closer than it appeared before the preseason. If the Eagles play a crisp game all-around, they could change that result.
Week 5 vs. St. Louis Rams – This game is a lot like the Week 1 meeting with the Jaguars. The Rams are a team trying to build and facing the Eagles, already with a division title under their belts, this shouldn’t be much of a contest. Mark this one down as another win.
Week 6 vs. New York Giants – Another division game and this marks the first home game in prime time. The Eagles had their struggles within the division early last season but turned into the team that was clearly better than the rest of the division by the end of the season. If that pattern holds, consider this another victory for the Eagles.
Week 8 at Arizona Cardinals – A long trip to Arizona following the bye week shouldn’t affect the Eagles too much. This is another game where the Eagles appear to be a superior team and should play as such. Another W on the schedule.
Week 9 at Houston Texans – Two years ago, this could have been a marquis match. Now, it’s not even close. The Texans have too much to figure out and, offensively, don’t appear to be a huge threat to the Eagles defense. This is another win if the offense can simply perform to capability.
Week 10 vs. Carolina Panthers – Facing Carolina at home gives the Eagles a slight edge. The Panthers are going to be a tough opponent for the Birds, the Eagles could be entering this game as the hottest team in the NFL. The Panthers defense against the Eagles fast-paced offense will be something to watch. But the Eagles defense facing Cam Newton will make or break the Eagles. Collectively, I think the Eagles survive.
Week 11 at Green Bay Packers – This game flies under-the-radar as one of the tough games on the schedule for the Eagles. Facing the Packers in the second half of the regular season at Lambeau Field is brutal. Last season, the Eagles managed to beat the Packers, who were without Aaron Rodgers. This time around, I’d expect Rodgers to be healthy this time around and that to be the determining factor in an Eagles loss in Green Bay.
Week 12 vs. Tennessee Titans – After two difficult matches against the Panthers and Packers, this game is a lay-up. The Titans shouldn’t be able to keep up with the Eagles and if Chip Kelly’s group is on their game, they won’t. Mark this one down as an Eagles win.
Week 13 at Dallas Cowboys – This is a dangerous game for the Eagles. On paper, they are far and away better than the Cowboys. But it’s a short week and a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, Jerry’s palace. It will be a hyped game. Perhaps too hyped. Eagles lose in a sloppy game.
Week 14 vs. Seattle Seahawks – This is the game that will be the ultimate test for evaluating the Eagles. Believe it or not, against the toughest defense in the league in Seattle, the Eagles have a fair shot to win. It’s a long week, more time to prepare. It’s a home game with Seattle making the cross-country trip. That said, I still have the Seahawks winning the game, but the Eagles can make it interesting. If it remains close throughout, anything is possible.
Week 15 vs. Dallas Cowboys – The Eagles losing in Dallas in Week 13 will set the tone for this game. If the Eagles play as bad as I think they could in a short week for the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, they won’t repeat it at home. Eagles win in convincing fashion.
Week 16 at Washington Redskins – This game could be the late-season reality check the Eagles may need just in time for the playoffs. Facing DeSean Jackson on the road for a change, the Eagles will have one last slip up. It won’t necessarily hurt their playoff chances, but it will not be pretty.
Week 17 at New York Giants – Pending where the Eagles are after Week 16 will determine the result of the final game. If the division is already claimed, the Eagles will rest starters, thus leveling the playing field. This is a win for the Eagles if they play the starters. It’s a toss-up if the Eagles backups are playing the Giants top players. For the sake of argument, let’s assume there’s still something to play for. Eagles win.
So that brings the Eagles record to 10-6 and another NFC East title for the Eagles. We’ll see how this truly plays out on Sunday in the Eagles season opener against the Jaguars.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.