THIS IS A PRACTICE that usually starts in April every year, when the NFL schedule comes out. You know the routine, Win, Loss, Loss, Win . . . It's always fun to predict how the Eagles will do. And now with the season upon us and some more questions answered, here's yet another look at how they will manage.
Sunday, Sept. 7, vs. St. Louis: Will the 27-day training-camp holdout hurt Steven Jackson early in the season? Probably. Will he still be able to put some numbers on the Birds? Perhaps. Torry Holt is still dangerous, and Marc Bulger can be, also. But Donovan McNabb should be able to pick apart a suspect Rams secondary, which will be even more drained in the 90-degree heat at Lincoln Financial Field, even without Kevin Curtis.
Monday, Sept. 15, at Dallas: You know how sometimes you just have a feel about a game? You look at the schedule and one pops out at you. This one did for me, and not in a good way for Eagles fans. It will be the 'Boys' home opener, and a chance for Adam (formerly known as Pacman) Jones and rookies Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins to strut their stuff. Felix Jones will make a big play or two, leaving Eagles fans to scratch their heads as to why the Birds didn't draft the running back. Oh, yeah. There's also that T.O. guy at wide receiver. For some reason, this one doesn't feel good.
Sunday, Sept. 21, vs. Pittsburgh: The Steelers gave up almost 29 points a game over their last four games last season, and an AFC-high 47 sacks on QB Ben Roethlisberger. So it certainly didn't help losing guard Alan Faneca to the Jets. Figure a ton of pressure on Big Ben. Also, figure a real physical, low-scoring game, with some sort of late turnover helping to decide it.
Sunday, Sept. 28, at Chicago: Donovan McNabb has had success against his hometown club, posting a 4-1 record in games he has started. But the loss was a real ugly one, when the Birds blew a late lead last season and lost, 19-16. Brian Griese led that comeback. This year's starter will be Kyle Orton. Doesn't exactly strike fear into you, huh? The Eagles D, led by Asante Samuel, will torture Orton all day.
Sunday, Oct. 5, vs. Washington: Clinton Portis carried the ball 325 times for the Redskins last season, mostly because of the lack of confidence the team had in quarterback Jason Campbell. New coach Jim Zorn probably will have Campbell throwing it around a little more, which will play right into the Eagles' hands on this day.
Sunday, Oct. 12, at San Francisco: The Eagles offense usually gets geared up against the 49ers, as it has averaged better than 36 points in the past four meetings (Eagles are 3-1). Offense is the focal point for the Niners this season, with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He'll have his work cut out for him, as San Fran has been last in the league in total offense two of the past three seasons. The Niners will score more, but not enough in this one.
Sunday, Oct. 26, vs. Atlanta: Will Penn Charter's Matt Ryan still be the starting quarterback for the Falcons? Will he make people in Atlanta forget about Michael Vick? Will the Eagles really be 6-1 after seven games? The answer to that last question is yes. This game comes after the bye. And Andy Reid almost always wins after the bye. But it won't be pretty.
Sunday, Nov. 2, at Seattle: This will be the second cross-country trip for the Birds in 4 weeks. That's never an easy task. It's also the beginning of a tough part of the schedule, with the Giants looming. This doesn't look good. Even with the dreadful rushing game the Seahawks possess.
Sunday, Nov. 9, vs. Giants: Here's where it might get really interesting. The Giants lost three key players from their Super Bowl team in Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Still, Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress have given the Eagles many headaches in the past. Get out the Tylenol again.
Sunday, Nov. 16, at Cincinnati: You know how there seems to be one game each season that is just purely entertaining and high-scoring? This seems to be the one. However, Ocho Cinco and company will be a little more entertaining.
Sunday, Nov. 23, at Baltimore: New Ravens coach John Harbaugh gets to butt heads with former boss Andy Reid. Only, he will be doing it with either rookie Joe Flacco or the always disappointing Kyle Boller at quarterback. Willis McGahee will have his sixth 30-plus carry game of the season in this dogfight, which will go to the former boss.
Thursday, Nov. 27, vs. Arizona: Unfortunately for Birds' fans, this probably will be the lone appearance by Anquan Boldin at the Linc this season. But this will turn into a total Thanksgiving feast for, ironically, the Birds (as in Eagles, not Cardinals). Will the defense be gobbling up Kurt Warner or Matt Leinart? It really won't matter. Edgerrin James is old. And as great as Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin are, it's hard to show without a decent quarterback.
Sunday, Dec. 7, at Giants: Andy Reid has never had much success playing the Giants on the road, posting a 4-6 record. Strange things seem to happen at that place up the Jersey Turnpike. We broke into Bill Conlin's weather computer, and it appears it will be very cold and wet this day. The Giants go for their second straight season sweep, and get it.
Monday, Dec. 15, vs. Cleveland: The Browns could be fun to watch this season, especially on offense, with quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis and receivers Braylon Edwards, newly acquired Donté Stallworth and tight end Kellen Winslow. They've upgraded their suspect defense with linemen Shaun Rodgers and Corey Williams. But the secondary still isn't up to snuff, which will be the difference.
Sunday, Dec. 21, at Washington: By this time of the season, owner Dan Snyder will have talked of bringing back ex-coach Joe Gibbs, nixed that, then brought it up again. Jim Zorn will wish he were still playing in Seattle, instead of coaching the 'Skins. They will have nothing to play for at this point, while the Eagles will need the win. They'll get it.
Sunday, Dec. 28, vs. Dallas: Is there a better way to finish a season than to have the hated Cowboys come to Philadelphia for the finale? Yeah, by having a team that isn't any good come in here and roll over, ensuring a year-ending win. Both teams will need this one for playoff implications. Dallas gets it.
L: 24-20 (Eagles season: 10-6) *